IN 2017, the Ekiden Relay was symbolic in bringing people together who in the past may not have been physically active to achieve a personal goal through the help and support of others. Competitors were all shapes and sizes and a mixture of ages. There were teams who were definitely in it to win but then there were many in it purely to have some fun and to provide support to those who might not have entered an event on their own.
Originating in Japan, the Ekiden Relay involves teams of runners passing a tasuki, a traditional Japanese sash. The event covers the full marathon distance of 42.2km and is split into seven achievable segments varying in distance from 3km to 10km. The event starts in the Baptist Church car park in Junortoun and takes the runner on a journey though majestic native forests, rich farm land and picturesque waterways.
Ensuring the event is all-inclusive and caters for all abilities is one of the key objectives of the organising group, and disability considerations are foremost in their minds. In an effort to ensure the comfort and suitability of the course the organisers have assessed the various legs, which have been rated in terms of difficulty.
The Ekiden provides the opportunity for families, sporting organisations, schools and businesses to have loads of fun while experiencing the magic of the trail. Teams can be all male, all female, mixed (but must have at least three women) and all abilities.
There were three all-abilities teams who provided support for someone living with a disability to compete last year. Jika Knight completed the ‘marathon distance’ and to his delight received a finisher’s medal. Jika’s father Ross is supportive of the idea.
“The volunteers along the trail provided genuine support and encouragement which was a real boost to Jika and our team. The O’Keefe Ekiden Relay is one of the very few events that provide an accessible track and facilities to make this not just possible, but comfortable and enjoyable,” Ross said.
This year specially designed pushers have been purchased providing the opportunity for others living with a disability to participate.
Thanks to the generosity of Champions IGA, all participants will receive a finishers medal inscribed with the Japanese symbol for ‘friendship’, and a $50 shopping voucher will go to the first local Heathcote ‘mixed’ team to enter.
For more information or to enter, contact event director Sandra Slatter 0417 350 911 or visit www.theokeefe.com.au.