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Japanese ultramarathon athlete runs round Taiwan for world peace

12/01/2023 05:44 PM
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Japanese ultramarathon runner Ryōichi Sekiya (center, in black shirt) runs to the finish line in Soochow University in Taipei on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Soochow University Nov. 30, 2021
Japanese ultramarathon runner Ryōichi Sekiya (center, in black shirt) runs to the finish line in Soochow University in Taipei on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Soochow University Nov. 30, 2021

Taipei, Dec. 1 (CNA) Japanese ultramarathon runner Ryōichi Sekiya finished a 17-day run around Taiwan proper on Thursday, saying he hopes world peace can be achieved one day soon, according to a statement released by Soochow University.

The 56-year-old started his 1,115 kilometer run at Soochow University in Taipei on Nov. 14 and finished at the same location on Nov. 30, according to the statement.

He completed the last section of the route hand-in-hand with his wife and daughter and was moved to tears in the arms of his 83-year-old mother, who waited for him at the finish line.

Shouting "Taiwan No. 1!" in mandarin at the press conference after finishing, Sekiya thanked Taiwanese for their help and encouragement, which he said helped him complete the challenge, adding that he was particularly moved to see many Taiwanese join him and run part of the way.

"Running together" is also a metaphor, as Sekiya said he received much help and was warmly welcomed by members of the university's alumni association during the journey.

That experience demonstrated the friendship between Japan and Taiwan and the possibility of having meaningful exchanges between countries, Sekiya was quoted as saying in the statement.

With multiple wars around the world, including between Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Hamas, Sekiya said running around Taiwan is his way to promote world peace.

One of the best known ultramarathon runner in Japan, Sekiya is a four time winner of the 24 Hour World Championship organized by the International Association of Ultramarathon (IAU) and won the IAU-endorsed Soochow International Ultramarathon in Taiwan eight times, including seven times in a row, the last victory being in 2012.

The Kanagawa-born runner became the first non-Taiwanese to run around Taiwan proper 11 years ago, the first run in 2012 being to express his gratitude for the country's efforts to help Japan in the wake of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.

Destiny brought the ultramarathon runner back to Soochow University, the location of his eight victories after 11 years.

Comparing his two runs around Taiwan, Sekiya said the infrastructure in eastern Taiwan has improved a lot in the intervening period, but Taiwanese people remain as kind and enthusiastic as ever.

At the press conference, Sekiya's wife Kaori revealed that her husband underwent foot surgery a few years ago which the doctor said would hugely limit the distance he could run in the future.

What Sekiya achieved this time far exceeded the doctor's expectations, she said.

Decades of ultradistance running caused severe wear and tear in Sekiya's right foot, on which he had operations in 2016 and 2017 after which he is now able to run pain free.

"I will surely come back to Taiwan," Sekiya said.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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