NBC 7 San Diego
Blind sailor Hiro Iwamoto (left) and former Padres player Aki Otsuka (right) will be running the San Diego Half Marathon together on Mar. 10 as part of a fundraiser for sailing students in Japan.
A blind San Diego resident and a former Padres player are teaming up to run a marathon for a good cause.
On March 10, former Padres set-up pitcher Aki Otsuka will serve as a sighted guide to Hiro Iwamoto as they run side-by-side through the 13.1-mile course of the San Diego Half Marathon.
Their participation in the run is intended to help raise funds to buy a sail boat that will be donated to high school students involved in sailing clubs in Fukushima, Japan.
The fundraiser is the brainchild of Iwamoto, a blind runner and sailor who resides in San Diego and runs the website www.SeeWhatISea.com/en.
Iwamoto – a native of Japan – says the plan is to donate a sail boat to students impacted by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Iwamoto says those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami experienced so much fear during the disaster, they may have lost their passion for the ocean and sailing.
By donating a new sail boat, he hopes young Japanese sailors will embrace the seas and take up the hobby once again.
“A lot of people must’ve gotten fear after the tsunami. I want them to go out to the ocean again. I want to give them the opportunity to start feeling that the ocean is great again,” Iwamoto told NBC 7.
Otsuka says he’s happy to be involved in Iwamoto’s fundraising efforts. He has immediate family in Japan who was affected by the 2011 earthquake.
“Japan is still suffering, so this is a good way to help,” he told NBC 7.
The pair has been practicing and running together in preparation for the marathon around San Diego.
And, while Otsuka is supposed to serve as the sighted guide to Iwamoto during the race, he says Iwamoto has been just as supportive to him – especially when it comes to keeping stride.
The former Padre admits he’s not accustomed to running such long distances, as his baseball career required shorter distance running.
“I haven’t run this much distance since high school,” Otsuka said with a laugh. “[During] the first practice, I was supposed to lead Hiro, but I was led by him instead!”
Iwamoto says his running partner has been training and running a lot lately, so he’s confident they’ll complete the half marathon without a hitch.
The pair will run side-by-side during the race, with a special rope connecting them. Iwamoto says the tension from the rope will help indicate which direction he should be turning during the run.
After the San Diego Half Marathon, Iwamoto will travel to Japan to start preparing for another endeavor: sailing across the Pacific.
He plans to sail from Fukashima back to San Diego with the help of a Japanese sighted sailor.
Iwamoto says that sailing trip will begin in June, which should have him sailing into San Diego by mid-August.
To learn more about Iwamoto’s running and sailing adventures, visit this website.