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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Honolulu Marathon: a marvel to behold

Ah, the wonders of the Ho-nolulu Marathon. It never fails to inspire. And this year's race was as exhilarating as ever, with more than 22,000 runners from all walks of life and from all over the world.

This year's marathon also had a new counterpart, the first Honolulu Marathon in Afghanistan, with more than 300 soldiers and civilian contractors signed up to participate. That race was the first marathon ever in the war-torn country, officials there said.

Here in Honolulu, they pounded the streets, past ocean beaches, mountains, historic monuments, volcanic craters, Waikiki and the posh mansions of Kahala.

From children to octogenarians, from top athletes to the severely disabled, they ran for such charities as leukemia and AIDS, or for the sheer personal challenge of it all.

There was 86-year-old Gladys Burrill of Oregon, who finished the race in 9 hours, 9 minutes and 33 seconds, and ran the last 100 yards in spite of a bad heel.

There were marathoners in wheelchairs, their arms pumping furiously as they scaled the peaks.

And there were those decked out as Santa Claus and Darth Vader, sweating under their costumes. One marathoner wore traditional Japanese garb, including wooden shoes.

Blind runners were bound to their escorts with bungee cords. The last finisher was Shigeru Murakawa, 44, a disabled Japanese man who was literally carried along the course by two attendants, finishing in 15 hours and 8 minutes.

On the sidelines, the crowd shouted words of encouragement and handed out relief in the form of food, drinks and even 10-second calf massages.

Sure, there were those Ho-nolulu residents complaining about being kept hostage in their homes.

But the Honolulu Marathon is bigger than all that. Not only is it a boon for our economy, filling restaurants and hotel rooms with welcome visitors. It's an event where those facing the most daunting life challenges can come together and say, "I can do this."

And the crowd cheers them on.