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 into an event on their own.
Originating in Japan the Ekiden Relay involves teams of runners passing a tasuki –
traditional Japanese sash. The event covers the full marathon distance of 42.195kms and is split into seven achievable segments varying in distance from 3kms to 10kms. 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 to ensure the comfort and safety of those who have limited mobility.
The ‘Ekiden’ provides the opportunity for families, sporting organisations, schools and businesses to have loads of fun whilst experiencing the magic of the trail. Teams can be all male, all female, mixed(but must have at least 3 women) and all abilities.
We had 3 all abilities teams who provided support for someone living with a disability the opportunity to participate and experience the thrill of being involved in a competitive sport. Jika Knight completed the ‘marathon distance’ and to his delight received a finisher’s medal. Ross (Jika’s father) said “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 provides an accessible track and facilities to make this not just possible, but comfortable and enjoyable.”
This year thanks to Greg O’Bree, owner Healthy Mates, Bendigo together with the O’Keefe Challenge team two specially designed pushers have been purchased providing the opportunity for others living with a disability to participate. So if you are living with a disability or know of anyone living with a disability and would like the opportunity to participate in the Ekiden Relay (our friendship race) contact the Event Director, Sandra Slatter, on 0417 350911.
The all abilities team can be a combination of those who have a disability, their carers, supporters or family and friends. “ My legs are beyond a marathon now, but Jika's jogging stroller is certainly not. Being part of a relay team gives me a terrific sense of enjoyment, also Jika enjoys the company of his team, the other participants and the volunteers on the trail” explained Ross.
Thanks also to the generosity of Champions IGA, ALL participants will receive a specially designed finishers medal inscribed with the Japanese symbol for ‘friendship’ and a $50 shopping voucher will also go to the first local Heathcote ‘mixed’ team to enter.
For more information contact Sandra Slatter 0417350911 or visit the website www.theokeefe.com.au