translated by Brett Larner
The Bizen Municipal Track & Field Association held a public pilgrimage from City Hall to Ebisu Shrine starting at midnight on May 30 to pray for the fortunes of locally-born London Olympics marathoner Risa Shigetomo (24, Team Tenmaya). Held at the unusual starting time in order to coordinate with the TAFISA World Challenge Day international amateur sports and physical fitness promotion event, the 1.2 km pilgrimage was billed by organizers as "The earliest walk in Japan." 37 members of the Bizen City Junior Track & Field Club, to which Shigetomo belonged during her days a student at Bizen J.H.S., took part.
Participants arrived at Ebisu Shrine roughly 20 minutes after leaving City Hall, their journey ending with a climb up steep stone steps to the shrine leaving them a little out of breath on their arrival. Shigetomo's former coach at the club, Setsuo Kajita, 67, commented afterward, "I prayed from the heart for her to run a brave race and to complete the distance." A group photo of all the participants together in the shrine grounds was taken and will be sent to Shigetomo.
The TAFISA World Challenge Day began in Canada in 1983 to promote sports and exercise in daily life for everyone. The event, held on the last Wednesday of May each year, aims to have people all around the world exercise for at least 15 minutes. The nearby cities of Setouchi and Akaiwa held croquet matches and other activities in conjunction with the World Challenge Day.