AFTER a 13-year hiatus, the Malaysia Ekiden Road Relay made its return, this time around at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya and it was organised in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Look East Policy.
The organisers had expected about 250 teams at the event but only about half that number showed up.
Of the 129 participating teams, three were from Japan, three from the Japanese International School and four from Japanese companies with a presence in Malaysia.
Alumni Look East Policy Society (ALEPS) president Za’ba Youn said despite the long lapse, the response was encouraging.
The relay was jointly organised by the International Youth Centre Foundation, the Honorary Consul-ate General of Malaysia in Fukuoka, Japan, and ALEPS.
“We hope to organise the event on an annual basis,” Za’ba said.
He said the inaugural event was held in 1994 but it had not been held since due to a lack of interest from the Malaysian organisers and their Japanese counterparts.
However, if the Japanese participation this year is any yardstick, Za’ba believes it could only be better next year.
Several regular roadrunners spearheaded Panasonic’s challenge in the road-relay, with 15 employees turning up in three teams.
The relay had five categories - mixed team, Men Open, Women Open (all 18-years and above) and the Men Junior and Women Junior (both 13-17 years), with each team comprising five runners and each runner completing 3km of the circuit.
Federal Territory Amateur Athletic Association (FTAAA) secretary S. Vegiyathuman said they had decided not to offer any prize money and the runners in the top five teams in each category were presented with a goodwill sash instead.
“The aim is to foster good diplomatic relationships between the two countries. We do not want to attract participation by offering prize money,” Vegiyathuman said.
This time around, the Panasonic teams fared better than they did in 1994. However, it was Kuala Lumpur City Hall coming in first in the mixed category in 49:18. The Japanese team Fukuoka Vitye Holue was a distant second in 52:52.
In the Men Open category, Surich clocked 45:36 with Polis Putrajaya coming in a close second at 47:30 while Faici Territory clocked 1.19:30 for the top spot in the Women Open category with Run For Run coming second in 1.21:38
Meanwhile, in the Men Junior category, Semenyih Top Runner was best in 52:42 while Japanese School-B came in at 58:06 and in the Women Junior event, Victory from SMK Taman Bukit Maluri clocked 1.26:00 to take the rostrum with Fantastic 5 settling for second spot in 1.14:49.