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Run a virtual ekiden relay with Mile2Marathon

The M2M team will be holding a unique virtual racing opportunity with this favourite of Japanese runners on September 26

Although virtual racing will never compare to running in-person events, the many virtual opportunities presented to runners since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have given athletes something to work toward. As the pandemic has worn on, race organizers have gotten more and more creative with their events, and the latest unique virtual race to be announced is an ekiden relay organized by the crew at Mile2Marathon. Ekidens are a popular type of race in Japan in which teams of runners collectively complete a marathon, and while you’ve probably never had the chance to race an ekiden, that’s about to change thanks to the M2M team. 

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Deciding on an ekiden 

M2M head coach Rob Watson says he thinks that virtual races are necessary to organize right now so runners worldwide can stay engaged in their training, but he admits that, “as we got more and more into the virtual racing, there became bit of fatigue and after a couple it kind of lost its excitement.” The M2M team has already held several virtual events, including 5K, 10K and one-mile time trials, and they wanted to switch things up to give their athletes “something to train toward and to be excited about.” After brainstorming and trying to come up with a fun and unique challenge for their athletes, Watson and his fellow M2M coaches decided on an ekiden relay.  

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“The ekiden idea came out of mine and Dylan Wykes‘s experiences in the running culture and running scene,” Watson says. Wykes is a co-founder of M2M, and he and Watson have each represented Canada on the world stage on multiple occasions. A few years ago, both men got the opportunity to race ekiden relays in Japan.

Photos from a Mile2Marathon workout with loops around Beaver Lake in Vancouver.

“I did the Chiba Ekiden,” Watson says. “Every country had a team. It was so much fun, and it clearly had a lasting impact on Dylan and myself.” Watson and Wykes agreed the ekiden is a race that can be run as a team while still social distancing, which is the perfect combination for a COVID-friendly event, so they rolled with it.

RELATED: Hakone Ekiden 2020 sees 15 course records fall

How the race works 

Teams can consist of two to four runners, each of whom will run equal relay legs to complete a full marathon. For example, if you’re on a team of two, you and your partner will run 21.1K each. If you form a four-person team, each member runs 10.55K. 

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Participants will log their runs on Strava and also use a Virtual Baton app (which was developed by the team at the Vancouver-based RunGuides Media) that will sync with Strava and alert team members when it’s their turn to run. With this app, whether runners on a team are together or all on different continents, they can run one after the other, just like they would in an in-person relay. The race will be held in a six-hour window on September 26, and teams can run at any time between 10:30 to 4:30 ET. As teams finish their individual legs and races, a leaderboard will be updated in real time on the Virtual Baton to show how everyone stacks up. 

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Watson notes that while their ekiden was created for M2M athletes, “anyone and everyone is welcome. We want to make it inclusive for everybody.” To learn more about the M2M virtual ekiden relay and to sign up for the event, click here