Good Samaritan triathlete ‘loves 2 endure’
Jane Kupkowski is a pro endurance athlete at Camp Zama who founded Love2Endure Foundation to help victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. She coordinates volunteers from Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi for humanitarian trips to Japan’s recovering Sendai area. We talked with her a few days before she and fellow L2E member Yuka Yasuda headed to South Africa on their own dime to run the Big Five Marathon on June 22 in a bid to raise awareness and funds for Sendai.
Q: How long have you been racing in triathlons and marathons, and how did you get started?
A: I was always into recreational sports like basketball, softball and track and field. I started running when I was about 15 years old. I signed up my first 5k and started running for charity. And I did my first full marathon for breast cancer foundation when I was 16 years old. I learned how to persevere with integrity and character … the longer the distances (got). It is not (just) physically but also mentally and spiritually . Over the last 10 years, I have competed in national Fitness Competitions, completed 18 marathons, Ultra Cycling events, Ultra Swimming, Ultra Running consisting of 75-100 miles in less than 24 hours for charity, Multiple Triathlon Distance Events and Adventure Races. I consider myself as a triathlete.
Q: What is your highlight as an athlete?
A: In 2008, I was selected out of 30 people in the world to compete in Triple Ironman in Virginia with only three week notice and finished the 7.3 mile swimming, 336 mile bike and 78.6 mile run in 64 hours and 15 minutes with few moments of sleep. I got a world record as youngest female in the world to complete Triple Ironman Triathlon. I was conditioning but the only thing I was really good at that time was Ultra running and Ultra mountain run, and I was not good at Ultra swimming and Ultra cycling. I have only biked 100 miles before doing 336 miles for the race, and I was able to do that in 31 hours. So, yeah, definitely it was my highlight.
Q: What is Love2Endure Foundation and how did it get started?
A: While growing up, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Yet despite her ongoing battle with the disease, my parents worked with exchanged students from Japan (in) America for seven years. So, my mother loved Japanese people. She took care of them, loved them and welcomed them to our home for years and years. She passed away in 1995 from cancer, though she left behind a legacy of faith, compassion and (a) message. I believe that this foundation is predestination and the last 29 years (were) molding, shaping and preparing me for this time.
Love2Endure Foundation encompasses seven ministries and focuses on bringing compassion and restoration to the underprivileged, neglected and hurting people around the world, through the love of God. Through serving and partnering with other non-profit organizations, our desire is to impact the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of orphans, the homeless and those affected by disaster.
Q: What does L2W do to help the earthquake survivors in Japan?
A: We’ve been teaming up with other non-profit organizations and that’s how we keep connected (in the Sendai area). We’ve been taking teams of people up there for the last year and half – rebuilding homes, working on farmland and just doing all the sorts of labor (needed) to get the houses prepared for reconstruction by these nonprofit organizations. We’ve seen a hundreds of bags of clothes, shoes (and) daily needs donated through our organization. Our teams have gone to Sendai and done special events like a concert and festival for the victims.
Q: How will running in the Big Five Marathon raise awareness and funds for Japan’s quake survivors?
A: We made T-shirts and (everyone making) donations over $50 will receive (one). All donations will go to (meet) the needs of the victims of the disaster in Sendai. You can purchase them online. … We are basically running in honor of the victims and also to raise awareness. … We mainly desire to raise funds (for) international outreach. That is why we have PayPal set up on our website or checks can be made out to Love2Endure Foundation. We will bring some of the T-shirts with us to the race to give to donors/athletes. Mainly, (we’ll) share our testament that we are traveling around the world and racing on behalf of many who still are suffering and without homes. … This is our way of simply saying “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."
Q: Do you have any contact with people in Sendai, and what kind of feedback have you received?
A: We are in contact with various organizations and non-profits who have told us of countless homes being rebuilt due to our volunteer efforts. One trip, we had the privilege and honor of visiting with a family whose house was completely reconstructed and brand new. We have countless stories of not only physical restoration (but also) emotional healing.
What can people do who want to support your cause or help the quake victims in some other way?
A: We have a lot ways to help. We are always looking for volunteers, financial assistance because right now we are using money in order to rebuild some of the family’s homes are still without. So, we are really asking for financial assistance and support. Go to our website and Facebook page and see what we are doing and see if they want to get involved. There are so many assets and ways they can get involved right now.
- For more information on Love2Endure Foundation, visit: love2endurefoundation.com