In Japan there's a traditional road race --- a 2-day 134-mile 10-person relay called the Hakone Ekiden --- that Ken Belson of the New York Times (4 Jan 2004) describes as "... something akin to the Boston Marathon, the Final Four and the Super Bowl rolled into one. More than a run for the tape, the race encapsulates the perseverance, pathos and unswerving loyalty the Japanese value so highly."

The most mundane objects can, over time, acquire huge symbolic meaning and importance. Instead of batons, teammates in the Hakone Ekiden hand off strips of fabric. As Belsen writes:

These cloth sashes, called tasuki, are ordinarily used to tie back long kimono sleeves. But on race day, they are endowed with the power of each college's legacy and are even blessed by teams at shrines. In effect, they embody the spirit of the race the Japanese find so appealing.

"The weight of the tasuki is heavy," said Atsushi Miyashita, a 30-year-old businessman, who has gone to Hakone to watch the race every year since he was a boy. "It connects the runners with all those who ran before. This race is not about any one person."

Like another relay: life ...

(see also PlusUltra (12 Aug 1999), LifeLines (9 Dec 2000), ... )

TopicRunning - TopicSociety - TopicLife - 2004-04-18

(correlates: BlindFaith, Comments on RichFlammang, TheRunner, ...)