Ekiden - NAFA, JMSDF Sailors Lace Together Friendship Through Running
EKIDEN - NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – Naval Air Facility and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Sailors came together in celebration of friendship, competition and cultural exchange to participate in the 20th annual Atsugi Ekiden, March 17.
The Ekiden, a traditional Japanese relay race, started off with last year’s winner, Team Iwo To, returning the first place flag to JMSDF Fleet Air Wing Four Operations Officer Rear Adm. Yoshikazu Morita.
The race consisted of eight teams of 10 running a 1.6 mile lap and passing a tasuki, a traditional cloth sash, to the following team member.
JMSDF Petty Officer 1st Class Naoko Eguchi, member and trainer of the Team Air Support Squadron, said they trained for three months for the annual event. “We did aerobics for warm ups, and conducted slope and timed running in preparation for today’s event,” said Eguchi.
While the Japanese teams were better trained and prepared for the event, Team Atsugi put forth a valiant effort for members who only had a day or two to prepare.
“It would be great if we got the word out early and formed a team and trained to run together for next year,” said Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Ligon. “This year is more of a fun run for our team.”
Team four, Maintenance and Supply Squadron was the first team to cross the finish line and the event ended with Ligon, Team Atsugi’s anchor runner, completing the race.
“This was a good chance to enhance our relationship between us and the U.S.,” said JMSDF Petty Officer 1st Class Takuya Yamano, a member of Team Air Support Squadron. Despite the short notice of the relay, Team Atsugi expressed their pleasure at the chance to run along with their JMSDF counterparts. “Having a common interest such as running helps to strengthen our relationships and bonds,” said Yeoman Seaman Jackie Lewis, of NAF Atsugi’s Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training.
During the closing ceremonies, Morita thanked Team Atsugi for their participation and friendship during the race and joked about being passed by a junior Sailor and then praising his spirit.