Editor’s note: This article was the Grand Prize Winner in the Passion category of the America Inspired Contest, which celebrated extraordinary people making a difference across the United States. We invite you to read about these amazing people.
People run for different reasons — to get in shape, qualify for Boston, relieve stress, or maybe just look good in a Speedo. Hideki Kinoshita (aka Kino) runs for money.
No, he’s not a professional. In fact, Kino calls himself an “average Joe” runner. You know, the kind of average Joe who raises $50,000 for charity, running 63 marathons and 19 ultra-marathons, including three 100-mile races and three 24-hour runs all in the span of 39 months. Running may be Kino’s passion, but giving back is his calling.
“Knowing that I am running for a cause that is greater than myself allows me to find that extra strength to dig deeper when I am experiencing the most pain,” he said.
Having lost two loved ones to pancreatic cancer, Kino has done a number of runs for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan). “I try to select charities that support causes which are heavily under-supported and under-funded, like PanCan,” he said.
Last September, Kino earned more than $5,000 for another less publicized charity, the World Trade Center Health Program. He raised funds by accepting per-mile pledges while competing in the USA Track & Field National 24-Hour Championships, where he amassed a personal record of 104.79 miles, and placed 29th overall.
“As someone who was born in New York City and raised nearby, I wanted to give back by helping those who helped us on September 11: The 9/11 First Responders. They’re heroes in my eyes,” he said. “They risked their lives in order to safely evacuate thousands of innocent bystanders and they continue to suffer from a host of airborne diseases and cancers.”
Kino wasn’t born to run. In fact, he couldn’t stand running for the first 28 years of his life. “In high school I lettered in soccer, basketball, and baseball, but hated running with a passion,” he said. “Until 2007, the furthest I had ever run was two miles and that was for Army ROTC training.”
Then Kino watched a friend run the 2007 New York City Marathon. “After seeing people old enough to be my grandparents and seemingly more out of shape than I was run that race, I took it upon myself as a challenge to complete my first marathon,” he said.
In September of 2008, Kino ran the Yonkers Marathon. Like most first timers, Kino experienced the suffer-fest that can occur over 26.2 miles. “That first one was my most difficult road marathon. I finished third from last in 5:00:15 and was almost cut off due to the race’s five-hour time limit.” Fortunately, the race organizers let him cross the finish line, and Kino found his new passion.
Within two months of Yonkers, Kino added the Chicago Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon to his resume, unknowingly qualifying for the international club known as the Marathon Maniacs in the process. To earn membership, a runner must complete a minimum of three marathons in 90 days. Less than three years later, Kino reached the club’s top level, 10 Star Titanium, achieved by running 30 marathons in 30 different states or countries within a single calendar year.
“In general, I feel that what stands out about my running is my ability to recover quickly and avoid injury. I’m not fast, but can run a lot of races,” said Kino. “I can’t count how many times my body has been able to exceed what I thought it was capable of, in terms of how far and fast I have been able to run, to recover quickly, and repeat the process again and again.”
In 2012 Kino will continue to race and raise money for charity. In June he’ll complete his 100th 26.2-mile or longer event when he runs the famed Comrades Marathon in South Africa. But he won’t stop there. In 2013 Kino hopes to find a charity sponsor as he attempts to set a new Guinness World Record for finishing the most 100-mile races in a year. The current record is 25.
“Running 26 100-milers will be an almost impossible task, considering that I have to make the strict cutoff times for each race,” Kino said. “I’d put my odds at being able to complete the task at about 10 percent, but it will definitely be worth trying.”
Even if Kino doesn’t set the record, he’ll still earn thousands of more dollars for important causes like cancer research and the heroes of September 11. Kino may consider himself an average Joe runner, but to the people he’s helped through the money he’s raised, Hideki Kinoshita is one of the elites.
Check here to read an update on Kino, the America Inspired contest, and what Kino would do if he won the grand prize.