A Look At How XC Could Look This Fall: Ekiden Relays

Ekiden racing was born in Japan over a century ago. Historically, ekidens are long-distance road relays contested by teams of several runners. Popular throughout Japan at all levels, ekiden is regularly run by Japanese high school teams during the fall.

The total distance of an ekiden varies, as does the distance of each leg of the race, and the number of athletes per team. Instead of batons, relay members pass a cloth sash at exchange stations. During these pandemic days, perhaps the sash goes virtual and the exchange just involves one runner crossing a line and the next runner taking off.

With only one runner per team racing at any one moment, the ekiden format promotes less-crowded start areas, races, and finish areas.

Ekiden racing easily transitions from the roads to the cross country course. Heck, more than enough Colorado cross country courses are part road race already.

By offering at least two different relay leg distances and/or mixed terrain, high school coaches could assign relay positions with each runner's strengths (or weaknesses) in mind. While chip timing could highlight great individual performances, ekidens focus on the total team performance.

Teams of seven runners could battle it out in parks, on golf courses, or at high school campus courses. A potential course might measure 20 kilometers and be broken up into seven legs in the following format: 2K, 3K, 5K, 3K, 2K, 3K, and 2K. Or run teams of four to open up an ekiden meet to additional teams.