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Sunday, December 1, 2002


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COURTESY WIKI WIKI IKI
From left, Debbie, Diana and Denise Iketani -- collectively known as Wiki Wiki Iki -- are sisters from Southern California who are part of a California contingency running the Honolulu Marathon next weekend to benefit the AIDS Project Los Angeles.




Marathon runners
fight AIDS

A contingent of 1,500 runners from
California will participate to raise
funds for an HIV program


Tim Ryan
tryan@starbulletin.com

It wasn't too long ago that Debbie Iketani would drive her car to her mailbox, only one house away from her front door.

Now the 49-year-old Southern California real estate broker is running sub-four-hour marathons and when she and her two younger running sisters -- they call themselves the Wiki Wiki Iki -- run the Honolulu Marathon Dec. 8, it will be Debbie's sixth 26-miler in a year.

The three women, including 36-year-old Denise, an actor and artist-educator, and 29-year-old Diana, an attorney, will be running for more than just topping their times.

The trio are part of a 1,500-California-runner contingent from AIDS Project Los Angeles, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by HIV disease, reducing the incidence of HIV infection and advocating for fair and effective HIV-related public policy.

Each runner must raise $3,000 to participate in the marathon. A portion of the funds goes toward three nights' stay in a shared hotel room and air fare, which means that this year, APLA has received $3.1 million from the program.

"A friend solicited me as a donor (for the AIDS Project) before he ran the Chicago and Washington, D.C., marathons," Debbie said. "I always thought it was an amazing accomplishment and one day I would do it."

Last June, she received a flyer announcing the AIDS marathon would be held in Honolulu that December. "That was as good a reason as any to try to run it," she said.

But there was another more important reason.

"I have a friend who's been HIV-positive for eight years," she explained. "I wanted to show that I supported him because I know how tough his journey is.

"Running a marathon may be the toughest thing I ever do, but it's easier than what he deals with on a daily basis."

That friend and Debbie will be running the Honolulu marathon together.

DENISE SAYS she knows many people in show business who are HIV-positive.

"Our parents always donated money to different causes to help others, and it's great for us to continue that legacy," she said.

The Iketanis, who also have four brothers, have a cousin and friends on Oahu, and their grandmother was born here.

Denise and Debbie raised more than $9,000 to run here in a year ago. This year, the trio tried a different fund-raising tack because they didn't want to go back to the same friends and family.

"We put on a joint golf tournament with the L.A. Sheriff's Department where we chaired their tournament and raised money and they in turn donated $4,000 to our fund," Diana said.

In addition, the women sold logo runners' caps at several California running venues to raise funds for the trip.

Running also is a way for the sisters, scattered around Southern California, to see each other at least once a week.

Debbie's the fastest of the three with a top marathon time of 4 hours 27 minutes 43 seconds. Denise ran the Honolulu Marathon's 26-mile course in 6 hours 42 minutes last year, but she was running with a friend from Aiea who hit the wall at mile 20. She walked with her some four miles until she could run again. Diana's best time is 5:59:56.

The AIDS Project Los Angeles runners will be wearing either bright yellow or white shirts with the organization's logo on the back.

The National AIDS Marathon Training Program was developed by Walk-the-Talk Productions in 1998 to raise money for AIDS services. In the past four years, nearly 9,000 people have successfully completed the training program and raised $25 million for the fight to end AIDS.

The six-month training program was designed by Olympic athlete and world-renowned marathon trainer Jeff Galloway.



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