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Current Mood: Moved.

Life is so different for me doing a sport I love for no money at all (If you’re a new reader of my long winded posts I used to race triathlons, often getting fortunate enough to earn some bling). Have you ever tried to simply do anything without a string attached? Like give a gift and expect nothing in return? I think that’s how you know you really love something. You can do it often, everyday, rain or shine, happy or sad, get nothing or everything in return, and still care about it…and for me, still be moved.

I’m home now from Japan and once again, as I always am, better for leaving home & having an experience. Let me rephrase that, “share an experience.” As I get older life is showing me how precious the people around us are and how much they enrich all that we do. In this case, the wonderful crew at The Kauai Marathon and Iwaki Sunshine City Marathon, what a bunch of beautiful people. Oh, add to that the Aussie runners from the other “Sister City” of Townsville!

What exactly just happened? Let’s rewind to September 2017. I ran and got super lucky with the win at the Kauai Marathon, on a whim, on a mission to collect lots of miles for HURT100 (the 100 mile race I was training for). Every single mile I ran had the sole purpose of moving me towards my dream of becoming an ultra runner and finishing HURT100. I’ve always considered running the Kauai Marathon (mostly because I like hills & heat). It came the day after a 50k race and smack in the middle of a 70 mile week, so why not go get humbled…and that I did. Kauai itself is a must-do for any runner living in Hawaii as it is truly island style, from the chickens parading the streets, to the locals all up in your face while running telling you, “Get it girl, come on now, just bust this thing out, mmm girl, get it”, to the food *you know Hawaii loves food!, to the race directors making sure you are welcomed like family, and finally to every single runner in the race “experiencing” it together-I kid you not! It’s the only road race I have ever run that felt like a trail race because everyone supported each other so strongly. Back to that winning part, I’m not trying to brag, I’m just trying to loudly share that this race GIVES THE WINNER AN ALL EXPENSE PAID TRIP TO JAPAN TO RUN THE IWAKI SUNSHINE CITY MARATHON! Did you hear me? Actually, Michael Wardian won but had prior race obligations elsewhere so the trip went over to the female winner. *Note: Every other year they send female then male, etc. As for the Sister City part, Townsville, Australia and Iwaki Japan are all united with Kauai because of a buoy that came loose over in Japan during a storm years ago and landed in the waters off the coast of Kauai… I bet I just butchered that story as my Japanese is no bueno. Just take to heart the 3 cities are family and each year they each send runners from their races to the Sister Cities to share a marathon together…unique if you ask me.

Now for the run/fun part! Iwaki took hold of my heart, held it super close, then set me free, unapologetically afraid to experience every single opportunity for all that it is worth. The moment we stepped off the plane we were greeted to the most welcoming embraces by two gorgeous Japanese women, Satomi & Akari, who became friends before the trip was over. They showed us the town where the 2011 tsunami took out most the village including some of their loved ones, they gave us a lesson in culture that could never be learned in a book, they shared with us history that we don’t learn in school, and they allowed me the freedom to ask every question under the sun (you know I am so curious about everything!) without judgment or making it a racial thing. We shared more meals, hours upon hours of driving & laughter, an aquarium visit, a hula show, meeting the mayor and a giant welcome dinner (all eaten while standing!), and my personal favorite-a trip to the temple.

If you know me, I LOVE seeing temples, churches, any place where God is praised and people give worship to something/someone higher than themselves. It just moves me to learn about and hear about how others go through life. Maybe because I know we all experience highs and lows and without my faith I know I’d never make it through my own personal battles. I wanted to see how they deal. I spent some time wiping tears that’s for sure. I asked a lot of questions, dug deep into the hearts of my new Japanese friends, and tried to do more listening than usual…forgive my big mouth. At the end of it all I got to reach in and grab a trinket with my 2018 fortune. As a firm believer in fortune cookies-just kidding, but I do find sheer entertainment in them, I was pretty excited about having a for real Japanese fortune read for me. Everything Akari read to me was pretty enough I allowed myself to be entertained just enough I’d put a bit of pep in my step that 2018 is gonna be a good year. In Japan they have this tradition that if you don’t like your fortune you don’t have to be “tied to it.” For real, I loved that! I respected that! We aren’t defined by what it says about us. So…if you don’t like it you can tie it in a bow on a tree and walk away from it believing bigger and better for your life. Ah… refreshing. Take note dear reader, we are not defined by what anyone says about us. If they call you a name or hurt you, tie it in a pretty bow on the tree and walk away believing there is a greater blessing to your life than the hurts that you just opened.

Onto the race! By the time we actually got to the start line I admit to being equal parts very excited and equal parts exhausted. Liz, the Aussie runner gave me a wonderful nugget of advice, “We aren’t here for a PR but an experience.” I did my best to believe that and was refreshed just embracing my opportunity to be in Japan. Except, you know me, and perhaps the Japanese culture, too, everything has an intention and strong purpose. You will give your all. So… I lined up with my goal of busting out a sub 2:55 and did not get it, at all. I ran a 3:05, 3rd place female, and felt proud of my efforts. That was all that I had on the day. As for the course it was windy, hilly, and chilly. The streets were lined in some areas as if a parade was going on and other areas were silent except for your thoughts of what happened here, at least for me it was. I kept thinking about the tsunami as we ran where the wave once covered the street. I tried to feel for the people and tried to keep moving the way the town had only that choice, too, to keep moving. My favorite part of the course is how they call the finish line the “goal”. I LOVE that. From now on I am crossing goals! Because isn’t that so true?! It’s a goal, we make it to the goal…but we aren’t really finished. We always have more and more and more…

During the race my favorite part was running with one of the local girls. We stayed together for about half the race. She was a crowd favorite for sure, while I can’t translate just what words were being cheered for her I could understand that they wanted her to be stronger and come out victorious. I understand. We had a few elbows at the start and some exchanges of position, but after a couple miles we became teammates. We shared “we got this” and “we can do this” and “sugoi” and “gambate” and thumbs up. I think that that point it made the spectators happy seeing the local girl and white girl “running peacefully”. Our world is such a mess I too embraced this point of the race more than any other. After the half way point she began to fall behind a little, I kept looking back for her and motioning for her to stay with me. On an out and back we smiled and cheered each other on. For me, it was as beautiful as the sunrise Japan is known for, having peace with people and yourself.

Crossing the finish line I was more tired than HURT100. It took so much for me to press on and dig when emotionally it had been a couple days of just feeling so much. I’m one of those people that can handle physically taxing things more than emotionally taxing things. Not sure why travel does that to me, but it does and I’m thankful for it because I love having life enriched like it gets all because my mind is opened. Anyways, it was incredible, all of it. A gift given to me from the team at The Kauai Marathon and Iwaki Sunshine City Marathon that will forever bless me, be remembered for a long, long time, and something I can’t repay…a real gift.

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