On Sunday, over 20,000 runners entered the 39th edition of the Honolulu Marathon, America’s fifth-largest 26.2 mile race.
The top female runner, 25-year-old Woynishet Girma of Ethiopia, won the marathon in 2:31:41. Nearly 12 hours later – the sky nearly dark and the crowds long gone – Wakana Ueda, a blind 11-year-old from Japan, was the last participant to cross the finish line .
Competing in her first marathon, Wakana nearly dropped out due to physical exhaustion. “Before the halfway mark, her leg was cramping up, and she was thinking about quitting many times,” Wakana’s mother told Hawaii News Now. “But because the team supported her, she was able to finish.”
After 14 hours, 3 minutes and 12 seconds on the course., Wakana immediately embraced her mother with tears in her eyes. That the top finishers had come and gone hours earlier hardly seemed relevant. In fact, the accomplishments of the men’s and women’s winners seemed downright insignificant in comparison. Others may have won the big medals and prize money, but their exuberant stride across the finish line didn’t pack the emotional wallop of the conclusion to Wakana’s inspiring effort.
According to her mother, what Wakana lacks in sight, she makes up for in heart.