Ekiden – a Japanese word – is composed of two Kanji’s 駅 and 伝 meaning station and transmit.
The original concept of the Ekiden – a long-distance running relay race – was that each runner will run the distance of one station to another, then pass on their sash or ‘tasuki.’
On Sunday, the banks of the River Seine under the shadows of the iconic Eiffel Tower was the setting of Ekiden de Paris and Fulham Running Club had 5 teams of 6 bandits taking on this exciting challenge. The race was a marathon distance split into 6 legs – 5, 10, 5, 10, 5 and 7.2km lengths – with the aim of racing and transitioning with each team member to clock the quickest total time.
1600 teams were racing on Sunday and after a slight logistical nightmare getting into the race village to distribute my team mate’s bibs, I found myself standing on the Pont d’Léna facing the incredible Eiffel Tower minutes before 9am ready to race the first 5km leg.
Thankfully I managed to spot my fellow FRC striped first-leg runners at the start line, Rosie, Lou and Daphne, so as the gun fired we set off together, winding our way around the crowds and turning onto the road along the river in a Westerly direction. Within minutes I had lost sight of the striped vests and anxiously found myself weaving between slower paced runners, hopping on and off pavements with great care and trying my best to not fall over my own or others’ feet. I wasn’t having fun. I thought back to the quiet, clear paths of parkrun the day before and wished I was back running in Parc Montsouris, but I shook off this thought as quickly as it had entered my mind and reminded myself I was running along the Seine in the centre of Paris and more importantly I was running in a team. I was leading off a team of six, setting the standard and Tom and my other team mates were waiting for me at the changeover point, as well as a crowd of Fulham club mates who would cheer me on.
I crossed Pont des Invalides and spotted two sets of stripes ahead of me, standing out from the crowds in the morning sunshine. I put my foot down with an aim to catch them, knowing I had just over a kilometer left to run and a swift changeover to master. I caught Rosie in a minute or so, cheered her on and then focused on catching Daphne too, finally running side by side as we approached the changeover point. I unclipped my sash to pass on to Tom for his 10k leg and reached out to him within the bustling crowds and cheers from my club mates on the sidelines. The first leg of Ekiden de Paris complete, by me, 20:34.
After running and adding some layers to stay warm, I joined the cheer crew where the fun was continuing. We rang cowbells, waved flags and shouted from the relay changeover sideline as our team mates raced loops around us. Two of our teams squeezed out sub-3 hour marathon times and I was ecstatic when my own team raced through the finish line in a cumulative time of 3:01:42.
As a team relay event the Ekiden de Paris is incredibly fun to be a part of and with multiple teams from my running club racing, it was an exciting morning in Paris. A busy start line and hectic first few kilometres of my five made for quite a stressful run, but I was glad to be part of an awesome team and even better running club weekend on tour!