translated by Brett Larner
National University Athletics Federation director Kosuke Hori, 78, appeared at a press conference on May 27 together with Shizuoka prefecture governor Heita Kawakatsu, to announce that the towns of Fuji and Fujinomiya at the base of Mt. Fuji will be the new hosts of the National University Women's Invitational Ekiden this Dec. 23. The ekiden was held in Tsukuba, Ibaraki for three years beginning in 2007, but has been suspended indefinitely since 2010. Its return on a new course around Mt. Fuji will be its first running since then.
Governor Kawakatsu smiled broadly as he told reporters, "Dec. 23 is the Emperor's birthday, so it is going to be a very wonderful day. His Majesty was gracious enough to send a message saying, "I am looking forward to seeing our collegiate women run in the foothills of Mount Fuji."
According to race organizers, the ekiden will be run on a 44-km course starting at Fujisan Hongu Segen shrine, passing by Fujinomiya City Hall, Fuji City Hall, Tagonoura Port and other well-known local sites before finishing at Fuji Sports Park Field in Nakano, Fuji. The field is expected to be made up of twenty-five teams including the top ten from October's National University Women's Ekiden in Sendai and around ten regional school and select teams. Fuji TV will broadcast the race live and nationwide.
With Mt. Fuji achieving World Heritage Site status in the four years since the ekiden's last running, organizers are also examining attaching "Mt. Fuji" to the event's official name. Director Hori commented, "As Mt. Fuji earns recognition as a World Heritage Site, the cities of Fuji and Fujinomiya have come together to help stage this race. With Mt. Fuji forming the backdrop for a fantastic course, we hope to generate a wave of excitement for this race all across the country. It is absolutely essential that we continue to hold our important competitions like this one." With the cooperation of the police department and other local bodies, organizers look forward to the National University Women's Invitational Ekiden continuing strong in years to come.