If she’s not laughing, then Marie Kuramoto is running. Even if she completes a marathon in over six hours, she’s still in good spirits. That’s been her nature, especially when trampling over obstacles.
Last year, she finished the 16th edition of the Big Island International Marathon in 6 hours, 27 minutes and 17 seconds. It continued her membership as part of the race’s Final Four club.
Kuramoto, DJ Blinn, David Hammes and Kailua-Kona’s Cowman are the only runners to have completed all the marathons at the BIIM.
As the only female, Kuramoto keeps extending her legacy. Also, today’s marathon will be her 85th.
She’s 67 years old and will wear No. 67 in that honor. Kuramoto has extra incentive to finish another 26.2-mile trek.
“Last year, I walked and wasn’t in the best of shape,” she said. “I’m surprised I can still do it. This year, I’m really dedicating the race to my son Daniel Kuramoto, who’s a bone marrow donor.
“I think it’s awesome that he helped a leukemia patient up in San Diego a couple of weeks ago. Everything went well.”
Her husband, Dennis Kuramoto, died 20 years ago from leukemia. To add to the significance of her son being a bone marrow donor, she’s a cancer survivor. Back in 1999, when she was 52 years old, she had breast cancer.
While on chemotherapy, Kuramoto still ran marathons. If cancer were a tomato can, she would have kicked it around the block twice and then stepped on it.
“When I had breast cancer, I was taking chemo and the Big Island marathon was held in September and moved to the spring in March and I did five marathons,” she said. “That’s something I’ll never forget. Looking back, I was crazy. But I had to know that I would be OK. It was therapy for me.”
She worked as a child care provider, a Hilo High teacher assistant and summer camp advisor at UH-Hilo. Besides running, she’s also into hula, zumba and line dancing.
Kuramoto’s two children don’t run. Daniel Kuramoto, who works at Suisan, has two daughters. Lisa Dawn Moniz, who works at Kawili Dental, has two daughters and a son. At least Kuramoto has a lot of encouraging supporters.
“My grandchildren meet me at the finish line,” she said. “They look forward to beating grandma to the finish line.”
Kuramoto and her brother Jon Kunitake are probably the most accomplished sibling marathon duo on the Big Island. He’s former race director and one of the founders of the UCC Coffee Kunitake Farms Kona Marathon.
There were 12 Kunitake siblings and only he and his sister Marie ran marathons. He’s 71 years old and has completed more (Kuramoto lost count) than his sister’s 84 marathons.
Last year, he ran in the Hilo half-marathon and finished in 1:56.16, and won his 70-74 age-group.
The last time the siblings both ran in the BIIM was 2008. He clocked a 4:05.31 for 81st. She had a time of 4:44.41 for 151st place.
“If we ran now it’ll be a draw. If he knows I’m in a marathon he’ll train,” Kuramoto said. “I have endurance. He has speed. He’s done way more marathons than me.
“When I enter the Kona marathon, it’s a family affair. He’s charitable and will let me win every year.”
Kuramoto first started running in 1982 when she was 35 years old. Seven years later, she set a personal record of 3:42 at the Honolulu Marathon.
Of her 84 marathons, only two have been out of states. Both were in Las Vegas. She acknowledged to playing the slots and joked that as a consolation prize she didn’t lose her house.
She remembers how she started running like it was yesterday. The memory charges up her good spirits. Any time there’s an opportunity for a good laugh she’ll double-down on the opportunity.
“I started running because when my son was playing T-ball they had enough coaches,” Kuramoto said. “I’d go walk for an hour and come back. Then I’d go for a run, walk and then here I am. I haven’t stopped since and Sunday will be my 85th marathon.”