Troops to run Honolulu Marathon in Iraq
More than 100 runners will receive medals and finishers' T-shirts
The marathoners have left Honolulu, but the race is still on. Ryan Taniguchi will be running the Honolulu Marathon for the sixth time tomorrow -- a week late and thousands of miles from home.
The 27-year-old Hawaii Army National Guard staff sergeant is among more than 100 runners registered for the Honolulu Marathon in Iraq.
"He's pretty excited," said older brother Keola, who ran the race with 24,643 other runners in Honolulu last Sunday. "He's an avid marathon runner, and it's befitting for him for him to do it up there."
A total of 127 runners were signed up for the satellite race in Baghdad as of Thursday, and Lt. Col. Jim O'Donnell, the coordinator, told marathon officials in Honolulu by e-mail that he would accept entries through today and expected the number to increase.
Keola Taniguchi, 29, a youth activities coordinator at the Nuuanu YMCA, finished the Honolulu race in 3 hours, 27 minutes and 5 seconds -- "but I think he will do better than that," he said of his brother, a full-time National Guardsman who was based on Molokai before going to Iraq. "I think he will do 3:20."
Taniguchi said he ran the race for the first time two years ago at his brother's urging after dropping him off at the starting line the previous year.
"We ran it together, but he finished about 15 minutes ahead of me," he said. "I ran this year's race for him. I wish he had been here beside me, but this (the Iraq race) is the next best thing."
Ryan Taniguchi is among the Hawaii soldiers scheduled to return home from Iraq on Dec. 28. He is looking forward to seeing his daughter, who was born earlier this year and whom he has seen only during a rest-and-recuperation visit, according to his brother.
The race in Iraq will be held within Camp Victory, headquarters of the multinational corps, located near Baghdad International Airport, and will include four laps around a 6.2-mile loop with an additional section to complete the 26.2-mile distance, O'Donnell said earlier.
Runners will receive official Honolulu Marathon finishers' T-shirts and medals, and their times will be recorded and listed separately, according to spokesman Pat Bigold.
The race had been scheduled for last Sunday at about the same hours as the Honolulu race. However, it was postponed for a week because of concerns over the proximity to this week's Iraqi national elections.
All runners will have to go through the camp security checkpoint to participate, with armed military police at several smaller checkpoints and some on roving patrol for the race.
The outside perimeter of Camp Victory extends a significant distance, easing some of the security concerns, said O'Donnell, who was an environmental officer with Pacific Marine Forces before going to Iraq earlier this year. He has run the Honolulu Marathon five times.
The Iraq race will be similar to the Honolulu Marathon satellite race in Afghanistan last year. The winner of that race, recently promoted Army Capt. Mike Baskin, returned to Hawaii at the end of April and planned to run in Honolulu this year. However, an injury left him a spectator.
"It was real easy here," said Baskin, although he said he never felt unsafe running at Tarin Kowt.
"But you have to think about where you were last year and where you will be next year," he said. He leaves next week for Fort Benning, Ga., for an infantry career course, which he expects to complete in May. He said he has no idea where he then will be assigned.