COLUMBIA — Atsushi Kato smiled throughout the Heart of America Marathon on Labor Day morning.
For the 52-year-old from Tokyo, running 26.2 miles was no sweat. After running a marathon on both Saturday and Sunday, he arrived in Columbia on Monday morning to run the Heart of America Marathon.
Kato, casual the entire time, finished his third marathon of the weekend and 155th marathon of his career Monday. His time was 4 hours, 35 minutes, 51 seconds.
"This course was tough with all those hills," Kato said. "But Columbia is so beautiful. The weather is so good, and the fans are so supportive."
The weather wasn't perfect Monday, with thunderstorms prompting officials to push the start time back an hour. It was cool and windy when the race started — unlike usual Columbia weather this time — but pleasant for racers.
Andrew Danner from Louisville, Ky., finished in first place with a time of 2:45:38. The race began at Stadium Grill off of Rock Quarry Road and ended at Seventh Street and Broadway.
Since 1999, Kato has run marathons, often multiple ones a season. He travels without a cell phone and speaks quietly.
Family is an important aspect of Kato's running experience and is probably the biggest part of his main goal: to run with his children. His four kids actively participate in his marathons, and Kato's two oldest, Keiki and Kaina, have already run with him.
"The kids get a sense of accomplishment when they run," Kato said. "When each of them turn 10 years old, they will run a marathon with me. It's a family tradition."
One goal he recently accomplished was finishing in under four hours in Jackson Hole, Wyo. He would also love to complete races in the states he has yet to reach, specifically Illinois, Nebraska and Oklahoma. There are also two marathons in Japan that Kato has not run but plans to run eventually.
"My long-term goal is to keep running as long as possible, until I die."
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.