On Sunday I took part in the Okutama Ekiden – a very traditional Japanese running event.
For a great and comprehensive description of Ekidens and their history please see the following article on Running Japan News written by Bret a member if Namban running club.
It was an early start to the day to travel to Okutama in the west of Tokyo Prefecture. There were 4 teams of 3 women and 3 teams if 5 men. The Ekiden is a relay race, traditionally (and in this case) run between eki (駅stations). This means after getting ready the first task is to take a train to your starting station. As I was on the final, 3rd leg, and the race finished near where we were based I didn’t have far to go. Also as we had a few teams and several supporters it wasn’t a lonely wait!
The team I was in came into the change over in the second half and the last of the 4 Namban teams. I took off quickly, probably a little too fast but I was spurred on by all the people who had already left, the long wait and my good performance last weekend! I managed to overtake 6 runners in total in the 3.9km run. It was hard – I normally run longer distances so the speed was a good test but my 8 months of training on the track I’m sure helped and I was pleased with my overall pace of 4:19 per km.
The aim of the run is to get the Sash from start to finish. The sash gains the sweat of all of the runners and gets more significance than the baton in a normal relay race. If a previous runner is too slow then the next runner must start without the sash replacing it with a white sash – this is a failure! Fortunately the women’s race was too short so there were no white sashes – I saw quite a few of the last men with them.
It’s very traditional and traditionally timed – no chips here! So we have to wait about 6 weeks for the results for them to be written down, typed up, printed out and posted to the team organisers!
I include some pictures below of the officials at my hand over point marking out the road and all in uniform.
The race attracts the best university and school runners – Japan’s young elite so it was an honour to take part and to see some impressive runners.
Just over the finishing line – almost beaten at the line (I didn’t know there was another runner right behind – Jenene was shouting at me to go faster so fortunately I picked up the pace!) and I think I just made it!