800 Runners Reach Tokyo after a 1000-km Relay Through the Tohoku Region Participants inspire the disaster-affected areas over the two-week relay

Eight hundred runners yesterday completed a 1000-km relay and reached Tokyo, the host city of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. During the two-week relay, the participants visited and inspired the population of the region affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The relay runners were welcomed to the Tokyo Bay area - the finish line of the race - by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe and hundreds of fans. The race, organised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, attracted 800 participants, including Sydney 2000 marathon gold medallist Naoko Takahashi, Vancouver 2010 speed skating bronze medallist Joji Kato, London 2012 table tennis silver medallist Kasumi Ishikawa and Athens 2004 Paralympics wheelchair tennis gold medallist Shingo Kunieda. People living in the disaster-affected areas as well as several leading celebrities also joined the race.

Naoko Takahashi remarked, "The immense hardships suffered by the people in the disaster-affected areas and the amazing support for the recovery and reconstruction efforts acted as a source of inspiration and drove me on along the long 1000 km course." Joji Kato also explained the reasons behind his participation, "I took part in the relay in the hope that it might contribute in some small way to inspiring and revitalising the local communities. If running can play a role in the reconstruction efforts, I would run forever!"

This relay reflects Tokyo 2020's goal to use the power and the values of sport to re-inspire the disaster-affected areas. Since March 2011, the sporting community has been at the heart of recovery efforts and Japan has seen the vital role athletes and sport can play in society. The relay is the latest in a long line of activities involving athletes visiting the disaster-affected areas, interacting with the local children, and helping to bring smiles back to their faces.

The relay, which took two weeks to complete, consisted of a 439km course for runners, with the reminder made up of a 795km cycling course. The relay started in the city of Aomori, located in the northern part of the Tohoku region, on 24 July, the same day the Tokyo Olympic Games Opening Ceremony will take place in 2020. The participants then made their way through the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, which were the most severely affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, before arriving in Tokyo yesterday.
Image of the event

The relay runners completed the race in the Tokyo Bay area