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The runners observed a moment of silence before the race to remember the victims of the tsunami that hit Sendai two years ago. From left: Mizuki Noguchi, Japan’s gold medalist in the marathon at the 2004 Olympic Games; Theresa Hoag, who represented Riverside in the women’s race; and Dr. Jeff Cate. Noguchi won the Sendai Half Marathon for the women in 1:10.
The runners observed a moment of silence before the race to remember the victims of the tsunami that hit Sendai two years ago. From left: Mizuki Noguchi, Japan’s gold medalist in the marathon at the 2004 Olympic Games; Theresa Hoag, who represented Riverside in the women’s race; and Dr. Jeff Cate. Noguchi won the Sendai Half Marathon for the women in 1:10.

CBU professor represents Riverside at Sendai International Half Marathon

RIVERSIDE (May 24, 2013)— Dr. Jeff Cate, professor of Christian studies at California Baptist University, represented the city of Riverside at the Sendai (Japan) International Half Marathon on May 12. Riverside is a sister city to Sendai, one of the areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Cate said he beat his own personal best time by nine seconds in the race.

“I knew it was a highly competitive race with several Olympic athletes and other prestigious elite runners,” he said. “With cool weather, a favorable course and loud crowds lining the route, I managed to eke out my personal best time yet for a half marathon (1:23:50; 6:24/mile pace)… by nine seconds. I was very relieved to run well since I was representing our city and school.”

The city of Sendai invites each of its nine sister cities to select a male and female runner to represent their city in the race each spring. This year’s half marathon included Olympic runner Mizuki Noguchi, who won a gold medal for Japan in the 2004 games, as well as other elite athletes.

Besides Riverside, Sendai’s other sister cities participating in the race included Rennes, France; Acapulco, Mexico; Minsk, Belarus; Gwangju, South Korea; Dallas, Texas; Changchun, China; and Tainan, Taiwan. Oulu, Finland is also a sister-city but didn’t send runners this year. Riverside and Sendai have been sister-cities for 56 years, the second oldest such relationship in the world.

Cate was not an athlete in high school or college. He picked up running in his late 20s to stay in shape and got hooked on it. Now, at age 45, he has run 22 marathons, including the Boston Marathon twice, and dozens of other races of varying distances. Most recently, he completed the “Beach Cities Marathon” series in 2012-13 by running sub-3:00 marathons at Orange County (May 2012), Long Beach (October 2012), and his personal best at Surf City (February 2013) in which he finished tenth overall out of a field of over 2,000 runners.

Cate said he did some of his training at CBU’s new recreation center.

“Even though I can’t compete with the youngsters or the elites, I still like to train hard and do my best,” Cate said. “I think exercise should be an important part of the balance in our lives—our intellectual, social, physical and spiritual well-being, as Luke 2:52 indicates. I think it's good that, as a New Testament professor, students see that staying active and physically fit in whatever exercise we enjoy is not just something for CBU athletes or kinesiology students to pursue—it should be an important aspect of all our lives, and not just when we're in our 20s.”

As one of the sister-city runners, Cate received VIP treatment for the week in Sendai. After arriving in Tokyo, the Riverside delegation was brought to Sendai via the bullet train with speeds over 140 mph. All the sister-city delegates stayed in the Koyo Grand Hotel in downtown Sendai and ate banquet meals together in the hotel. During the day, the group examined the devastation from the 2011 tsunami, visited schools, dined in the homes of Sendai citizens and toured various sites, such as Matsushima, “the pine islands,” and Mount Zao in the highlands. For the race, the delegates were brought to the stadium in a luxury bus, provided access to the track and given a uniform with their city’s name written in Japanese.

“The singlets (shirts) with “Riverside” in Japanese were great because the crowds along the route were cheering for me specifically,” Cate said. “And when I heard them cheer for me, I would smile and wave, and they loved it. I’m not used to receiving such treatment as a runner. Sendai did an amazing job as a host city.”

Cate said the long-standing relationship between Riverside and Sendai was often visible. Outside Sendai’s city hall, a large white “raincross” stands with a mission bell inside honoring Riverside. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sister-city relationship in 2006, a large tile orange now stands at Sendai’s International Center depicting prominent sites of Riverside, including the Mission Inn, Mount Rubidoux, the Fox Theatre and orange groves. Pictures and emblems of Riverside abounded in the home of Shinichi Kato, who built the Japanese gardens in Riverside’s White Park.

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