You may or may not know, but Hiroshima City is the headquarters for MAZDA (zoom zoom).
Did you watch the whole video?!? I actually understand what they're saying, and I couldn't bring myself to. SO CORNY!
But seriously, Mazda and companies that supply them, make up 30% of Hiroshima City's job market (not an exact number). They have their own hospital, and enormous manufacturing plant, and they even sponsored the building of Hiroshima's spiffy new Ball park!
Their compound is amazing and huge and no outsider is allowed in, Chocolate Factory style...EXCEPT for the first Sunday of March every year. What happens on that day? The MAZDA 駅伝 (Ekiden). Translated as "Relay Race" this is a short race (less than a half marathon) and divided into 6 legs that are run by different team members, who pass off a sash (not a baton) to the next person at the end of each leg.
|A river runs through it...|
There are two divisions: Mazda employees, and everybody else. Anyone can register a team, or just come watch, and my workplace, the Hiroshima International Center, has entered a team every year, partly because 3 of our members are dispatched FROM Mazda. In fact one of those three, the president of the International Center, is the CEO of Mazda himself! But his title as President of the HIC is in name only, as far as I can tell.
Since coming here I have been volun-told, as my brother Bill says, to join the team, and both times I've run as anchor. It's only 2.2km, but it definitely comes with a lot of pressure, since everyone who passes me is guaranteed to directly affect our final score, and everyone I manage to pass improves it!
|The Full Course (I run the highlighter-yellow portion)|
We ended up coming in 67th! I think mostly because we had a marathon runner on our team doing the longest portion, but we have also had a 70-something man named Mr. Tanimura doing the shortest bit (1.2km) every year, but I did manage to pass about 6 more people myself, and was only passed by one person who I made sprint for it at the end! I felt even better about our score when we went in the auditorium for the closing ceremony and it turned out the winners were the Yamaguchi University track team. I remember thinking "Are they even allowed?!?" It seemed unfair at the time. But last year, even though I personally only got to pass 3 people during the final leg, we came in 39th place! (Out of 160+ teams)
|Click to enlarge|
|Joe and dad and glorious, glorious yakiniku|
So I showed up at 8:45am on the dot, even though the race didn't start until 10:30, and waking up early was easily the biggest struggle of the day for me! :P I did have a good breakfast though (Bananas and some pork and potatoes). We got dressed out, and put on our blue Happi; the runners pinned numbers to them, and after the opening ceremony in the auditorium, we walked to our positions.
|Notice I am rocking my Vibrams this year! ↑|
By the time I got the sash it had started drizzling. I had no idea how that would affect me since I've NEVER run in the rain EVER, but once I got the sash, and saw people with yellow tags in front of me, I started running hard. Harder than I thought I would be able to keep up actually. I kept second-guessing my breathing. Was I breathing too hard to keep up for the full 2.2km (That is almost 1.5 miles btw)? I didn't want to pass a bunch of people just to have them all pass me at the finish line, but I couldn't help myself. My competitiveness had kicked in, and I started reeling them in. In the first few minutes I had passed four people easily. Then a high school boy blew past me and I thought "that's okay, you're still up by 3" and kept my eyes on the next group of "marks" further down the road. They were clearly only ahead because their teammates before were faster than mine, but my team was better balanced. I passed them around the halfway point of my leg, and could see a few more ahead of them, so I pressed on. I had become oblivious to the rain, and as I passed the next two, I saw three more in the distance. I first thought that I they were too far to catch up with, but I could see the incline on the way to the bridge over the river was slowing them down, so I decided to run faster up the incline. I was on their heels as we reached the final straightaway, so I hit my final burners, charged all the way to finish line and improved my team's score by 11 positions to finish at....
|This year's runners and support team (All Hiroshima International Center employees)|