It was never about numbers, comparing statistics or highlighting peak performances that got them here, but after all these years, things add up to the point that it all melts into one and becomes hard to ignore.
Between them, D.J. Blinn and Marie Kuramoto have run in and finished 199 marathons, but the next one is more than just another number.
On Sunday, when Blinn and Kuramoto line up for the start of the Hilo Marathon, they will, for the first time, represent the only two individuals who have competed in every one of these 26.2 mile extravaganzas since it was rejuvenated and re-started 21 years ago.
A former Marine, and Vietnam veteran, Blinn grew up with the notion, or maybe it was a compulsion, to exercise.
“If you want to live on this planet a long time,” he said, “you should be exercising, a lot. That’s what pushed me, I guess.”
There was also the time in 1981, his brother told him running a marathon would be good therapy, “and he told me I needed some of that.”
So it began for D.J. Blinn.
Kuramoto had what could be described as a less typical motivation back when she first considered the notion of running distances.
“It started with walking,” she said. “I was at my son’s first T-ball practice and the coach turned to me and said, ‘Ma’am, why don’t you go leave for an hour or so, go take a nice walk, while we instruct these kids?’
“I got the point, but I found I enjoyed the walk, it really all started with that one moment.”
You get started, discover it feels good and has some healthy qualities to it and you think maybe you’ll do a little more next time. One thing leads to another and here they are, suddenly, the last remaining pair of contestants who have run all 21 Hilo Marathons.
It feels like a sudden change because just a few weeks ago, there were four of them, including the well-known “Cowman,” otherwise known as Ken Shirk and Dave Hammes, but Cowman sent a message that he would be unable to attend this year and just last week Hammes received news from his orthopedist that a bone condition would prevent him from long distance running.
That left two and a decision about money that will need to be made at some point in the future.
Years ago, it had been decided that the ones who compete every year should toss $5 in a fund that will eventually go to the last remaining survivor, which will now be either Blinn or Kuramoto, good friends who often run together. At some point, it was decided the fund should be doubled to $10 a year.
“I think there’s somewhere around $850 that’s been gathered over the years,” Blinn said, “but I don’t know what to do about that. I kind of don’t like the idea that someone will get it and the other won’t.”
Kuramoto suggested that if they each go 25 years, they should end it at that point and then decided what do with the money.
“It’s nothing about the money,” she said, “it’s just something we decided to do, sort of for fun, not thinking we’d be in this position.”
So on Sunday, they will go off again, making more history in an endeavor that, for each of them, has nothing to do with legacies.
Time is on their side, but in a bigger sense, time is mostly irrelevant.
“Who cares?” said Kuramoto. “Sure, you don’t want to be miserable, you don’t want to do much less than you can, but, for me? Time is nothing, I look at it and mostly forget it, the thing is finishing.
“If you finish, you win,” she said.
In that regard, this woman who grew up in a family with 12 brothers and sisters, and survived a cancer scare along the way, has done a lot of winning.
This will be her 99th marathon, with a goal to make it an even 100 at the Honolulu Marathon in December, which is where Blinn recorded his 100th.
But even Blinn gets caught up in the events themselves, not the numbers game.
“It’s hard to describe to people who wonder why we do it,” he said. “Maybe you have to do it to understand, but I can recall the New York Marathon — I had run the Marine Corps Marathon (in Quantico, Va.), the week before — and that’s what I take with me.
“To run with 47,000 others is an amazing thing to experience,” he said. “When we started, it was 47 degrees and we came on the ferry from Staten Island; to see the sun rising that morning behind the statue of Liberty, and to be a part of the whole thing?
“For me, when you do that, you sort of realize that’s why you do it, it’s not about how fast you can go or whatever.”
Marathon times are important for dozens, maybe 100 people in the world who are consumed with record breaking times, winning the Olympics, winning New York or Boston, but for the vast majority, being there and doing it become rewards in themselves.
“You meet people, there’s a connection you carry with you,” Kuramoto said. “Every time I go out for a run or a walk, I see people I’ve met, all friends now. It’s such a special group.”
That’s not to say it’s easy, nobody’s suggesting you can go sign up late for the Hilo Marathon and have a good time that day. Put in some prep, be prepared to be on your feet for four or five hours and if you can only run five minutes at a time, then you need to walk? That’s okay, if you can sustain it for hours at a time.
“At some point,” Blinn said, “you have to run tired, you have to do that, and to do that, you have to get used to running while tired.”
First though, you might start like Marie Kuramoto. Go walk for an hour, let your mind go and see what comes next.
No rush, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
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