Racers prepare for the Ronin
May 26, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Start with guts and heart, advises Petty Officer 1st Class Brandon Smith.
Then suck it up and keep moving.
That’s how you’ll finish this year’s Ronin Race on June 3 at Yokosuka Naval Base.
Racers start with a 4.2-mile run around the base, hop in Green Bay Marina for a mile swim, then sprint a mile back to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment Japan, which organizes the event.
Smith did the whole thing last year carrying a backpack filled with fins, goggles and a wetsuit.
“That water is cold and there’s a current,” Smith said. “It’s hard, but you just gut it out.”
Now in its third year, the Ronin draws 40-60 people every year from as far as Okinawa, Camp Zama and Naval Air Facility Atsugi due to the race’s challenge and unique character, Smith said.
“There’s nothing like it in Japan, as far as military events,” Smith said. “In a run-swim-run, you have to be able-bodied, a strong swimmer and a strong runner.”
Ronins were Japan’s “wave men” — masterless samurais cast out and beholden to no one but the elements of wind and water. They wandered Japan during its feudal years, 1185 to 1868.
This warrior spirit is what the Ronin is all about, said EOD Chief Rich James.
It also works as a recruiting tool, as racers with grit might be good in EOD, Smith said. In fact, the race is rooted in an EOD workout, as they run-swim-run every month, Smith said.
“A few years ago, we decided to invite the local community to join us,” Smith said. “It’s a good way to get the word out about us, and we’re always looking for qualified men and women for EOD.”
With a job description that can include scuba diving and parachuting to remove and make safe unexploded ordnance, EOD is becoming its own Navy rate on June 1. The rating is open to junior sailors 30 years old and younger with less than six years of military service who can meet the requirement of the physical and dive screenings, ASVAB scores and solid evaluations.
Ronin racers can go solo or in a two- to three-person relay team. The $20 admission fee includes a T-shirt, medals for the winners and an after-race banquet at the EOD shop.
“There’s medals, everybody hugs and kisses, then goes home to go to sleep,” James said.
To sign-up for the Ronin, visit the MWR Wellness Center at Fleet Recreation Center or sign up on race day. All ages welcome.