Taji 100 Chairman and 4th Generation Army Veteran Paul Fukuma - Inspiring Runners, Raising Funds for RWB, and Public Service
We’re so excited to welcome Paul Fukuma to the podcast. Paul’s a fourth generation army veteran, who brought a friendly little month-long 100 mile competition - the Taji 100 - stateside. Paul's the chairman of the Taji 100 fitness challenge that takes place every year in February.
He was part of the event in its inception in 2010 at camp Taji. And under his leadership, this event has grown exponentially and has raised over $300,000 supporting military families.
Not only do we get into Paul’s background, and his experience - in camp taji Iraq for the first ever Taji 100 event. But we also talk about the inspiring stories of participants of the years, and the reason that Paul’s been doing the event year after year - spending hundreds of hours and not taking a cent.
We also dig into another topic, to understand Paul’s unique perspective. Paul is a public safety officer - which means that he wears three hats - as a police officer, fire fighter, and EMT.
And as you hopefully recognize - we’re currently in a critical moment in time. Political tensions are running high and the world may seem more divided than ever. There’s been a large focus on systemic racism and even calls to defund the police.
So I wanted to get Paul’s take. I didn’t give him any advanced notice - but his honest answers were refreshing and real - and I just appreciate him so much for it. You guys are going to love this conversation - and if you want to improve your health and raise money for an amazing cause - I encourage you to participate in the Taji 100 this February.
During this discussion, we talk about:
- 3:38 - Paul's childhood - growing up in the Bay Area, and his family's military background.
- 7:16 - His deployment to Camp Taji Iraq
- 10:45 - The initial Taji 100 challenge, and Paul's involvement in it
- 17:39 - Bringing the Taji 100 challenge back stateside and the initial years of running the challenge
- 21:38 - Partnering with RWB Team Red, White, and Blue - and the relationship between the organizations
- 26:41 - How Bertrand and Paul met, and how Taji 100 started to grow
- 29:32 - The incredible stories that have come from the Taji 100 challenge
- 37:22 - The behind the scenes support that goes into every Taji 100 event
- 40:11 - Paul's current position as a public safety officer - and his day to day duties
- 43:43 - Paul's recent accomplishment getting his bachelors and masters degrees
- 44:55 - His take on the political climate, social unrest, and calls for police reform
- 53:15 - Info on Taji 100 - 2021 registration
Links Talked About During this Show
Podcast TranscriptionThe following transcript is provided for your convenience. It was created through a program, and may not be entirely accurate to our conversation.
Paul Fukuma: [00:00:08]
If you can just have a moment to genuinely say yes, change my mind. I am willing to have my mind changed. Not to say that you will, but if you're willing to have your mind changed, if you've pretty surprised, what kind of information and what kind of voices you'll hear and what perspectives you'll be able to take in.
Kevin Chang: [00:00:21]
Hello and welcome to the race mob podcast. This is episode number 22. I'm Kevin entrepreneur technology and fitness nerd, and the founder of race mob. I'm joined by master motivator, founder of two legit fitness co-chair of the Taji 100 R R C a certified coach USA track and field certified official the incomparable Bertrand Newson.
We are so excited to welcome Paul Fukuma to the podcast.
Paul's a fourth generation army veteran who brought a friendly little month, long hundred mile competition. You might know, as the Taji 100 state side. I'll let Bertrand give you the full introduction in a minute, but I wanted to give you a couple of tidbits into what makes this conversation so special.
Not only did we get into Paul's background and his experience in camp Taji, Iraq for the first ever Taji 100 events. But we also talk about the inspiring stories of participants over the years. And the reason that Paul's been doing the event year after year spending hundreds of hours and not taking a cent. We also dig into another topic and try to get Paul's unique perspective. Paul is a public safety officer, which means that he wears three different hats as a police officer, firefighter and EMT. And as you hopefully recognize we're currently in a critical moment in time.
Political tensions are running high and the world may seem more divided than ever. There's a large focus on systemic racism and even calls to defund the police. So I wanted to get Paul's take, and I didn't give him any advanced notice, but his honest answers we're refreshing and real.
And I just appreciate him so much for it. You guys are going to love this conversation. And if you want to improve your health and raise money for an amazing cause encourage you all to participate in the Taji 100, this February.
You can find all of the information in the show notes at race mob.com/podcast.
This episode is brought to you by Racemob, and inclusive community for endurance athletes. If you like our podcast, you'll love our YouTube channel, where we keep you up to date with news for them running world and give you tips that will help you improve door running. Check us out by searching race mob on YouTube and subscribe today.
Bertrand Newson: [00:02:35]
Hello race mob family. We're in for a real treat today, we have the one and only Paul Fukushima, a hero amongst heroes, someone who served our country well in the army, someone who has been a man of the community as a firefighter, as a. Police officer as a instructor in the fire Academy and police Academy, the chairman of the Taji 100 fitness challenge that takes place every year in February.
He was part of the event in its inception in 2010 at camp Taji. And under his leadership, this event has grown exponentially and has raised over $200,000 supporting military families. Paul is our great honor, our great pleasure to welcome you to the race mob family, and to share your story.
Paul Fukuma: [00:03:24]
an incredible honor to be here. I must admit I am a little nervous, my very first podcast. So this is all foreign territory to me. When you advise me on here, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. So this is definitely an issue experience.
Kevin Chang: [00:03:38]
Well, nothing to be nervous about. I mean, I think, you know, you're a good hands with Bertrand me. We just want to get to know you a little bit better and be able to share your story with our audience. As I understand it, you are Bay area native. Is that right? Did you kind of grow up in the Bay?
Paul Fukuma: [00:03:55]
Yeah, by mother, father sell down kind of West San Jose. And that's where I was raised about six or so. they divorced when I was real young. I don't even have memories of them being together. But it wasn't the greatest neighborhood in San Jose and it was starting to go downhill pretty fast. So mom recognized that.
And so she got me out of there and relocated me to Sunnyville when I was like the fifth grade or so. And that's all I remember is, so I could say I was born and raised Sunnyvale that's community that I've known ever since South Bay is what I know that's about it.
Bertrand Newson: [00:04:28]
And Sunnyville, I mean, not to steal anyone's thunder, but that city is very special to you for many reasons. So we'll kind of hold onto that and plant those seeds. and the good work that you're doing in that beautiful various city in Sunnyville that you call home.
Kevin Chang: [00:04:44]
Tell us a little bit about the military background. I know that it kind of goes back in your family. Fourth generation. Is that right?
Paul Fukuma: [00:04:52]
I'm the fourth generation us army. My great grandfather on my mother's side was. World war one, both grandfathers will work to both my mother's side and my father's side, which was Japanese. So that has some significance to my father, Vietnam. And then for me, Iraq was pretty interesting. So I didn't really know much about my family's military lineage growing up.
I mean, I knew that all of them were in it. I knew all of them served, but it really didn't. How much meaning or impact to me until I made the decision to enlist and what's, I don't know it was interesting or not, but I enlisted completely separate from that motivation. It wasn't like, Oh, I want to continue this path.
I decided to enlist. And it's only then that everything started to come to the surface and I realized how significant. The military was in my family. So my father's side is Japanese. My grandparents on that side were put in camps during world war two. And during my grandfather's stent in there, he volunteered to translate Japanese code and language for the military.
And then once released. He wanted to prove how he loved America and love United States. He enlisted in the service test to show no resentment, hard feelings. Like, no, I believe in this country and to prove it, I'm going to be a staff Sergeant United States army. Yeah. It's a pretty significant. And despite all that, my dad was in college.
He could have easily avoided the draft, but he also said no, people are serving. And I need to do my duty as well. So he voluntarily went down to the recruiter and enlisted. He went to Vietnam. He earned two bronze stars while in service, as a radio operator for an infantry unit. And then, I decided to enlist in 2002.
Yeah. Shortly after nine 11 instant. And. I want to do something pretty significant. So I went in the medical realm and became a combat medic for the army and served four years active. That was very proud chapter in my life. For sure. I got out in 2006, got recalled actually, for those who don't understand military service, you have, let's say you were to enlist right now.
You get four years active service and then there's another four years after that. Where they kind of still have you on retainer. So at any time they could just say, Hey, remember that thing you did a few years back. Yeah. I'll come on back in again.
Kevin Chang: [00:07:16]
Paul Fukuma: [00:07:16]
Yeah. I would just sit in my house or my apartment and my old man.
My dad calls me and says, "Hey, Paul, uh, I just, uh, signed this FedEx package for you from the department of defense." "You did what? Did you sign for
Kevin Chang: [00:07:30]
Bertrand Newson: [00:07:30]
new what it was?
Paul Fukuma: [00:07:34]
And I already knew what it was I already knew was going to be, and sure enough, it was ordered to come back in. So they sunk their teeth into me, pulled it back in and deployed me for a 14 months stint over in Iraq.
Kevin Chang: [00:07:45]
And that was 2008. Is that right? 2009. Wow.
Paul Fukuma: [00:07:50]
Kevin Chang: [00:07:51]
So first four years, was that also Iraq?
Paul Fukuma: [00:07:55]
No, that was all state side. I worked out in good old Georgia. My first taste of the world outside of the bubble, that is the Bay, Jamie, a true taste of how.
Kevin Chang: [00:08:11]
Paul Fukuma: [00:08:11]
Diverse, we'll call it. This country truly can be. Yeah, there's a lot of countries within this country. And if someone that has never been outside of California or even, especially the Bay area, it's very, they have their eyes open and should start traveling and checking out. It's no different, get a new perspective and you spend a long period of time just in a different state, let alone a different part of this state.
Kevin Chang: [00:08:32]
Tell us about that second stint, 2009. So you've been recalled, I guess the first stance you were stateside. So you didn't really have to go overseas. What was that feeling like of being called overseas? And were you nervous? Scared.
Paul Fukuma: [00:08:47]
Scared. I was, I think in my mind it was always something that I wanted. I think I missed out on, or I didn't do my full duty as military. Enlistee those kinds of. Topsy turvy had already established a career. I'd already been an officer with sounds a police for four years at that point. So I was already living my life.
Like I thought I'd closed that chapter and I'm starting a new one. And then it just kind of turned into a Quentin Tarantino film, or I just. Started jumping back chapters and back and forth. So I'd put everything here on hold, put everything in storage. So it definitely was Catherine wrench in the mix for plants, but I didn't find it.
I was actually pretty excited to go to do this and. Well, yes, a deployment sucks. There's just no way else to describe it, but we're very proud of the experience. I learned an incredible amount, the experience I gained, the knowledge I obtained, I could never, ever have acquired that. Had I not deployed. I have some lifelong friends that hopefully we'll stay in touch long into our elder years.
So it's been a powerful experience. And of course, ultimately that series of events has brought us to today and Taji 102, a Git and race Bob and all my friends in hair. So I got to say it was a good path to take.
Bertrand Newson: [00:10:04]
We salute and thank you for your service. And, you know, let's talk about 2010 and camp Taji, army base, and the morale at the time, looking at things through your eyes and how Taji got on your radar.
Paul Fukuma: [00:10:21]
of the bigger problems that deployment is. Yes. You have the enemy, right? The bad guys with the bad guys, ladies with guns, but that's a small percentage that the bigger threat is boredom. Boredom is a big problem. Our Sergeant major, when we got landed in country, he said, when you leave country, you're either going to bench press 500 or way 500.
Bertrand Newson: [00:10:43]
Paul Fukuma: [00:10:45]
that's true. Because, you know, either they're going to sit around and eat and be bored and not do anything and have a kind of life, or are gonna take advantage of the opportunity because you don't have TV. You have very ancient, like stone-age ancient internet just for emails. So you can't surf the web or do anything.
There's no outside distractions other than just your little tiny community here. So you really have an opportunity if you wanted to really maximize on your fitness and health. So morale is kind of low because let's face it in a lot of these units. You have 18, 19 year olds that never been away from home.
And now they're shipped halfway across the world in a combat environment. So. They need distraction. Right? So a captain within our unit, Carol Pardot, she sees an opportunity to capitalize on the cardiac, this heart health month of February.
And she's like, Hmm, what's the militaries answer for morale, making everybody a run, but really. What does a one 5k really do, right. Okay. Yeah, we ran. So we had something to do this morning and now we're back to the board again. So she thought the idea, what if we have a month long challenge as the shortest month of the year and say a hundred miles, let's see if you could knock out a hundred miles at a 28 days, some people were naysayers and they're like, Oh, what a great recipe for stress fractures?
But ultimately it was a great experience because we found there's a lot of competitiveness and obviously type A personalities in the military. Right. It gave us something to focus on something to do, or always keeping track of stuff. It's something to look forward to the next day to try and knock out more things.
Health wise, people are getting in great health and they had something to look forward to. It's funny, I was 10 or 11 months into my deployment. I had not come home on RNR yet. Almost every else in the unit had, but I was planned to come home for my 30th birthday in March. So I had to leave cause it takes quite a few days to travel from obviously Iraq back to the States.
So I had to leave about a week early, so I was like, Ooh, if I do this, I'm gonna have to do this 21 days.
Bertrand Newson: [00:12:51]
Paul Fukuma: [00:12:56]
Um, but I did it, uh, I was very sore afterwards, but I did it and it was quite an accomplishment and we were talking about it constantly after it was all said and done. Yeah. So that was in, in Taji, Iraq. That's where we were stationed, which the little base just Northwest of Baghdad, like a 15 minute helicopter ride Northwest of Baghdad.
Wonderful place. I got to tell you the only two good things I liked about Iraq was the sunrise and the sunset, the there's so much dust and smoke in the air. It makes the most beautiful oranges and reds I've ever seen. But the 23 hours spread between the two moments. Yeah. That was not beautiful in any way.
Kevin Chang: [00:13:46]
Well, tell us a little bit about where did you guys run? Did you guys run inside the base? Were there like pathways and stuff? And what types of shoot were you running in boots or did you guys have running shoes?
Paul Fukuma: [00:13:58]
It's kind of hard to picture. I mean, you're in Iraq, it's a theater for, and you're out for a run. Well, the fog is before operating base is actually pretty big. And so there's, if you were to run, you can run pretty much t-shirt shorts in the center of it and be free or somewhat free of concern of things being shot over the wall to come get you.
But we also had hardened structures. So there was these gyms. They had steel reinforced concrete walls, all the way around and big steel roofs and stuff. So if mortars and things came over, we'd have some shelter protection. So we'd wear our armor walk all the way over to this gym. Kind of dump it off at the door, go in there and lift some weights.
Scott treadmill run around a little bit, get sweaty, but then put our little gear back on him. Walk off to our living quarters. It was interesting for sure. It's not like going to a gym here, like, Oh, I'll just wear this nice workout shirt. No,
Kevin Chang: [00:14:57]
And I guess before Taji, were you a runner, would you consider yourself a runner before then?
Paul Fukuma: [00:15:03]
I wasn't actually, I hated running with a passion. I was trying to be the more of like, well, my Sergeant majors said I can lift 500 pounds. I'm gonna beat that guy. So I tried really hard to do a bulking upper thing, and I looked back and yeah, my brute strength was through the roof, but I was also super heavy and had no cardio or no stamina, no endurance.
And it wasn't a good feeling for me, but when I started getting into this, I wasn't never been a fast runner, never been crazy and speed. I can't do, you know, five minute miles around like that, but I was able to experience that thing called a runner's high that'll Zen moment where yeah, the first two minutes suck and everything's tight and everything's stiff.
And you're like, Oh, I God, how many more of this? Right, but then there's that middle part where you just kind of zone out and you're in your, like your happy place. And that's what was great for me in Taji or during the 100 is I have for an hour, two hours, I would completely forget where I was. I would just be on a treadmill and I would, so now I have my little earbuds and scrapped from whatever CDs I can find.
And I would completely drift off into fantasy land. Completely forget that I was in Iraq. Completely forget that I was thousands of miles away from my friends and family completely forget about all the stresses of the job I was doing over there. And it was my escape. That was my escape. Those two hours of just want to treadmill just cranking out miles.
And then after it was done, I was, I was almost like, man, I have to stop now. Uh, And then I look forward to the next day. Yay. I get to go out to my happy place and I'd go back to the gym.
Yeah. So it's definitely an interesting thing. We try to have a few half marathons there, but it's challenging when you're restricted to not Armour running in a very small environment.
Bertrand Newson: [00:16:55]
Track your miles from there.
Paul Fukuma: [00:16:57]
So Carol decided, well, the whole way we track is we would email her all of our miles. So every day she would have, I can't, I wish I knew how many, I wish I could have the original documents, but it must've been a hundred soldiers emailing her every day, their miles and stuff. Right. And so she would have this big group email and then have to email all of us every day to show us kind of the stats, like the spreadsheet of what's going on.
Right. But ultimately she always had a big disclaimer, Hey, I'm just a doctor. I'm not a mathematician. So if I mess up your fault, you checked it miles, which you got remind me of later. Cause that brings up a pretty funny story about our first year Taji state side, too.
Kevin Chang: [00:17:39]
Let's bring it back. Stay sides you were deployed for about 14 months, you said. And so that was a couple of months after Taji.
Paul Fukuma: [00:17:48]
Yeah. So came back and, you know, really trying to get back into civilian life was that harder than I thought, you know, I thought like I just jumped right into it, but that's not true at all. There's definitely a growing period to try to get back to just a normal flow, everything from, you know, having to pick out clothes to wear.
I mean, I didn't have to pick out what I had to wear every day. It was a uniform, right. And, Oh, I got to pay bills now and I got to put gas in the car or something like that. You know, that's deal with any of that.
So it was definitely had some growing things and I miss the comradery that is grown through a deployment.
You really become tight with people around you. You find that everyone needs to find something in common with each other, and really become a really tight knit community. Because you're all that you have. Right. And they have each other and that's it.
So I decided to do a kind of informal Taji, 100 state side, maybe a dozen people from the unit.
And so a lot of people that I knew that were interested in doing it, and it was literally paper and pen, you know, people would email me or something and I'd write it down and I'd keep a little kind of handwritten spreadsheet and. It was kind of fun, you know? Uh, it felt good and keep in touch with people, but I thought, you know what?
Maybe this could be a little bigger. Let's see where it goes. I bought a godaddy.com website and register a URL. I've never done any of that before I had no idea I was doing, and I got some stock images and some cut and paste stuff and put my little Facebook page. And before I knew it, I had, how many, B? Like, 200 people, maybe?
Kevin Chang: [00:19:21]
Paul Fukuma: [00:19:22]
And it was completely organic. I didn't advertise or anything. It's just, Hey, everybody check this guy's event out. And 200 people every day, Kevin, would email me their miles and I would keep a spreadsheet, an Excel spreadsheet. I have no idea how to do all that mathematics and spreadsheets and computer stuff. I spent probably two to three hours a day, updating spreadsheets and updating the website because I would actually get people emailing me angry. Paul I've just emailed you 42 seconds ago. Why? I don't see my miles on there.
Kevin Chang: [00:20:01]
I see Bertrand covering his mouth.
Paul Fukuma: [00:20:06]
So here I am. Back in San Jose PD and I'm like working and I'm trying, I'm dealing with like dangerous people and I'm trying to like get criminals in the jail. And I'm constantly these text messages. Why aren't you updating the website yet? Kind of busy right now, you know?
But it was overwhelming. How many people found it inspiring to them?
Not just a fun event, motivating and inspiring. And I thought I never meant it to be an inspirational thing. How interesting that this thing can inspire people. I had one person come and tell me that she suffered from horrific migraines. Just this debilitating migraines. We're talking two days a week, just completely incapacitated by migraines.
Okay. Medicated the whole bit. And she told me that she tried it. She would go out when she could, and she got more active and more active and it spawned a new passion, her to be active. And by being active that way, she had reduced all of her headaches and migraines down to once a month or even less. Just by instilling an active lifestyle into her that she never thought she could do before.
And I thought to myself, all that work, even if it all fails, it helped one person that meant a lot to me. Bertrand said, Hey, let's get together and make this kind of bigger thing. Let's start making some, t-shirts like, Oh my gosh products. We're going to start selling products now. Oh, okay. This is getting pretty serious.
Bertrand Newson: [00:21:37]
Blame Becky on that one.
Paul Fukuma: [00:21:38]
Oh yeah. I'll play Becky on that one. Yeah. And so. We started doing that and it really snowballed. We started realizing we're getting bigger and bigger. So we've started looking at the legalities of it became five Oh one nonprofit. We started trying to tie ourselves with bigger organizations.
Now what's interesting about Taji is this. I have no idea how we survive this long because those first few years, when we tried to raise money for military charities, I don't want to cuss on her program, but it was a garbage show. All right.
We've got to have people register with us. You had to register with an online tracking service, a different kind of running site, and then you had to register with the charity to donate.
So you had to go to three different websites. Just to participate in all this matter. And yet somehow we had people continuing to return and Bertrand said to me, Paul, that should tell you how significant this event is that people are willing to go through and jump through all those hoops and go through this huge process.
Just to take part in this, I should tell you how significant this is and how much it would impact you really having on people. And I never thought about it like that. It made a lot of sense. We continued to grow and we partnered up with a military charity and we thought we were doing good. They end up getting into some hot water for some mismanagement of funds.
So we had to kind of distance ourselves from them. And then, uh, we found RWB team red, white, and blue. And I don't think we could have found a better fit for our mission.
And for those who don't know about team red, white, and blue, I'm gonna give a little quick plug to them. They take military service members who are coming out of the service and try to assimilate them and teach them how to be part of society again, which I can tell you from personal experience, is a much needed program, right?
We're talking leadership trainings and camps, counseling services, the gamut, whatever someone may need to try to come back to civilian world, they provide it and then they do it in an athletic media. Like, Hey, let's go off for a run. The squad for an athletic event and what we're doing it, let's talk, is that a shot and see what we can do to get you on the right path?
You know, that's huge. That's perfectly aligned with who we are, where we've been, where we came from and what we want to do. They're very open with their funds are very transparent. And so their honesty and integrity is through the roof. I can't speak higher about them. And anyway, so I feel very honored and blessed that they'd be willing to partner up with us.
And support us and our efforts to help support them. And in turn, trying to give back to the thousands of women and men who are currently serving and who have served to try to get back to their families and be a part of society again.
Kevin Chang: [00:24:17]
Well, yeah, and I know, I see RWB on the course all over the place. I know I've met a couple of them a year. Definitely during my marathons. I'm always falling behind, I think like Scott cruise shanks up here in San Francisco and, and. I mean, they always have such a big crew. I seem to remember a lot of them participated in Taji kind of in some of those early years.
Is that kind of how you guys met?
Paul Fukuma: [00:24:41]
It is, it is, uh, several of their members are became part of Taji and they recognize how awesome this was. And when we started looking for a new chair, they seized the opportunity to make the introduction. And that really just set a wildfire chain of events. They were, do I blew as reach out to all their chapters nationwide and we've grown exponentially.
I mean, I think we hit how many, B 6,000 or so people worldwide, not Countrywide worldwide. And just this last year we cumulatively run enough miles to go to the moon and back. And the 28 days, I mean, that's. That's staggering, absolutely staggering. And we're able to raise enough money in those 28 days to write them a check for $74,000.
Kevin Chang: [00:25:27]
Oh, wow. .
Paul Fukuma: [00:25:28]
That's after all the overhead, all the fees and everything. Here's a check for 74,000 and change. That's more than many people make an entire year, and we just did it in a month.
Kevin Chang: [00:25:38]
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I want to go back and figure out how you guys met. There's gotta be a story here. I mean, it's. First and the first time I ever met you, you told me about Taji 100. It wasn't about to legit. It was, Hey, there's this thing, Taji that comes up in February, that I want to support helping these guys out, helping this charity.
And that was back in July of 2013 that we first met. And February of that next year, I definitely participated in Taji because I mean, what an incredible event, what an incredible experience altogether. And yeah, I definitely had never even thought about that. We're running a hundred miles in a month, let alone the smallest month of the entire year.
So tell me about the story. How did you guys meet.
Paul Fukuma: [00:26:41]
Through Taji. It was that very. First, uh, event where we had to go day.com website. Here comes Bertrend at a left field, just an overwhelming force of energy and motivation. I got to tell you Bertrand's energy is contagious. I mean, you can't be around him at not also be motivated and pumped up and just inspired.
So here I am, just some guy. In my little apartment in San Jose, getting messages from a guy named Bertrand, and I'm getting pumped up like, wow, this guy is cool. He's getting me all checked up and thinking, this is a cool event. And he's giving me this great vision of what this event could be. And he's put me in connections with Becky Hernandez and some other crate folks, uh, through the event.
To be honest, I can't remember when we first actually met up.
Bertrand Newson: [00:27:28]
I believe, uh, it was certainly you're correct. 2012. And for our listeners that event, I mean, I had started running a year earlier, but I fell in love with running because of Taji 100. I fell in love with the comradery even more. So the running community because of Taj 100. The mission spoke to me personally because my father to served in the military, my father to serve in the army.
So every flip that I put in front of myself, every mile that I logged, it was with the purpose of honoring his time, his service and all the other service men and women are a great country and meeting Paul. It may have been in San Francisco at the wrap-up event at the hotel I was managing at the time.
Uh, may. Yeah, you and Wendy, granted, we had interacted on multiple occasions. We also had Jim Cordoba is part of that initial ties, 100 kind of semi admin group, Becky, of course. And then in later years, Nando Gonzalez been meeting you and Wendy and seeing that when you articulate, Hey B, this is just a small, I'm doing all this op blogging, all those entries and knowing that you are a law enforcement professional, and still making time to.
Support and participate and then just hats off to you, man. Fantastic. And you're one of my closest friends. And again, it is your vision, you taking this wonderful challenge and bring it at home state side and what it's grown into and how many people impacted from a health and wellness perspective.
Self-confidence people are living longer and happier because you wanted to shoulder that responsibility. In facilitating this challenge. And we did have some tough times I can share with our listeners. You probably don't want me to this gentleman. This dude came out of pocket. We were in the red for a couple of years.
He came out of his own pocket to subsidize and keep this event alive before we caught some traction. And then you, I mean, it's, I cannot thank you enough. The Tazi 100 participants cannot. Thank you enough, you and your wonderful family, your significant other Wendy has certainly contributed so much.
Paul Fukuma: [00:29:32]
Yeah, she... monstrous force behind this whole thing. When we first met, we weren't even married. I think we were just engaged at that time. And I'm just thinking about how young and wrinkle-free and grateful. At that time. Kid-free so definitely a lot more sleep. Didn't have any of these back then. Right? And Oh, and that was only what, seven years ago or less than that, or a little more than eight years ago.
Yeah, we had some tough times, financially I had scraped together some money to try to keep this thing afloat because we were in the red. Luckily it's just started gaining more traction and we started bringing in more positive people, more motivated people.
And to kind of just share something with you, a little personal perspective here every year into Taji, where it could get into it. I go. Oh, this is so much work. I don't want to do this anymore. I want this to be the last year I want to be done with this. I'm so done with this and I literally, I kid you not Kevin.
I lose all motivation. I go to zero, but I do this and I continue for a very selfish reason. And that's for the stories that come out of it from participants. Every year without fail, I'll have at least a handful of people write to me and talk to me. And their stories are so humbling. So impactful to me, it motivates me and inspires me.
So I do this selfishly to motivate myself, putting us out there, looking for other people, to hear those stories, to get passionate and motivation to me, for example, the last year 2020, I had gentleman write to me and he said, Paul, I've made some very poor life decisions. I am grossly overweight. I am by definition of morbidly obese and cumulatively.
Like in multiple attempts throughout one day, I can barely make one mile. That's significant. I mean, that's, let's think about that. That's saying he's multiple temps, not just one or two, but three or more attempts to go out and move and cumulatively. his limit is one mile and that should give you a perception of, of how bad of health he has taken.
The journey has taken and he trained up for the event. He's like, I want to use this as an opportunity. I'm going to. To make a decision. And I want to use your event as an opportunity to try to get my life back on track. And by the end of it, the ones he was doing two or three miles at a time going from, you know, a third of a mile to three miles.
I mean, if I said, Hey, Bertrend, I've got a one month program for you. And by the end of that month, I'm going to give you a 100 times more endurance distance capability. For free. Right. That's what he did. He, he did a hundred times better and he told me he lost, 30 something pounds and the January, February at East, continuing to move.
And I thought every morning when I would get up and on a cold February morning, like, Oh, but that's so warm. I don't want to use button just right there. All I gotta do is touch you and you'll go away. Go away alarm, go away. I thought about this gentleman. He is not an exaggeration, not metaphorical. He is literally fighting for his life.
If he can roll out of bed and endure and have the pride motivation to take himself out there and knock out a quarter mile, half mile at a time. What excuse do I have to not do the same? That's inspiring. That was motivated. And it's motivating to me to think that something that we created has helped him or given him an out or an ability to help himself actually, that's what it's done.
We haven't helped him. We have given him the ability to help himself for him to help himself. I got to tell you, well, Bertrand, in the first event, a lot of our guys, they crushed these miles and I'll go, Oh my God, how could they do, how could a sky run a hundred miles in 23, 23 hours? Like last year at Bertrand goes 4,000 miles and 28 days.
It's incredible. Right? It's like, he's on like a segway this entire time. I don't know what he's
Kevin Chang: [00:33:19]
Wait, wait, are you literally 4,000 miles in 28 days,
Bertrand Newson: [00:33:24]
No fake news in this case, That it's fake news.
Kevin Chang: [00:33:29]
but was it, uh, did you do a hundred miles in 23 hours? Should you want it?
Paul Fukuma: [00:33:34]
We've had some people in 2020.
Kevin Chang: [00:33:36]
Bertrand Newson: [00:33:37]
I have not, I think my bed, maybe four days, four and a half days for me. Um, yeah, I'm slacking Slack and compare it to.
Kevin Chang: [00:33:45]
Yeah, come on Slacker keep up here.
Paul Fukuma: [00:33:48]
Let yourself go. That's great. Kevin, their physical capabilities demand, respect. And I've always said to everybody to demand respect, and I'm always in awe of it, but sorry, but those stories, aren't the ones that motivate me. They're not the ones that will make me get out of bed and crush it. Those aren't the ones that inspire me.
The ones that inspire me are the guys that could barely do this Taji 60, but they're trying every day. It's those people out there, there who haven't done anything. And now they're making a commitment may have changed. Those are the inspirational stories. Those are the ones I live for and I yearn for every year and every year without fail, they have come in and not just sent new people every year.
So yeah, I do this every year for very selfish reasons and that's to wait for those stories to come in, to motivate me so that I can get my butt out of bed and do something productive.
Bertrand Newson: [00:34:37]
Well said, and as much as we talk about you bringing this event stateside, you know, because you facilitated the fulfillment, meaning sending out all of the Tashi, sweat, and the last couple of years, you were sending a lot of gear and merch out to people that are serving right now, internationally at banks across the world.
So, you know, any examples of that you may want to share.
Paul Fukuma: [00:34:59]
Last year was unprecedented. I think we had almost 200 people actively deployed in a theater of war, serving our country in the military who participate in Taj 100. That's incredible. It's like. People actually in Taji, Iraq, I mean, Taji, actually that fog got closed. We surrendered it and gave it over to the Iraqi police.
And then for some reason, politics, society decided to reacquire it and make it us military again. And some service members in Taji decided, Hey, we're already here. That's pretty cool. Let's give it a go. We had an entire unit from one 60th soar at special operations, aviation regiment. I mean, they're the guys like you see a black Hawk down those.
They were the guys that flew those helicopters and, and all that kind of stuff. So people make movies about their job. All right. And they're participating in Taja 100. So the reaches of this event have gone beyond my wildest dreams or fathoms. It's. It's incredible.
Bertrand Newson: [00:35:54]
And I believe I, I don't believe, I know without a doubt defined a new level of a virtual event, we've been doing it for about a decade now. I mean, and the mission. Is what speaks to everybody. The mission is so clear and profound. It is bigger than your miles. You're doing it for a greater cause. And the unique thing about is you don't have to actually donate.
You can just participate because at its inception was about cardio health and mental health. And for people to say, you know what, I want to pay it forward and come out of pocket and donate. Um, that's just all bonus. And if the event that keeps on giving and I mean a virtual event that is much different.
Then the prevalent amount of virtual events that are happening right now, because of the mission and the history of it.
Paul Fukuma: [00:36:39]
It has a unique flavor, right? Because cause you can easily participate in this event absolutely free. And because that's our mission, it's just to try to find a way to inspire Americans, to become a more active, healthy life. But if you have the ability and you want some cool swag in the, and you want to do be part of the bigger picture, then you can.
Part pay to participate and be a part of that huge donation check, component. So, yeah, it's, uh, own a lot of events. There's a place, right? We try to be number one or number two. No, this is your challenge. You're going against yourself. Can, what can you accomplish in your day? So that's, I think that's another unique flavor that we have versus a lot of other virtual events out there.
Bertrand Newson: [00:37:22]
A million raise, support, move with your charities. And, you know, there was a point where we thought 5,000, 10,000, $15,000, and we're looking in the future on the horizon, potentially a six figure check, because of the cumulative efforts of so many wonderful people spreading the word organic. We don't do a lot of advertising.
Paul Fukuma: [00:37:38]
Now when you're done, we don't pay for no advertising. None. Everything's completely organic. Hey sister-in-law I did this really cool thing. You should be interested in this year and then it just spreads. Yeah, actually a new officer. So. I work for the city of Sunnyvale in California. Now I'm not longer San Jose.
Uh, a newer officer came in and she was sitting on our briefing table and I decided, well, let's come up time for Taji. Maybe I could plug this to my team. So I talk about it and she goes, Todd, you a hundred. You're part of that. I've been doing that for the last three years and I had never met her before. Right. It's like, Oh, pretty cool. Yeah, actually I am part of it. Let me tell you some more.
Bertrand Newson: [00:38:22]
Kevin Chang: [00:38:22]
Before we get too far off subject. I do want to know about the swag. Um, there's some behind the scenes. I know you guys are working behind the scenes on some of this stuff. So if people do want to donate, what is the suggested donation amounts you get schwag and what type of swag is available for this upcoming 2021?
Paul Fukuma: [00:38:40]
Well, we sell a packet, we just take a one flat fee that includes a shirt, a race metal, like a race bib and some other nice little trick things like some state decals and stuff. Also some nice gifts from team red, white, and blue, which they'll be contributing to help support this. But $25 of that is earmarked just as a donation.
Like not twenty-five dollars minus some fees, I guess twenty-five bucks goes to RSVP, right? So that's pretty significant. We take very little cut. Our cut is about 10 bucks out of this $70 packet. So we really don't make much money at all on this and everything just goes right into next year's event. We take zero.
I get paid zero for this event. Bertrand takes not a single penny for this event. No one on the staff gets paid. Anything. We do this 100% labor of love hours and hours and hours a day, committed to this completely on the mission and that's to help others. So when I tell people that and they kind of write to us, I haven't gotten my stuff right away.
They expect Amazon kind of. Hi, I am literally working in my kitchen, packaging your stuff. And my six year old is helping me. That's very humbled. A lot of people are like, Oh, we had no idea. It was so grassroots. We thought we were like a big company. No, no, we're not. My garage has two pallets and 2,600 pounds of race metals sitting in there and welcome to my house.
Kevin Chang: [00:40:11]
Incredible. Why do you want to learn a little bit more? I mean, we've, we've hinted at nuggets of it, but. You know, you came back and you rejoined the police force, but then you also kind of have a different role that I had not heard before.
Paul Fukuma: [00:40:26]
Back from Iraq. And I went back to sounds, I police. And then in 2013, I lateraled over to Sunnyvale department of public safety and they're a very unique entity. So every one, there is a police officer, a firefighter, and an AMT simultaneously. So every police officer you see there is a firefighter and every firefighter see there is a police officer and every time you see them, they're all UMTS.
So I can put my hat on and change, whatever I need to do to solve whatever emergency may present itself. When I worked patrol, I have my firefighter stuff in the trunk of the car. If a house caught on fire, I drive up, stripped out on my Shoney's right there at middle of the street, put on my fire gear, fight the fires, save the cat in a tree or whatever it may be.
Take it off, put my patrol gear back on and go out and write a speeding ticket or something. And then vice versa. If I'm on fireside and heaven forbid something heinous was to happen. The tools as a fire rig, we can go help with that. Meanwhile, we're all responding to medical science. And the patrol car, I would respond to heart attacks all the time because we could get there really fast.
We have AEs and all the patrol cars, so we can render aid much faster than getting there in a fire rig. So it's definitely a unique system. I love how it works and I love that I can show up to any house. Cause when I first started and public service, a very senior Sergeant would tell me, Paul, the call you get is never the call you got meaning you'll get there and you think it's called, Oh, number one, there's a noise complaint.
Next door you get there. And it's actually a baby having a medical emergency. Oh, it's not a Meg. It's not a noise complaint. It's not law enforcement matters is a medical call. Well, in a traditional agency, I would say, okay, uh, Hey dispatch, send me fire EMS. And then we'd have to sit there and wait from show up.
But here in Sunnyville, I am the EMS. No problem. Let me pull my bag out of my car and start helping you and your family. And, but we can wait for an ambulance to show up and more medical personnel so you can get help right there on the spot. I love the system. I'm much. I drink the Kool-Aid of it being a phenomenal program.
It's been in place since the 1950s. I mean, it's, it's definitely got it worked out well.
Bertrand Newson: [00:42:33]
And Paul, one thing that I think you may have left out with, perhaps the many hats that you wear, you've also done some CSI work, correct?
Paul Fukuma: [00:42:41]
I was a crime scene investigator for Sunnyvale. And now I'm currently an arson investigator for Sunnyvale. And then I teach EMS at the sounds of police Academy. I am a tactical medic for our Sunnyvale SWAT team. I teach at the Sunnyvale fire Academy, police ft, field training officers. So I would sit in the car and I'd have a brand new recruit behind the wheel.
And I show her him around the town and train him up to be an officer. And I'm a fire field training officer. So doing that, I've taught. Tactical medicine to numerous other law enforcement agencies throughout the Bay area, like Alameda County Sheriff's office, and CHPs sounds a Campbell, all that. So I've definitely found a passion for teaching.
Bertrand Newson: [00:43:26]
Teaching and learning. What does that mean in the midst of the pandemic? Will you just outlines the multiple jobs capacities you manage through beautiful family wife, three kids, but your commitment to continue education. Just share with our listeners, what you accomplished this year. In addition.
Paul Fukuma: [00:43:43]
When I started this whole profession, I only had my socialist degree. That's it. I had my little AAS degree and that was it. And then, uh, it was count time. Like, you know what, I'm tired of always having that box, not checked, uh, finish my college degree. You know, I, it was always lingering. I always wanted to get done, but just like all of us in the world, Oh, I never have enough time, but you know, I always preach a Taji.
It's not about not having enough time. It's about what is more important in your 86,400 seconds of the day. You know, if something's more important to you. You will devote a chunk of that time to what's important, right? Is it an hour of watching a soap opera or is an hour of learning a new language?
Whatever it may be. Right. So over the last two years completed my bachelor's and my master's degree. So I got both in a two year span.
Kevin Chang: [00:44:34]
Bertrand Newson: [00:44:38]
In addition to managing and overseeing the chairman, uh, hundreds of thousands of dollars go into the military charity, paying it forward, paying it back, honoring our nation's heroes and families.
Paul Fukuma: [00:44:47]
Yeah, I'm very proud of it. It's a definitely a big box checked on my to-do list, my bucket list. So I'm pretty proud of that. Yeah.
Kevin Chang: [00:44:55]
Well, uh, I guess I have to ask just because, you know, you are a public safety officer, do you have any take on the recent, you know, the social unrest, there has been calls to. Defund police. And you have kind of an interesting role. That's not really just police. It's kind of, you know, uh, you've had a multitude of trainings for, you know, handling different types of situations and whatnot.
I, I, I'm just kind of curious if you have takes on what's going on.
Paul Fukuma: [00:45:24]
I've found in my profession. Communication is the key to being a successful police officer. You've got to learn how to talk in different languages, even though it's all English, they're different languages, right? And the fastest way to piss somebody off is to deny them a voice fastest way to get someone to shut down, to completely tip over the edge is to not allow them to speak.
And current climate there's polarizing sides and both sides are very passionate about their perspective. And they're so passionate about sharing their perspective. They're not stopping to listen to the other one's perspective. So they come to the shouting match.
And it's just gotten to the point where both sides are just exploding and no one's listening. And unfortunately, with anything in society, we see something we don't like, and we go to extremes. We try to find the extreme solution to something. I got a crack in my floor. I might as well tear the house down and build a whole new house. No, no, we don't need to do that. Okay.
You know, there was Obama's 21st century policing, procedural justice. That's a pretty big topic in law enforcement and you know, and a lot of people were not came out. A lot of people were very anti yet. They're very resistant to it. And teaching at the police Academy, I have the opportunity to talk with young recruits coming in from all over the country.
And this African-American man from Southern in the South. All right. East, South, he came up to me and he told me, Paul that's policies and procedures. That's not meant for this area, for the Bay area. What do you mean that's sort of happening here? Uh, I've grown. I've been living here for quite a few years.
I could tell you what that policy stuff is written for is not here. Just agencies have been doing that for a long time. This stuff is written for agencies out in the middle of nowhere that don't have the same training standards that don't have the oversight that the Bay area has. I love you on the Bay area, don't recognize or understand, appreciate what we have here, especially in comparisons to other parts of the country.
You know, there's part of this country that don't have police academies. It's just like, Hey, you want a job? Cool. Let's go out here. Here's all your stuff. I'm going to take you out to the street and show you how to do this. Uh, excuse me, you don't have state oversight. You don't state standards and California or Cinco, California posts.
That's California, peace officers standards for training, and they oversee all of law enforcement training and entire state of California. So every law enforcement car has to meet a bare minimum standard, and it's about six months of 40 hour weeks training and just a plethora of topics. Right. So it's very, very regulated.
So when I see these complaints that we don't hold, pull the standard Metairie right now, there are absolutely bad apples in the profession. A hundred percent. Anyone tells you that there's not a bad police officer out there. I'm gonna say right now, that's a very stubborn, ignorant, and not, uh, open to the world around them that this is not true.
There's a bad person in every single job. There's bad. Doctors is bad teachers, just bad lawyers. The sad part is they're a very small percentage, especially of these departments in this area and they get all of the spotlight and unfortunately they highly represent the entire profession. My work patrol, I get called racist all the time by every race I've been accused of everything.
And then it wears on you. It really does. Uh, it's. It hurts. I can tell you. All I'm trying to do in this world is help people. And when I'm constantly being bombarded as a racist or a bad person nonstop, it, it, that weight builds up pretty deep. And I'm telling you right now, tell my colleagues out there. There it's exhausting.
Especially when we got into this work, just trying to help and make things better. Right? This current climate, I can tell you right now it's been eyeopening for me. I've definitely gained some new perspective. I have. Sat down and talked with many of my friends who are either African-American or married to an interracial couple, or have family in law enforcement and tried really hard.
Just talk to me. I'm not going to give you my perspective. I just want to hear yours. Right. I want to hear your voice. I want to hear what your stories are. And I was dumbfounded. I was taken back at how many negative interactions or racially motivated incidents have happened in my friends' lives. I never knew.
Right. So when I hear people say, there's no racism in the country, it's like, well, I trust my close friend. He or she is not going to lie to me. And if they're telling me A and B happened to them, I'm going to tell you that. Yeah, it's out there. I mean, I could go on for probably two hours on this right here, but I can tell you, I don't know how we fix this. I don't know how we can do this on the grand scale. I think this is going to have to become solved on many smaller scales and then trying to unify.
And that kind of brings me to what I want to talk about Taji is that this year we've really focused on unity, both in our graphics, both in our design and our presentation, because I want the world to see, not just in theory, not just in the hypothesis, but in proven that we can come together of every race, every gender, every sexual orientation or political affiliation, every age, every demographic, every social economic situation, we can come together under a common good of three colors. That's red, white, and blue combined, and we've proven it in Taji.
You look at our membership base and it's everything. There are people, a part of our things that are. Polar opposite political backgrounds, polar opposite, and everything fathom of divisiveness as country. But yet even with those, we could still come together under the common good of trying to help support our fighting women and men in the service and unifying or health and fitness.
It is possible. I'm not saying it's easy, but I can tell you right now, we have proven that it is possible. And that's what we're really trying to focus on this year for this year's event.
Bertrand Newson: [00:51:20]
Paul, you know, we really appreciate your leadership, even with the executive board for ta'zieh is a very diverse group in their own. I mean, from a race perspective, you get a lot of different. Feedback, male, female civilians, people who've served. And again, but it's the tone that you set and you, the emphasis on communication.
And that's the only way things are going to get better in this country is the ability to communicate. And in some cases, not to feel that you always have to make your agenda the priority, just to be able to listen, to communicate and listen. It's that simple, but it also is that hard, cause there's a lot of, a lot of pain, a lot of mistrust, some struggles of my father and third.
And the army was also law enforcement officers. So, and I'm a minority male, so I've, I seen all of it. Um, but I still believe that our better days are ahead of us. I truly do. And I feel that Tazi gives us all one mission to focus on it. It filters out a lot of the life noise where we can all come together under a common cause when we see examples like that, that it's good for us overall.
And I cannot wait because registration's on the horizon. I'm looking at veteran's day. Hope we'll be able to share from sneak peaks of the swag as the podcast drops for the public officially. So stay tuned for that peeps, great metal, super cool shirt, and some other additional swag items, giving a race, mob, viewers and listeners.
Insight scoop. And we just really appreciate you, the man and all of your service, Kevin and I are very, very grateful for your time. And we look forward to Taji 2021 knock on wood. It's going to be the best period coming off of 2020, which for so many reasons was very tough worldwide, domestically because of the pandemic, but we've had our best year and there are always silver linings that are happening around us when we just take the time to listen and listen.
So thank you for all the goodness. That, uh, this event and you under your leadership, we're putting out there.
Paul Fukuma: [00:53:15]
I appreciate. I'm very humbled. To have men such as yourself take part in this. And, and I feel blessed to have you and part of my life as a friend, and to include me in your life as a friend, the people I've met along the way. I can tell you, Kim, I can tell you right now that everybody listening. If this event failed right now, this whole thing shut down right now.
And we just threw everything away and call them. I would see it as an absolute 100% success. Because of Bertrand and the other people that I've met, they have personally, they have made my life better. They've made me a better person, a better man, uh, and therefore translate to a better husband and father.
So I truly appreciate what I've gained from this event. I mean, have been the main focus, but it's definitely brought in positivity and yeah, I guess my parting words to the, to the listeners out there for all the unrest it's happening, it's just. If they can just take a breath and get rid of the tunnel vision, open your ears.
If you can just have a moment to genuinely say yes, change my mind. I am willing to have my mind changed. Uh, not to say that you will, but if you're willing to have your mind changed, if you've pretty surprised, Uh, what kind of information and what kind of voices you'll hear and what perspectives you'll be able to take in.
I can tell you in the last 14 years of this job, I am not the same, man. I have not the same perspectives and that's all because I've been able to sit down and listen to other people and hear their story and genuinely enter a conversation with. Yes, Bertrand changed my mind. I want, I am. I want, if you don't change my mind, I'll actually be disappointed.
So I want you to, so please talk to me. It's hard to do, but if you, if you're listening, if you can do that, you'd be very surprised in a good way.
Bertrand Newson: [00:54:58]
I think we'll have you back in the future, Paul, we won't be referring to you as just chairman. I think it'll be chief of.
Paul Fukuma: [00:55:05]
Not going to happen. No, that is huge politics game. Nothing to do with it.
Kevin Chang: [00:55:14]
Well, Paul, I mean, I just want to say thank you so much, not only for your service to the country, your service as a public figure to our community and for bringing Taji to so many people and bringing them that sense of mission and sense of community to such a wide audience, just can't tell you how thankful we all are to get to know you, to get to know your story, to get to know more about Taji and, um, We're so appreciative of everything that you've done and everything that you continue to do.
So thank you again, and we are, we'll definitely be there to support you this year and going forward. Absolutely. You love it.
Paul Fukuma: [00:55:52]
Thank you so much. I'm overwhelmed by the support. Um, actually in means a lot to me, thank you.
Kevin Chang: [00:55:57]
Well, I hope you enjoyed this episode of the race mob podcast. Check out all of the show notes or find a running buddy [email protected]. Please subscribe to us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts and leave us a review until next time. Keep on moving.