Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oita International Wheelchair Marathon

The Oita International Wheelchair Marathon is one of the largest wheelchair only races in the world. This race draws the best racers from across the globe, including 51 year old world record holder Heinz Frei of Switzerland as well as everyday folks and everyone in between.

This year, more than 500 racers will compete in the either marathon or half-marathon.

The people at the Oita Marathon host an amazing event. As a foreigner, the logistics of travelling in Japan are taken care of. They assemble an amazing group of volunteers who are paired up with racers to help them get to where they need to be.

This truly is an international event. When I travelled with hubba last year we met racers from Japan, China, Korea, Switzerland, Spain, South Africa, Bahrain, Australia, Canada and the US.

The race organization publishes a book with pictures of each and every racer with their stats. This is all of the racers, not just the professionals or the likely to be winners. Some of the fans come around the staging area prior to the race to have their picture taken with their favorite racers and gather autographs.

The world record for the marathon in a wheelchair is 1:20:14 and was set by Heinz Frei on this course in 1999. For comparison, the current world record on foot is 2:04:26 and was set by Haile Gebrselassie in 2007 at the Berlin Marathon.
In case you're wondering, a marathon is 26.2 miles. It does not matter if you walk, run or push. A marathon is a marathon. Period.

Today will be the 3rd year hubba has entered this race. There is a live feed here if you're interested in what wheelchair racing looks and sounds like. If you're in the Mountain Time Zone, the feed opens at 7:45 Saturday night (that's today) and the race begins at 8pm.

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