Yesterday my son was part of a relay team for this area. Not your usual 100m X 4 sprint relay, but a relayed marathon. Winter seems to be the season for these relayed marathons and according to wikipedia they began in Japan as a continuation of the way of relaying communication in stages via stagecoach. The very first one was in 1918 and was run over 3 days, with a total distance of 508km. It was run from Kyoto to Tokyo to commemorate the anniversary of the moving of the capital to Tokyo in 1868.
History lesson over! Yesterday's race was a total of 18.8km, which was divided between 10 different runners. Our area is the smallest area in our town and therefore getting 10 different runners for all the stages wasn't exactly easy! As a result our team had 50 year olds running in the 30 year old category and a 68 year old man running in the 50 year old category.... along with elementary school, junior high school and 20 - 40 year olds. The races are run on the general roads and basically have no traffic control... which makes for an interesting time when they head onto the narrow country roads. Every Tom, Dick and Harry are out trying to support their team, but because the distance is so long they tend to go around in their little white trucks and end up blocking the roads rather than actually supporting the runners.
My son managed to run his 1.7km in a good time and hand the sash onto the next runner. I really like the idea of these relays - especially if it is a community based one, but I must admit I was a little anxious as to whether he could finish his section. It must be really devastating if you don't manage to pass the sash on and therefore put your whole team out of the running. A lot of the top class races have time limits in which you must pass the sash on to the next person - if you don't the next runner just has to start running and although the team is allowed to finish they are officially disqualified. I can just imagine coming around the corner to hand it over and discovering there is no one there to receive it.
Fortunately all the teams in this race managed to finish and despite being a tiny area we (I say that like I was actually running!) managed to come 5th out of 9 teams. Not too bad an effort!