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MCCS runs first Ekiden 20K relay race

Date Posted: 2004-02-12

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan Enduring cold weather and strong winds, 35 runners came out to participate in the Marine Corps Community Service's (MCCS) first ever Ekiden 20K relay race on Camp Hansen, January 24.

The Ekiden is a very popular race among the Japanese and Dean Weidman, athletic director, Camp Hansen Athletics, thought it would be a nice change of pace from ordinary sports events.

"We were looking for a new event to spice things up," Weidman said. "The Ekiden gives the element of a team competition and has a different twist to the normal run."

Each team in an Ekiden consists of five runners, each running a different distance. After the first leg of the run, the starting runner hands off a team marker to the next runner in a transition area. This change over continues until all five team members run their routes, and the final runner crosses the finish line completing the total of 20 kilometers. For MCCS's first Ekiden, each runner traveled six, four, two, three and five kilometers respectively.

With 35 runners total, there were seven teams competing; five men's teams, including an all Okinawan team, and two co-ed teams.

Despite the bad weather and the Ekiden being an inaugural event, Weidman was very pleased with the turn out.

"Being the first (Ekiden), I am very happy with the number of people. Many times with a first-time event the numbers are very sparse," Weidman said.

Beginning at 8 a.m., the first relay of runners got into position at the starting line. Once the American and Japanese anthems finished playing, Weidman fired the starting gun and the runners were off.

Besides trying to fend off the cold as well as other runners, one of the biggest obstacles the participants faced was the strong, gusting wind.

"At first I was cold, but once I started running it wasn't too bad. But the wind really got to you," said Bradley Rusher, who ran the anchor leg of the race for Team Knight. "I tried to find someone to draft, but we were all too spread out."

There were several lead changes during the first three relays, with close battles for the fourth and fifth spots throughout the race. In the end, experience prevailed as Makoto Yokota of the Okinawan Team Maedomari was first to cross the finish line in a time of 1:12:51.

Rusher gave his team, team Knight, a second place finish when he crossed the finish line at 1:15:09.

Team Boom finished with a time of 1:18:10, giving them first in the co-ed division and third overall.

Once all participants crossed the finish line, the top three men's teams, and two co-ed teams were presented with team trophies and individual medals for their performances.

Many of the runners were just happy to have taken part in the event and look to participate in any future Ekidens.

"I think our team did good compared to the pros out there," said Team Yeargan member Jessica DeJesus. "We all enjoyed the event and talked about doing it again."

Weidman also said many runners had a good time, and he hopes this is the first of many Ekidens to be held.

"This was a good race and turnout for a first time event," he said. "Hopefully next year we will have a lot more runners."

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