This year's Honolulu Marathon started early in the morning, so when Richard Kiyabu saw an elderly woman in jogging clothes walking down the road at four in the afternoon, he was concerned.
Kiyabu pulled over to offer the Japanese woman a ride, but got a surprising answer.
“I was thinking, maybe they need a ride, or some assistance. But she’s like, ‘No, I’m going to finish this,'” he told local news station KHON 2.
The woman Kiyabu had come across was Ayako Hayashi, and while it might have looked like she was struggling, Ayako is clearly in better shape than most of us. The road racer from Saitama Prefecture, Japan only started jogging in her 60s, but this year was already her 17th marathon.
The 81-year-old reveals that she gets up every morning a 4 a.m. to jog a few miles, and that determination helped her finish what proved to be a very tough race.
Another runner, Michael Shiroma, turned back mid-race to run alongside Ayako and help her finish the full 26-mile course.
“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,'” he says. Shiroma wound up being just one of the many people who joined Ayako during the last leg of her race.
And while she finished dead last out of more than 32,000 runners, Ayako's incredible finish guarantees Honolulu won't forget her.
Proving that slow and steady really does win the race, Ayako crossed the finish line after 16 hours, 23 minutes and nine seconds of running.
While the sun had set, fans were still waiting for Ayako's arrival at the finish line in Kapiolani Park after 9 p.m. Reflecting on the tough race, the feisty octogenarian doesn't mince words.
“I had a goal to finish. I wanted to finish without assistance by car,” she said through a translator. “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."
Then again, Ayako said the same thing after her last Honolulu Marathon (this was her seventh year in the race).
Ayato's husband, Sekizo Hayashi, had nothing but encouraging words for his wife, saying he was "proud, very, very proud" of her accomplishment. The couple, who have been together for 54 years, enjoyed curry rice back in their hotel room to celebrate.
In case you're looking to follow in Ayako's footsteps, she has some advice for novices:
“Don’t go beyond your capacity. Go at your pace, and you can finish.”
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[H/T: KHON 2]