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Runners bolt from the start as they began the 5-kilometer stretch of their four-person relay at Yokota Air Base’s Ekiden relay race on Sunday.

Runners bolt from the start as they began the 5-kilometer stretch of their four-person relay at Yokota Air Base’s Ekiden relay race on Sunday. (Grant Okubo / S&S)

Runners bolt from the start as they began the 5-kilometer stretch of their four-person relay at Yokota Air Base’s Ekiden relay race on Sunday.

Runners bolt from the start as they began the 5-kilometer stretch of their four-person relay at Yokota Air Base’s Ekiden relay race on Sunday. (Grant Okubo / S&S)

Runners hit the home stretch of their relay handoff.

Runners hit the home stretch of their relay handoff. (Grant Okubo / S&S)

A participant from the Japanese community rejoices during his finish of the five kilometer foot race.

A participant from the Japanese community rejoices during his finish of the five kilometer foot race. (Grant Okubo / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, JAPAN — C-130s weren’t the only thing taking off from Yokota on Sunday as a long line of laced-up sneakers launched from the starting line for the annual Ekiden race.

More than 7,000 runners competed, an all-time high in the race’s 25-year history. The Ekiden is broken up into three events. The main event features four-person teams competing in a 20 kilometer race, with each person running a 5-kilometer leg. There was also a 5-kilometer and a 2-kilometer race held Sunday for individuals.

The majority of Sunday’s participants were Japanese and joining them were runners representing 14 other countries, said Jeffrey Dickerhoof, president of Yokota Striders Running Club and the event’s host.

Additionally, servicemembers from near and far came to run the Ekiden.

Robert White, an airman with the 374th Operations Group, and his 8-year-old son, Jack, made this a family affair as they finished the kids’ 2-kilometer race together.

Jack said he entered the race to win. And although he didn’t place first, he said he had a good time running the race with his dad. His dad said preparing for and running in the race allowed his family to band together.

"Everyone ran a good race," said Tedd Allen, a member of Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s HSL-51 and a one of the runners for "Team Musashi." For Allen, the sportsmanship displayed by all the runners was the highlight of the event, he said.

Clark Hickingbottom, a member of Team Musashi, tipped his hat to the many Japanese participating in costume.

"How do you even run in a C-3PO or Darth Vader costume in this heat?" Hickingbottom asked.

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