Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hakone Ekiden

箱根駅伝(Hakone Ekiden)

Hakone Ekiden(The Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden) is held every year on January 2 and 3 . It has become one of the signature winter events.
In 2010 Toyo University won the 86st Hakone Ekiden for the second straight year.

The term of 'ekiden' dates back the ancient times but now refers to a long-distance relay race.
The ekiden course of about 100 kilos from Tokyo to Hakone is separated into five legs on each day. Ten members of each team run in the two-day race. Each runner hands his team's sashes to the next runner at a leg.

The highlights of the route are the second,fifth and sixth leg;
the second leg has two long and steep slopes, so that the ace runner of each team runs mostly in that part of the race.
In the fifth leg runners must run up the steep hill to 864m meters high within a distance of about 20km. Runners need to have strong legs and stamina.
In contrast, runners run down steep slopes in the sixth leg.
These slopes are high-impact on runners' legs. In addition, they have to protect themselves against the cold.

The participating team has each target depending on its level.
1. All of ten runners run their legs without dropping out, or their times are not officially recorded.
2. Runners get to a station within 20 minutes after the leading runner pass by the station, or the next runners start at a time before the former runners arrive there. So apparent difference is not actual one.
3. Teams finish in the top 10 to be seeded in next year's Hakone ekiden, or they have to win the heat next time.
4.Teams win the first day's title, the second day's one and win the overall one.
5. Excellent runners aim for the fastest runner of their legs or at breaking the record.

It's very rare that all of ten are excellent players and are able to realize their potential.
Therefore most of the teams go higher up or fall down in the rankings during a game. Even some of the previous tournament favorites dropped out or failed to be seeded. So it's exciting to see the game.

Today various problems are pointed out.
universities with international students often took a big lead in the race, so that each team can choose only one international student as a runner of the race.There have been a variety of opinions on this point.
As the popularity of the game increases by being broadcast on television, it has encouraged male good long-distance runners to be a ekiden runner. After they graduate without training to run in a marathon, we see rarely their outstanding performance on world-class competitions.

Above all, it's striking that the spectators line and cheer for runners along almost all the course between Tokyo and Hakone on both days.

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