Running marathons is nothing new for the 62-year-old Nishi. Saturday’s race was his 599th marathon. Shortly after the run, he boarded a plane and flew to Wisconsin, where he completed the Community First Fox Cities Marathon in Appleton.
That means he’s 60 percent of the way toward achieving his goal, which is printed on the back of his running shirt.
“My goal is 1,000 marathons in 250 countries,” Nishi said. “And they all have to be new marathons. There are no boundaries for me.”
Nishi takes great pride in the speed, or lack thereof, with which he runs. He finished Saturday’s marathon in a time of 6:29.42. Event organizer Todd Losee said Nishi was given special permission to start his marathon an hour early so he could take his time along the course and still be back in time to see other runners come in and enjoy the social aspects of the event.
“Most marathons promote fast runners,” Nishi said. “I’m very proud and I want to keep my title as the world’s slowest runner. If you run slow, you finish.”
Another of Nishi’s ambitious goals is to break the world record by becoming the oldest man every to run a marathon. That distinction is currently held by Dimitrion Yordanidis, who at the age of 98 finished a triathlon in Athens.
“I’d love to run a marathon at 100,” Nishi said.
Nishi’s running exploits have made headlines worldwide, and he uses that exposure to raise attention to a cause very dear to his heart — environmental awareness.
While Nishi prides himself in his plodding style of running, many others who competed in Saturday’s marathon had other goals in mind.
Overall race winner Jeff Mescal from Hebron, Ind., was the first to cross the finish line. Mescal’s goal is to run 12 sub-three hour marathons this year. Saturday’s time of 2:44.52 was his seventh.
“This was a real good race. The weather was perfect, and this is a great course,” Mescal said. “I actually ran a little harder than I wanted to today.”
Mescal explained that he was pleasantly surprised to find another outstanding marathon runner, Rich Power of Rochester Hills, in the field. The two went head-to-head throughout the 26.2-mile race, and that competition drove both men to post strong times.
“That made it a really fun race,” Mescal said. “I knew of Rich, but this is the first time I’ve been able to meet him.”
Power was the second overall finisher at 2:47.25.
Another runner from out-of-state who fell in love with the scenic course was Kristin Otto of Oak Park, Ill. She entered the race last minute in hopes of running a time that would qualify her for the Boston Marathon. She achieved that goal with time to spare, finishing in 3:47.17.
“I was signed up to run Fox Valley (in St. Charles, Ill.), but I’m flying to Argentina (Sunday). I’m a corporate flight attendant. I’m trying to get the Boston qualifier, so I found this race online.
“It’s a beautiful course with great weather. I really liked the shaded paths and the water views.”
There were actually three races held on Saturday — the marathon, a half-marathon, and a 5K race. A total of 652 people participated in the three events, which started and finished at Old Boys’ Brewhouse, 971 Savidge St. in Spring Lake. The marathon drew 127 runners while 261 ran the half-marathon and another 264 competed in the 5K event.
“I was really happy. The day went really well,” Losee said. “We got great responses from all the runners. They loved the course. Everybody seemed to have a lot of fun.”
Nikki Baranoski was the overall female marathon winner. The 26-year-old East Grand Rapids women came in at 3:15.52, just ahead of Courtney Kuznicki, 30, of Jacksonville, Fla. Kuznicki finished in 3:16.36.
Christopher Gregory, 31, of Wyoming, took first in the half-marathon at 1:15.10. Dustin Mier of East Grand Rapids placed second at 1:19.03.
Jessica Sowles, 30, of Muskegon, was the female winner at 1:33.18. Sarah Grant, 31, of Ada, was close behind at 1:33.48.
Tyler Zwagerman, 27, of Chicago, won the 5K event at 16:47. Alex Salinas, 22, of Dearborn, was second at 17:35.
Ada’s Jamie Lyberg, 27, was the female 5K winner at 19:50.