Tohoku-Tokyo 1,000-km relay ends

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

A 1,040-km relay involving more than 700 runners and bicyclists ended Wednesday in Tokyo after the participants passed through areas in the Tohoku region devastated by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

Organized mainly by members of athletic associations with support from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the “Discover Tomorrow 1,000km Relay to TOKYO” was aimed at promoting reconstruction in the disaster-stricken areas.

Around 700 runners, selected from among 2,200 applicants nationwide, and 46 bicyclists took part in the 145-leg relay, which started July 25 in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. They went through Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures before reaching the finish line in the Odaiba waterfront district in Tokyo.

One runner in each leg carried a transparent backpack containing a photo or item special to that area to promote the locale’s charm.

Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, who himself is a runner, crossed the finish line together with 101 runners Wednesday.

Inose, who ran a 1.7-km section, said it’s significant that runners completed the 1,000-km-plus relay.

“The sash (passed among the participants) represents the spirit and sweat of 700 runners. The relay connected with the affected areas,” he told reporters.

Inose, chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee, also called for further public support to bring the Olympics and Paralympics to the capital. On Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, either Tokyo, Istanbul or Madrid will be chosen by the International Olympic Committee’s assembly to host the 2020 Games.

“If the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics come to Tokyo, as I strongly believe will happen, I want the torchbearers to run through each area affected by the 2011 disaster,” Inose said at the relay’s closing ceremony.