The 18th edition of the DHL Ekiden, Belgium’s biggest relay marathon, will take place on Saturday 22 October. More than 800 teams of six runners have registered for the 42.195 km through Laeken Park, with start and finish at the King Baudouin Stadium. European marathon record holder Bashir Abdi and former European Marathon Champion Koen Naert will also be at the start with a team in Brussels on Saturday.
The starting shot of the DHL Ekiden will sound at the King Baudouin Stadium at 1pm. The first runner of each team will run 5 km and then pass the ‘tasuki’ – the knotted relay sash that according to Japanese tradition must be worn diagonally over the shoulder – to the second runner. The second and fourth runners of each team have to cover 10 km, and the third and fifth runners 5 km. The course is marked out in Laeken Park, in the shadow of the Atomium, but all relays will take place on the track of the King Baudouin Stadium. That is also where the final runner will finish and be applauded by their teammates after completing the remaining 7.195 km.
An ekiden – ‘eki’ means ‘station’ in Japanese and ‘den’ means ‘relay’ – is always an exciting race because the success of the team depends on each of its six runners. Every team member plays an important role. That is also why the DHL Ekiden is popular with a lot of companies as a team-building event. More than 800 teams, an increase of more than 30% compared to last year, have registered. Besides teams of friends and colleagues, athletics clubs also sign up en masse for the DHL Ekiden. This year, Excelsior (RESC), the club of former European Marathon Champion Koen Naert, is the big favourite to win the Belgian title.
Bashir Abdi will also be at the DHL Ekiden. The European record holder in the marathon and winner of bronze at the World Championships and Olympics will compete with a team from Tous à Bord, where runners push a buggy with people with physical disabilities. Many participating teams use the DHL Ekiden as an opportunity to draw attention to a good cause. Title partner DHL is doing the same. For instance, at the time of online registration, everyone could choose to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages.
“We are all set for Saturday,” said Danny Van Himste, CEO of DHL Express BeLux. “We are tremendously proud to be the main sponsor for the second time. It will undoubtedly be another top team-building event where the well-being of our employees, and that of all the participants, is at the forefront and we can pay extra attention to the mission of SOS Children’s Villages. Sporting, fun and with a clear (charity) goal, that is our DHL Ekiden. ”
Registrations for the relay marathon have closed. You can still register for the Kids Run, which will open in the King Baudouin Stadium hall of honour at 10am on Saturday. The Kids Run is for children aged 4 to 12. They start their 1 km run from the gates of the King Baudouin Stadium at midday and finish in the stadium.