At Yokoto Air Base, Japan
Click here for news article in “Stars & Stripes”–
World-class athletes give track tips at Yokota – Pacific – Stripes
By James Kimber, Stars and Stripes, March 29, 2015
My thoughts . . .
This past weekend, March 28-29, I visited Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan, with Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the triple jump, at one of his “World Record Camps” for youth athletes in Track & Field. His partner is Mike Powell, Olympian and current world record holder in the long jump. Assisting them (besides me) was Olympic hammer thrower, Ken Flax. The camp was hosted by the Yokota Striders, a club comprised mostly of military personnel living and/or working on base. Day one, a track meet between three schools was competed on base. Day two, athletes returned to the track for our day-long camp workshop. Among the four of us, we covered all the categories of events – jumps, throws, sprints, distance running. The student athletes were amazing! They were so attentive, receptive, excited to take part, and extremely grateful. Did they ever have fun! The day was full of activity, with fun games –and even dancing– interspersed with the traditional event workouts plus Olympic and world record story-telling by the coaches.
Coaching is what I do for fun. My regular profession is all about education, including teaching, and primarily working to support aspiring teachers earning their credentials. I recognize someone who makes an effective teacher, and I hope I don’t embarrass Willie by saying his teaching skills are exemplary. It’s not often when I see a large group of children, (and these were a wide range in ages), who are completely engaged and positively enthralled, by his leadership skills. This is how learning happens, when children are enjoying themselves and challenge themselves.
It was sad to leave so soon, and the children seemed sad to see us go, but what sweet memories. I’ll cherish those moments, as I will cherish my first viewing (hanami) of the cherry blossoms (sakura) on my final day in beautiful Tokyo.
Last month, I traveled to the Honolulu Marathon which always brings back fond memories of the first time I fell in love with the islands upon my first trip there. It was the perfect journey — winning the marathon in course record time, making lifelong friends with the Chun family (known then as the “Hunky Bunch” as some of my friends remember), flying to Maui to make the drive up to Hana, then hiking Haleakala to watch the sunrise on the crater, and making plans to return to Honolulu for the 140-Perimeter Relay around Oahu. . . . something that became an annual trip. Fond memories indeed.
My how things have changed. The marathon still begins before sunrise, but the crowds have grown in numbers beyond belief. The spectacular fireworks display starts the race in the pre-dawn hours. The first 10K takes the participants through downtown’s Honolulu lights and Christmas displays winding through Kapiolani Park before the ascent up over Diamond Head. This is where I have walked the course for the past few years. However, this year was different. Instead, I was asked by the Marathon President Jim Barahal to do the commentating on the women’s race, along with Toya Reavis of San Diego. We are friends, and this was a “first” for both of us. We were excited at the prospect of broadcasting, and thoroughly enjoyed our new task!
I would encourage all my marathon friends to consider your next destination marathon be Honolulu. Hey, early registration is available now at discounted fees, and it’s never too early to make your plans. It’s a guaranteed fun time, at the world’s most beautiful, hospitable, scenic marathon, complete with aloha spirit and they host the best concert you’ll ever enjoy. By the way, if you need some training advice, you can ask either Toya or me to help you, since we both are coaches as well. So c’mon, no excuses.
In addition, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking to an audience of the Positive Coaching Alliance, for Executive Director in Hawai’i, Jeaney Garcia. At the “Breakfast With Champions,” I participated on a panel of athletes including football coach, June Jones, and NFL Super Bowl Champions, brothers Chris and Ma’ake Kemoeatu. We spoke on a panel together, bringing each of our unique stories to our listeners thanks to the excellent questions posed by our moderator, Kanoa Leahey. The event highlighted award recipients from local high schools, each with their own inspiring stories. Each student athlete received a scholarship from PCA, and all proved to be exemplary leaders amongst their peers. Tradtionally, the trips to Honolulu always include a reunion dinner enjoyed with the Chun families, and here they are today:
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