The last participant to finish the 45th annual Honolulu Marathon did so at around 9:45 p.m. Sunday.
Ayako Hayashi is 81 years old and from Shiki, Japan, in the Saitama Prefecture.
Her official time was 16 hours, 23 minutes, and nine seconds.
While she needed a little help getting to the finish line, Hayashi was all smiles as she received a much-deserved hero’s welcome at Kapiolani Park.
Hayashi tells us she started running marathons at 60 years old. This year marked her 17th time participating in a marathon, and her seventh consecutive Honolulu Marathon.
By 4 p.m., the course was mostly empty. Richard Kiyabu pulled over after he noticed Hayashi walking alone in Aina Hina as he drove down Kalanianole Highway.
“I was thinking, maybe they need a ride, or some assistance. But she’s like, ‘No, I’m going to finish this,'” said Kiyabu.
Others soon joined them, including fellow runner Michael Shiroma, who turned around to finish the race with Hayashi.
“People would come by and ask, ‘Is she okay? Is she going to finish?’ She always said, ‘I’m good. I’m going to keep going,'” said Shiroma.
“I had a goal to finish. I wanted to finish without assistance by car,” said Hayashi through a translator.
Helpers stuck by Hayashi’s side for five hours, fueled by her determination.
It was dark by the time she reached her destination, and yet the mood was bright as a crowd of supporters greeted Hayashi.
Among them was her husband of 54 years, Sekizo Hayashi, who told us he was “proud, very, very proud.”
“The power of one person and how they could have the community get involved and be unified was totally inspiring,” said Kiyabu.
After crossing the finish line, the Hayashis caught a bus back to their Waikiki hotel for a celebratory meal of “curry, curry rice,” laughed Hayashi.
“I’ve done marathons a few times before, but I really want to make sure I could do it again. This may be my last marathon,” she explained.
Hayashi admits she told herself last year would be her last marathon, and time will tell if she’ll sign up for next year’s race.
For now, she’ll keep waking up every day at 4 a.m. to jog a few miles.
For those thinking of signing up for next year’s Honolulu Marathon, the 81-year old offered some advice: “Don’t go beyond your capacity. Go at your pace, and you can finish.”
According to marathon officials, Hayashi was one of 32,340 participants who signed up to run in this year’s marathon.
Roughly 14,500 were from Japan, and 4,500 were from the U.S. mainland or international. The rest were local residents.