Iwaki city wins Fukushima “ekiden” relay race for 2nd straight year

19 November 2018

The 30th annual long-distance “ekiden” road relay race of all 59 cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture took place on Nov. 18 on a 95-kilometer course spanning 16 stages, starting from Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa in Shirakawa city and finishing in front of the prefectural government office in Fukushima city.

A team representing Iwaki city won the “Fukushima Ekiden” event for the second straight year to claim its 13th title overall in both city-to-city and all-municipality categories. Supported by peer-to-peer bonds and roadside cheering, a total of 31,952 runners have participated in the annual race in 30 years.

The front-running Iwaki team saw its lead once narrowed to 8 seconds by a runner-up team from Ishikawa town but widened the difference on the 13th leg and thereafter, with its anchor Takumi Kazawa , a 21-year-old senior of Heisei International University, crossing the finish line with an overall time of 5 hours, 1 minute, 4 seconds -- a gap of 4 minutes, 43 seconds from the second ranker.

Ishikawa won the all-town competition for the third consecutive year and the third time overall while placing second in the all-municipality category, helped largely by runners from Gakuho Ishikawa High School. Final 16th-stage runner Daiki Imamura , a 27-year-old teacher at an Ishikawa school for disabled students, broke the tape to clock 5:5:47.

In the all-village category, Izumizaki grabbed the title for the second year running and 11th time overall, fully displaying the combined power of all team members. The anchor was 24-year-old police officer Taikaku Kaneko, who finished to clock 5:22:22.

The event was jointly hosted by the Japan Association of Athletics Federation Fukushima and Fukushima-Minpo Co., publisher of the namesake local daily, and cosponsored by the Fukushima prefectural government, the prefectural education board, Radio Fukushima and TV-U Fukushima. All 59 municipalities participated in the race for the sixth successive year, with seven towns and villages forming a joint team dubbed “Kibo (hope) Fukushima.” As a result, the number of competing teams was 53. Runners in the last Fukushima Ekiden in the Heisei Era raced through Fukushima streets as hard as they could while onlookers rooted for them.

The next race is scheduled for Nov. 17, 2019.

【Photo】 Women runners compete amid rousing cheers on eye-catching 1st leg of Fukushima Ekiden road relay race as 30th signal gun echoed at Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa in Shirakawa city.

(Translated by Kyodo News)