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Celebrating 25 years and running

American volunteers hand out water and snacks to Okinawa Marathon runners as they make their way through the base portion of the race Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Approximately 500 military volunteers from all branches came out to hand out water and support the runners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Corey Pettis/Released)

American volunteers hand out water and snacks to Okinawa Marathon runners as they make their way through the base portion of the race Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Approximately 500 military volunteers from all branches came out to hand out water and support the runners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Corey Pettis/Released)

A costumed runner smiles as he's cheered on through a portion of the Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena AB has supported and strengthened relations with the local community through the Okinawa Marathon for the last 25 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft/Released)

A costumed runner smiles as he's cheered on through a portion of the Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena AB has supported and strengthened relations with the local community through the Okinawa Marathon for the last 25 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft/Released)

Marathon runners sprint to the finish line of the Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at the Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Park in Okinawa, Japan. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Okinawa Marathon and the 25th year that Kadena AB has supported the race. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard/Released)

Marathon runners sprint to the finish line of the Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at the Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Park in Okinawa, Japan. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Okinawa Marathon and the 25th year that Kadena AB has supported the race. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard/Released)

Okinawa Marathon runners high five volunteers and supporters along the route on Kadena Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Approximately 500 U.S. military members and families came out to support the runners as they made their way through the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Corey Pettis/Released)

Okinawa Marathon runners high five volunteers and supporters along the route on Kadena Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Approximately 500 U.S. military members and families came out to support the runners as they made their way through the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Corey Pettis/Released)

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis Amaya, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing hospital corpsman, crosses the finish line of the 25th Annual Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at the Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Park in Okinawa, Japan. The Okinawa Marathon is hosted every year and is open to everyone above the age of 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard/Released)

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis Amaya, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing hospital corpsman, crosses the finish line of the 25th Annual Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at the Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Park in Okinawa, Japan. The Okinawa Marathon is hosted every year and is open to everyone above the age of 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard/Released)

A costumed runner passes a water station during the Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The annual Okinawa Marathon is one of two full marathons in Okinawa, and is the only marathon in Japan to feature a portion of a route on a military installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft/Released)

A costumed runner passes a water station during the Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The annual Okinawa Marathon is one of two full marathons in Okinawa, and is the only marathon in Japan to feature a portion of a route on a military installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft/Released)

Masanao Ishihara, Okinawan veteran marathoner, receives a commemorative medal, during the 25th annual Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at the Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Park in Okinawa, Japan. Commemorative medals were given out to participants who raced and completed the marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard/Released)

Masanao Ishihara, Okinawan veteran marathoner, receives a commemorative medal, during the 25th annual Okinawa Marathon Feb. 19, 2017, at the Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Park in Okinawa, Japan. Commemorative medals were given out to participants who raced and completed the marathon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard/Released)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 25th annual Okinawa Marathon kicked off Feb. 19, 2017, and for the 25th year of its existence Kadena Air Base has been here to support.

The Okinawa Marathon was established to help promote fitness throughout Okinawa, as well as build upon international culture and exchange. This year was no different with more than 15,000 runners taking to the road.

This year’s event featured three races: a full marathon, a half marathon, and 10k race for participants from around the world to enjoy. The full marathon route has always gone around the island and includes a stretch through Kadena AB.

“I’ve been racing marathons for 28 years and my favorite race is the Okinawan Marathon,” said Masanao Ishihara, Okinawan veteran marathoner. “For the 25 years that I have run this race, my favorite part has been running through Kadena. Hearing the cheering crowds lining the streets and giving out water gives me a boost to finish the race.”

More than 500 military members and their families living on Okinawa volunteered at stations along the route in the base to handout water and snacks for the weary runners.

“This was my first marathon,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Luis Amaya, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing hospital corpsman. “I was looking for a challenge and I definitely found it. I’m glad all the armed forces and their families cheered me on.”

Amaya said although he’s lived on Okinawa for only 6 months, he feels welcome here and is looking forward to running faster in his second marathon here next year.

“I really appreciate the support and encouragement from the other runners and the volunteers on Kadena,” Amaya said. “I think this is great for community outreach. When Okinawans see foreigners contributing and racing alongside them I think it shows that we really want to be a part of this community.”