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The Surprise Soccer-Playing Marathoner

He qualified for the Boston Marathon with practically no training.

Daniel Okabe ran his first marathon with practically no training. Photo: Los Angeles Times
Daniel Okabe ran his first marathon with practically no training. Photo: Los Angeles Times

He qualified for the Boston Marathon with practically no training.

Though its stereotypical to think that most African children run or walk double-digit daily mileage, this was not the case for Ugandan exchange student Daniel Okabe. Before he came to the United States, Okabe, a second-year  international student at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, had never run more than three miles.

After witnessing how tirelessly Okabe played soccer, his host parents, Terry and Debra Innis of Irvine, California, suggested he try out the marathon. Last May, he finished 10th in the Orange County Marathon with a 2:46 PR

“I never had any idea I could run a marathon,” he said. “I didn’t even know how many miles a marathon was. But I have God-given ability. I’m trying to use that talent.”

Okabe’s first marathon was last March in Napa. There, he took off with the lead pack and was able to stay with them all the way to the 19-mile mark.

“I hit the wall,” Okabe recalls. “I didn’t know the distance. I didn’t know about pacing. I just ran with all my energy, and I was so excited because I was the only African in the race, and I thought I would be the best. But I started too fast.”

For More: Los Angeles Times