Hiroshi Moriyasu considers himself "very new" to volunteerism at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, even though he started volunteer training more than five months ago. Five months seems like plenty of time to get the hang of things, which Moriyasu has done. But perhaps his dedication to everything he does (a competitive table tennis champion since high school, a 15-year career as a teacher of English and Japanese, and a lifetime of running workouts) makes five months seem like a week.
You likely won't run into Moriyasu while you are at Torrance Memorial, as he works in the basement as a volunteer in inpatient pharmacy. "I started with helping to move patients to their rooms and around the hospital, and then just out of curiosity I moved to the inpatient pharmacy," he says. "I feel like I am working in the bank, depositing things into the tube and then they shoot out to the hospital where they need to go. I don't see any sunshine, though."
When Moriyasu isn't in the basement of Torrance Memorial zipping meds to patients, he can be found running all over the South Bay or elevating his table tennis game in preparation for the National Senior Olympics next summer in Cleveland. In the last National Senior Olympics (2011 in Houston), Moriyasu came home with a number of medals around his neck. He played all three events in table tennis: singles (in which he made it to the finals), men's doubles (taking 5th place) and mixed doubles (1st place), and he competed in the 10k track race. In the 10k race, Moriyasu finished 6th place in his age group with a time of 54 minutes.
"In 2013, I will compete in all table tennis events again, including singles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles," explains Moriyasu. "In track, I will compete in the 400m, 800m, long jump, 5k and 10k events."
PULSE: How did you end up volunteering at Torrance Memorial?
Hiroshi Moriyasu (HM): I had a steady job in the postal service for a number of years, but I knew that I wanted to teach. I didn't want to end up in a post office. After I moved to California in 1988, I found lots of teaching positions, and I went back to school to get a teaching credential. My background was in regular grades education, so I decided to get credentialed in adult education. I taught English as a second language and Japanese for 15 years. I retired from teaching in December (2011) and decided I'd like to volunteer at Torrance Memorial. I also volunteer coaching table tennis at the YMCA, but I need to have time to train myself as well.
PULSE: What keeps you motivated to compete?
HM: I think table tennis is my thing. Running is not my thing, but I love the challenge. I love the word challenge. If someone says, 'You can't do that,' then I want to do it. For the track events, I train by doing hill training, long distance training and speed training. The running is good for my blood pressure too.
PULSE: How will you train for table tennis?
HM: For table tennis, I know what I have to work on. I began competing in table tennis during my first year of high school in Japan. I'm not perfect yet, but I will be. I need to keep finding better players to train against. I go to the Korean table tennis club in Koreatown a lot to find great players to compete with.
PULSE: How did you first get into running?
HM: I am 65 now, and I used to run a lot when I was working for the post office. I would walk several miles every day for work, and then after work I would run about eight miles a day. When I lived in Houston, we had Memorial Park, which was very popular for running. Everyone was talking about the Boston Marathon. Boston, Boston, Boston. And then when I found out you have to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I realized I wanted to do that. I qualified for the Boston Marathon in 1992 after beating the qualifying time of the Los Angeles Marathon by 10 minutes. I didn't compete in that Boston Marathon because of a knee injury, but I ran Boston in 1995 and 1996. When I first arrived to Boston, I couldn't sleep the night before because there was so much excitement. On race day, I was dead at mile 3. I didn't know how I'm going to finish the race. But I focused my thoughts on something else and kept my legs moving.
PULSE: What is the importance of staying as healthy as you can?
HM: When I went back to school for my masters degree, I stopped running completely. I would go to school, work, study. Go to school, work, study. For 15 years I stopped running, and I gained 20 pounds. Then I got my masters, and I found some time to run. After 40 years of age is a very tough cliff for staying fit. You get old so fast! I had to slow my pace down, and I had to build up my energy so I could run or swim continuously without stopping. I continue to exercise because I want to stay young mentally.
PULSE: What inspires you?
HM: I have a bicycle friend in northern California who is 80 years old. He has been riding a bicycle for four decades, and now he is riding 30 miles a day. I should do much more than what he does every day, because I am much younger than he is. He motivates and inspires me a great deal to stay active and compete. I am going to see the Olympics in London to see a few events and look for some motivation and inspiration by watching athletes who are new in the Olympics. They will do more than their best to triumph by overcoming obstacles and hardship by training for many years.
Another inspirational person is a one-legged female athlete I met at the Los Angeles Marathon Expo. She completed the Ironman race (140-mile) in Kona, Hawaii and completed the swimming (2.4 miles) with only one leg, biking (112 miles) and running (26.2 miles) with a prosthetic leg. She is an Ironman, and she is motivated without a doubt.
PULSE: I find you very inspiring.
HM: Really? I guess I am kind of crazy.
PULSE: No. Crazy inspiring!