Marathon Race To Pray For Rebuilding Kumamoto

Marathon race to pray for rebuilding KumamotoMore than 13,000 runners have competed in a race in support of the reconstruction of earthquake-hit Kumamoto Prefecture in southwestern Japan.
The 6th Kumamoto Castle Marathon took place on Sunday. The courses were changed this year to avoid no-entry zones designated after the series of major earthquakes last April.

Before the race began, the participants offered silent prayers for the victims. Kumamoto City Mayor Kazufumi Onishi said he hopes the city will receive energy from the runners.

13,341 people from in and outside the prefecture started running at 9 AM on one of 3 courses -- a full-marathon, a 30-kilometer road race, and a 3-kilometer fun run.

Many of the runners waved at spectators along the route. Some of them wore the costume of the prefecture's popular mascot bear Kumamon.

A 22-year-old university student, Haruki Okayama, came in first in the full-marathon in a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 45 seconds.

Okayama said the latter half of the race was tough but that he managed to finish by thinking about the suffering of people affected by the earthquakes.

Kumamoto Castle suffered serious damage during the quakes. Event organizers gave each runner a piece of tile from the roof of Tenshukaku, the main castle tower, which collapsed.

The organizers also called for donations to help local residents rebuild their lives and to restore the castle.