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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Saturday’s downpours gave way to sunny skies and balmy temperatures and thousands thronged Yokota for the silver-anniversary edition of the Yokota Striders Running Club’s Frostbite Road Race.

Organizers said about 10,000 people, including 6,300 registered runners, turned out to participate or cheer runners on in three events, a 2-kilometer children’s fun run, a 5-kilometer race and the main event, the 20-kilometer half-marathon.

“We were worried because Saturday, we had torrential downpours and it was cold,” race spokesman Terry Mallon said. Those fears were unfounded when the sun greeted the morning with temperatures in the 50s for a “very appreciative crowd. We couldn’t have ordered a more accommodating day for a Japanese family event.”

Mallon called Sunday’s festivities “one of the all-time great road races for mid-January in all of Japan, without question. Not only was it an incredible family event for the 10,000-plus Japanese who ran and watched today’s races, it was likely one of our most endearing cultural exchanges with Japanese athletes from throughout the country.”

The shorter races were run first, then following a shotgun start, more than 5,000 entrants ran the half-marathon course that serpentined through the main part of the base, past the Air Mobility Command passenger terminal and along the perimeter road to the north, then reversed course after reaching halfway toward the housing towers on the east side.

Japanese runners dominated all categories, but Americans did enjoy their moments in the sun.

Eric Schmidt, a staff sergeant with Yokota’s 374th Civil Engineering Squadron, took top men’s honors in the 5-kilometer’s Status of Forces Agreement division in 17 minutes, 43 seconds.

He had not run all week and fasted for three days in the run-up to the race. “I was blessed because the weather and the course were good,” Schmidt said.

Akimi Thompson, 15, had fallen and suffered a broken leg at the race’s start a year ago, but rebounded to capture second in the 5-kilometer SOFA women’s division in 28:20. “I’m really happy, and I didn’t think I would come in second,” Thompson said.

“It’s inspiring to see this many people out,” said Cathy Baker, the 374th Airlift Wing’s command chief master sergeant who took the top SOFA women’s spot. “I was a little scared of the crowd at first, but then my adrenaline began pumping, so I got excited.”


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