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Runners complete 1,000-km road relay in support of disaster-hit areas

A 1,000-km road relay was completed Wednesday, connecting Tokyo and cities in the Tohoku region that were hit by the 2011 deadly earthquake and tsunami.

Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi and Paralympic long jumper Atsushi Yamamoto joined about 200 runners in the final 1.6 km before finishing at Tokyo’s Komazawa Olympic Park.

The “Road to Tomorrow” relay was held in support of the recovery efforts in areas devastated by the disaster.

The course ran along Japan’s Pacific coast, where damage from the tsunami was the heaviest, passing through six prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Chiba before finishing in the capital.

“I want to keep cheering for people in disaster-hit areas,” said Takahashi, who won the 2000 Sydney Olympic women’s marathon.

About 1,700 runners and cyclists participated in the two-week relay after it started in Aomori Prefecture on July 24, one year from the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Tokyo-leg of the Olympic torch relay will start at Komazawa Olympic Park, two weeks before making its entrance at Tokyo’s New National Stadium during the opening ceremony.

“It’s important to keep reconstruction in mind until it’s accomplished. I hope the spirit of this relay will be carried on in (next year’s) torch relay,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said.

The relay was hosted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and other sports-related organizations.

The 2020 Olympics will have 33 sports and 339 events between July 24-Aug. 9. The Paralympics will follow from Aug. 25-Sept. 6.

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