Run with the wind – Hakone Ekiden

Hakone Ekiden is a special competitive long distance relay in Japan that happens over a span of 2 days in the beginning of the New Year, competed by amateur and professional teams. Learn more through anime and novel recommendations at the end of the article.

Hakone ekiden, the most popular of the long distance relay, is where 20 teams of 10 compete on a track of the Hakone region starting from Otemachi to Hakone from station to station covering 10 sections with different hurdles of difficulties the terrain presents, each person runs over 20-23 kilometer per section and passes a “tasuki” (a sash) over to the next member after completing their section of the track. The track terrain includes the mountain of Hakone, the seaside, the up down hills and plains which require runners to specialize these terrains.

The first ekiden was held in 1917 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Tokyo becoming the capital of Japan. The Tōkaidō Ekiden started at Kyoto’s Sanjō Bridge and stretched the roughly 500 kilometers to Tokyo. The sport popularized and Japan now hosts hundreds of competitions.

 There are other cross country events on the same lines but with smaller distance relays and smaller sections happening all over Japan during November to March- ekiden season.

To get an real experience and the behind the scene gruesome training, I recommend watching or reading Miyura shion’s “kaze ga tsuyoku fuiiteiru” is a novel about 10 boys who try to compete to reach the top in this relay, the novel has an anime adaptation by the same name and studio creators of haikyuu. The Anime is made brilliantly as for the viewer experience and the novel for the reader experience.
The novel: Shiura Mion’s 2006 novel “Kaze ga tsuyoku fuitiru” tries to understand what it means to run even though it’s the most tolling exercise to do. What is it that carries a runner to keep moving forward amidst the sun, wind and rains? What does it mean to be strong? Does winning alone means strength? All these questions are answered through the story of a former injured player who risks the ability to run in the future to compete in the relay, a short tempered runner who left behind competitive running because of the harsh competitive ways of the coaches, a former long distance runner who had to quit because of his body and other individuals with their own quirks who come through with themselves and running and aim to gain a spot in Hakone Ekiden. It is also a good read for people who are learning N1 as the novel packs a whole bunch of words to memorize.

Anime: the animation, soundtracks are beautiful and the story much like the novel the overall focuses is on a previously injured player trying to make a comeback with a unique 10 member team who either have no experience in long distance running or have ever competed in racing. The whole idea of gruesome training methods used by coaches who prioritize speed and time over the mental or physical health of the players is a key point. Hence this unique 10 member team not only to prove that with the correct training and gauging the ability of the player and the type of running each is suited for, the results can be achieved. The anime focuses on the development of each character and what it means to run.

Another good read I would recommend is Haruki Murakami’s “ What I mean, when I talk about running” a real life experience of running in marathons and as a long distance runner himself, the mental ability to cope with the task of running and overcoming it.

After watching and reading the above, you are most likely to feel like putting in your running shoes and go out running, I guarantee and don’t hesitate to do so, and if you are looking for motivation to continue running, then this is definitely for you.