Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Eki Den is not a box lunch

It’s running season in Okinawa! Yes, the winter is here, the heat has abated and as long as the weather will cooperate, people tend to include more outdoor activities in their routines. That includes more running events and road races. Recently, in early December, Naha held its famous Marathon Race and soon Okinawa City will hold theirs too. Everyone who likes or lives to run will be out and trying to get some valuable road work in. Ask any self respecting Marine and they’ll say the temperature matters not, nor whether the sun is shining brightly or in liquid form, every day is running season here on Okinawa.
One of the more popular forms of road races held in Japan this time of year is a distance relay race known as the Eki-Den or “station run.” The word Eki means station as in train station and Den is an abbreviation of the word Densha or train. Please don’t confuse the word Eki-Den with Eki-Ben which, though they sound very much alike, the latter means “Station Bento.” Those are the popular box lunches found at most train stations throughout Japan. Even one of the monorail stations in Naha offers an Eki Ben. If you ask someone if they’d like to go for one and mean the other, well it could be embarrassing.
Rather, the Eki Den is a road race that usually pits teams of runners from local schools, the various branches of the Japanese military, police and fire departments and running clubs against each other. Many of the local high schools also compete against each other regularly in this manner. Because each runner has a shorter distance than the whole race to run, the pace is usually quite fast. I get short of breath just watching them. Of course now that I’m retired from active duty the only running I do is to the bathroom after my morning pot of coffee.
What does it all mean for the rest of us who live here? It means that you should be extra cautious while driving about the island during this time of year. No matter what your best laid plans have in store, you just never know IF, WHEN OR given the time of year it’s more likely to be WHERE (emphasis added) you’re going to see one. The police will be out on their motorcycles and they do watch the traffic very closely around the runners. If you’re out driving and happen to run into one, (pun intended) be patient and wait for the opportunity to pass safely. If you happen to out on the street and you see a group of runners passing by, cheer them on. They’ll appreciate the gesture. And lastly, just to help you keep it straight, Eki-Den are better to run when you’re less filled, Eki-Ben taste great!

No comments:

Post a Comment