Exeter Quayside by Des White

City Runs Events stages virtual Ekiden Marathon Relay

New virtual relay event proves an instant hit with 500+

Exeter-based promoters City Runs Events were quick off the mark with virtual versions of their popular Run Exe 5K Series and myriad other weekly challenges to keep their regular customers active during the Coronavirus lockdown. Last weekend's challenge reached new heights with 85 teams competing in a virtual Ekiden Marathon Relay between 12-14 June. 

Ekiden relays are popular in Japan, where the term translates as the 'post-horse' that brought communications to the population in stages. The first Ekiden relay was held in Japan in 1917 and was a three-day, 23-stage run of more than 500 kilometres from Kyoto to Tokyo, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the latter city becoming the nation's capital. 

Let's not give City Runs Events any more bright ideas! Six stages for the recognised 26.2 miles classic marathon distance was enough for the 510 runners who signed up for this challenge, which coincided with some rather un-Devonly weather, with plenty of wind and rain.

The City Runs format was designed to give runners of all abilities and distance preferences an opportunity to participate in club teams or social groups. The selected teams ran 1K; 3K; 5K; 8.2K; 10K and 15K for a total of 42.2K and a virtual atmosphere was created as teams juggled strengths and weaknesses, while sharing far too much information on social media!

To make the event even more accessible for small groups, runners could opt to cover two different distances for their team. With 11 categories for running clubs and groups and three fun team classifications, there were plenty of opportunities to get on the score sheet.

With Morocco's 1:57:56 men's world record in 1994 as a target, the winning time was 2:17:49 by South West Road Runners from Cornwall AC (2:20:56) and Tavistock Run Project (2:21:24).

The best women's time recorded in the short-lived IAAF World Road Relay Championships between 1986 and 1998 was Ethiopia's 2:16:04 in 1996. Cornwall AC Ladies (2:41:59) took the virtual victory – in 15th place overall – from South West Road Runners (2:47:33) and 'Track Stars' (2:49:11).

There was more than just an historic link with Japan. Exeter Harriers' Taro Agui got behind the event and mustered three teams competing in Japan as Tokyo Harriers Mixed, finishing 17th, 58th and 59th to make this a truly international affair. 

Full results and information regarding future events are available at City Runs Events here

Image of Exeter Quayside courtesy Des White (Exmouth Harriers)

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