Running across from Cape Hedo to Kadena: An unforgettable adventure

Photos by Jennifer Brown
Photos by Jennifer Brown

Running across from Cape Hedo to Kadena: An unforgettable adventure

by Jennifer Brown
Stripes Okinawa

Editor’s note: At Stripes Okinawa, we love to share your stories and share this space with our community members. Here is an article written by Jennifer Brown, a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. If you have a story or photos to share, let us know at okinawa@stripes.com

 

Before COVID hit, I was part of a running group that was part of the hospital. The group did regular runs across the island, running from around the hospital to Cape Hedo, then all the way to Cape Kyan. On this particular run, the group came together for Halloween and started off at Cape Hedo. The run would be finishing at Kadena Marina, a total of 64 miles away. We met in our Halloween costumes and headed off to Cape Hedo to start at sunrise. Of course, we stopped at Lawsons and Family Marts on the way to fuel up for our runs. 

The ocean views and landscapes were the most breathtaking part of the run. While you get to see Okinawa from your car window, it is literally something entirely new and fresh once you get outside of your car. Running along the roads that pass some of the majestic views of this beautiful island really helped me realize that we are just small creatures amongst the world that surrounds us. We can sometimes forget this when we go about our day to day lives. It is easy to drive to work on autopilot and miss the beautiful sunrise or the cute baby in the other car. We may dissociate and forget how we even drove to work or to the store. Running, however, makes it impossible to not be present in your reality. When you are running, you take in everything around you: the sights, the smells, the sounds. Running from Cape Hedo down to Kadena Marina gave all of us runners a unique opportunity to experience the island by foot.

Wearing our costumes made this run more memorable. In the States costume runs are a sight, but in Japan, we were a very unique and strange sight. Since on the island Halloween isn’t celebrated, the costumed runners garnered a lot of attention from the locals. Maybe it was strange for them to see, but nevertheless, they actually joined in and cheered the runners on. While it might have been a little embarrassing to start to run at first, the support by the Japanese locals made the entire experience worth it. 

The competition between the teams participating also made the run unforgettable. We agreed to compete to see whoever got to Kadena Marina first. Both teams rotated runners every few miles, but my team took no time to get ahead. We made sure that we were ready to go when the runners came by and the next runner headed off swiftly after. We did such a good job, we barely saw the other team the entire rest of the race!

The time spent roadtripping to the next trade-off spot allowed us time to get to know each other and cheer on the next runner in line. We felt like a supportive team of coworkers and, in the end, friends.

It was this sense of building community with like-minded runners willing to dress up and explore the island that I won’t soon forget. Wherever your military journey takes you, remember that there is a built-in community to fall back on and learn new things with. It’s easy to seclude yourself and feel like you’re going to live life on your own, but if you do a little digging you’ll find a group of people who will cheer you on whether you’re running in a Halloween race or trying some new activity in your daily routine.

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Jennifer Brown is a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. Originally from Florida, she joined the Navy in 2018, and has been on island for over a year. During her free time Brown enjoys spending time with animals, running, rock climbing, and hiking. She is an alumnus of the University of Central Florida, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her professional interests include social work, animal welfare, and children.

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