Although mostly known for the season of holiday celebratory festivities, winter also marks the beginning of all sorts of running events in Okinawa. Known all over for being one of the most beautiful scenic running areas in Japan, this tiny island can pull an impressive amount of running enthusiasts from all over the world every year. Many runners train year round to achieve what is probably the most frequented checklist item in a bucket list – to finish a full marathon. In Okinawa, they host a few marathons and running events that can be physically exhausting, yet still enjoyable due to the loving cheers received from the spectators and wacky individuals that participate in the event. Below is a list of the notable few events that should not be missed by any true running aficionado.
Probably being the most popular marathon event in Okinawa, the Naha marathon participation is usually limited to about 30,000 runners a year. The cap in a running event of this magnitude is necessary since they would require shutting down a few major roads. Naha, being the capital, is already congested as it is. The full marathon manages to entice a few veteran runners to take on the extra challenge by running in full costume which is a welcomed distraction from the exhaustion. The cheerers are also quite supportive as well. During the run, it isn’t uncommon for strangers to cheer you on and hand out fruits, candy, and even muscle rub cream. Check out the website for more information on registration and course information at http://www.naha-marathon.jp/en/.
As the name in itself implies, the Okinawa marathon is the heart that represents the Ryukyu Island marathon events. A slight difference with the Naha marathon, the Okinawa marathon promotes a more relaxed atmosphere and seemingly encourages family participation. Aside from the full marathon, they also include events for more casual runners who want a bit of a challenge which is the half marathon and the 10km run. The course also tries to incorporate significant sites to represent Okinawa such as the Athletics Park, Katsuren-Jo castle ruins, and a portion of the course to which passes within Kadena Air Base. Definitely a good marathon to join when first coming to the island. You can register through their website at http://okinawa-marathon.com/.
Ayahashi Kaichu Road Race
While only having the half marathon and the 10km courses, the significance of this event is the track itself. Almost the entire course takes place within the iconic Kaichu-Doro Bridge which roughly translates to “Road within the sea”. This bridge is what connects the main Okinawa Island with a few remote smaller islands such as Hamahiga and Ikei. The race starts at the foot of the bridge which you go to the end and back to complete the 10km. The bridge is right along side the ocean so be prepared to feel a bit of salt in the air. They usually start a bit later than normal running events and takes place around April. Check out the information at http://www.i-sam.co.jp/ayahashi_roadrace/.
USO Okinawa Color Blast 5k
Probably the shortest run amongst this list but with good reason. As the name suggests, this is a fun run that is comprised of colors, a blast of enjoyment, and 5kms. The event provides you with a bright plain white shirt at the beginning which will sadly not last for very long. At approximately every 500m’s, there are bystanders waiting for runners to pass by to shower, or should I say assault, them with color powder. You are also welcome to retaliate by throwing color powder on to other runners as you will also receive 2 bags of color powder of your choice. Although there is no medal or certificate for this event, the newly decorated one-of-a-kind original t-shirt is more than enough of a memorabilia. Check out the previous color blast events at http://okinawa.uso.org/colorblast2018.
Top III 3rd Annual Zombie run
Happening around the Halloween season, this zombie run is an interesting twist to the fun run category that provides objectives to an already challenging activity. Offered as a 5km course (with an optional 10km course), the objective of this run is not only to finish, but to survive! Given 3 lives at the start which are represented by little flag ribbons, the course is filled with zombies, monsters, and other chainsaw holding psychopaths blocking your escape to try to take one of your flags. You will still be given a medal regardless of the number of lives remaining but, if you have lost all your lives, your medal strand will say “infected”. If you managed to save at least one of your life flags, you will receive the “survivor” strand medal. Terrifyingly entertaining. Sponsored annually by RunKadena. Register to be a runner or even a zombie at https://www.facebook.com/runkadena/