A4IA supporters Dan Squiller and Steve Jurman were in Japan to run the Izu Trail Journey, a 72K ultra marathon. This journey was one of both personal challenge and professional awareness. While both runners wanted to challenge themselves physically and mentally by completing this course they also intended to promote youth sports safety in Japan by making people aware of A4IA and the Athletes Saving Athletes® program. To learn more about their preparation and the sports safety work of Katsu Ichihara, check out last month’s blog.

As the holidays have passed and there has been time to reflect on the experience, Dan was kind enough to look back and tell me more about his experience in Japan with the marathon and promoting youth sports safety. Youth sports safety has made its way around the globe and A4IA is proud to be part of spreading that message via supports like Steve, Dan and, Katsu.

A4IA: What was the most interesting part of the ultra-marathon?

Dan Squiller (DS): I’ve done events in many countries and this race was an experience like no other. Several things surprised and impressed me. Organizing a race with 1,500 participants that are going to trek almost 50 miles in remote mountain terrain is no easy task. From check-in to course markings, to aid stations, to finisher certificates, everything worked like a finely oiled machine. I was also impressed by the level of competition, particularly the females. There was a higher percentage of females than other races I’ve participated in and they were fast! As far as most interesting, what struck me was quietness on the course. It is very common to hear lots of talking and banter as you run through the serenity and quietness of tree canopies and winding paths with your fellow runners. Not so here. Just runners getting it done without drama or fanfare.

A4IA: What was the most challenging part of the ultra-marathon?

DS: Clearly the course. With multiple mountain passes, over 30,000 of feet of climbing, and lots of roots, rocks, and ruts, the course was one of the most challenging I’ve experienced. One other factor is that there were only three aid stations. Typically, in a race of the Trail Journey’s length, there would be five or six. Despite language and cultural barriers, surprisingly, there were no issues with getting lost, logistics, or finding something tasty at the aid stations.

A4IA: What were some of the things you shared about youth sports safety and/or A4IA while traveling in Japan?

DS: The shirts were great and with so many participants, were seen by many. I answered questions but wish I could have done more.

A4IA: What do you think the next steps are for youth sports safety in Japan?

DS: Japan, with its highly organized and disciplined culture, is an ideal environment to roll out a sports safety program. Because regulatory and governmental organizations move more slowly in Japan than in the U.S., it is even more important to get grass roots level support from both students and their parents. Moms are key here.

Congratulations to Dan and Steve for completing such a challenging event successfully and promoting A4IA and sports safety along the way. It seems the roots for a solid youth sports safety program in Japan are taking hold with increased awareness efforts such as this, the work of organizations such as Sports Safety Japan, and understanding how to make change happen. Moms are often key when it comes to the safety and security of their children – harnessing mothers’ desire to support their children is one of many ways to effect change. What are you doing to effect change in your community?

What are you doing to effect change in your community?