Tokyo man runs 155th marathon in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Columbia's Heart of America Marathon had one of its more unique participants Monday morning: Tokyo native Atsushi Kato, who attempted his third marathon in as many days.

"The first day was Wyoming, second day was Nebraska, and this time here in Columbia," Kato said.

Kato has now run a marathon in 48 of the 50 United States. 

"It's not that I love running itself," Kato said. "I love feeling a sense of a accomplishment. The sense of accomplishment is my motivation."

Running is not Kato's profession; he is a government employee in Tokyo. Kato said he didn't start running marathons until he turned 37.

"When I became a father," Kato said. "Ever since then I have been running marathons."

After Monday's race, he had run 155 marathons, but this was his first one in Columbia. Kato balances being a father of four with having a full-time job in Tokyo by making running a family tradition. 

"I run to keep them happy by running so many marathons," Kato said. 

Three of Kato's four children have run marathons with him as early as age 10. His fourth child is just two-years-old.

"So I have to wait for another eight years or something," Kato said. 

Kato's secret to success might surprise you. He drinks a bottle of Diet Coke throughout his races.  

"I like the taste of flat Diet Coke," Kato said.

At the Heart of America Marathon, they only served Pepsi products. Kato didn't seem to mind. 

The 52-year-old Kato finished the race in four hours and 35 minutes, which was good for 12th place in his age group.

Andrew Danner, from Louisville, Kentucky, won outright with a time of two hours and 45 minutes. 33-year-old Niki Hilgenberg of St. Joseph, Missouri, was the fastest women with a time of three hours and 31 minutes.