The Hiroshima team came 12th in the Women’s Inter Prefectural Ekiden won by Osaka in Nagoya last weekend. On Sunday, January 22 it is the turn of the men, who will be hoping to better their excellent 3rd place of last year over the 48km course between Peace Park and Miyajima.
Teams from all 47 prefectures battle it out in this annual 48km road relay. The fact that it is required that each team of 7 include 3 high school students and 2 junior high school students in addition to semi-pro runners adds to the drama.
The runners start at Peace Park at 12:30pm, head west down Peace Bouleveard, pass Nishi-Hiroshima Station a few minutes later , continue the long run to Ajina on to the Miyajima Rotary where they turn and head back. The leaders on the final 13km leg of the race are expected to pass Nishi-Hiroshima Station again at 14:20 and run the length of Peace Boulevard, past Hiroshima Station at 14:35, continue on down Jonan-dori before looping back to the finish at Peace Park at 14:50. See the course map here or view it in Google Street View here.
Quite a crowd turns out for to support the runners, especially in the city center sections and there is quite a fun atmosphere. The Hiroshima team hasn’t won since the inaugural race in 1996, though they’ve come second twice, and finished third last year, so brave the cold, get out and give our boys a shout! You can also watch the action on two big screens at the NHK building in Otemachi (the one with Starbucks in it). Those who prefer to watch from under their kotatsu can tune in to NHK from 12:15pm to watch it live or catch the highlights later in the evening. Twitter users should follow Japan Running News for detailed live coverage in English which is a great compliment to the Japanese TV broadcast or a way to keep up with what’s happening if waiting out on the course.
The event seems to be developing outside the just action on the course. There will be stuff going on on various stages, as well as stalls selling local foods from the participating prefectures on sale in front of Hiroshima station, the NHK building and on Peace Boulevard on the day of the race and the day before. Adding to carnival atmosphere will be the growing collection of yuru-kyara mascots (here described a furu-kyara after the furusato regions they represent) from around Hiroshima Prefecture and other regions that seem to be attracted to these kind of events like flies to anko.