By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
For elite runner Eri Okubo, this Sunday’s Honda L.A. Marathon is more than just another race. The 27-year-old Tokyo native was to run in the Nagoya International Women’s Marathon on March 13, but the event was cancelled due to last week’s earthquake and tsunami in the Tohuku region of Japan.
“Emotionally, I was wondering whether I should run or not, whether this is a good time to run or whether there is anything else I can do because the Japanese people are very saddened right now,” said Okubo during a press conference at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
Okubo, who arrived from Tokyo on Thursday, said she will be running in the race to help raise awareness about the disaster.
“My main focus is conveying to the world and the people in the U.S. that Japan needs some support, I would like to ask for everyone’s support,” said Okubo.
Okubo’s last achievement was a sixth-place finish in the Honolulu Marathon in December. Her lifetime best was a time of 2:35:24 in the 2010 Nagoya Women’s Marathon.
The 26.2-mile Stadium to the Sea L.A. Marathon course starts in Dodger Stadium and will run through Little Tokyo before heading westward towards its finish in Santa Monica. At the 3-mile mark, the racers will turn from Main down First Street past the Japanese American National Museum, and will turn right onto Central Avenue, then back on Second Street to Spring Street, before returning to First Street to head uphill towards Disney Hall. The street closures in Little Tokyo will begin at 3:15 a.m. on Sunday and streets will reopen after 10 a.m.
Drummers with L.A. Matsuri Taiko will greet the runners at Mile 4. Okubo said that she hopes to help in any fundraising efforts being undertaken for the victims in Japan. As of press time, the L.A. Marathon, in conjunction with Crowdrise.com, collected $63,000 in donations for Japan.
“I can try to collect donations, but then I thought, running is what I can do. Through running I can convey what has happened in Japan to the whole world right now,” said Okubo.