Ekiden means “station route” and refers to a relay-marathon course around Kawamoto that follows the train tracks from station to station. Every year for many many years Kawamoto has hosted this relay-marathon, in which teams of eight compete for small-town stardom. This year a team of women was organized through the local town office – they called themselves the Kawamoto Girls. I was invited to join the team and run the fourth leg of the race – approx. 3.2 kilometres. I enthusiastically accepted the invitation and attended three practice runs before the final event this past weekend.
The day of the race was a lovely one. Before and after the race everyone gathered for an elaborate opening and closing ceremony. Buses took runners to their respective points before the race.
There were sixteen teams total competing, including the Shimane Chuo High School baseball team – who ended up winning the race, finishing a full hour ahead of the Kawamoto Girls. Our team may have come in last, but because we were the only women’s team participating we were awarded first place in our division.
I certainly didn’t help our team any… I ran as hard as I could, but only succeeded in completing my section of the course in 18 minutes and 7 seconds.
It was a wonderful way to see the countryside surrounding Kawamoto, though, and the bento we were given after the race was well worth the effort.