In and around the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Saturday, 939 teams of 6 runners will give their best in the 19th edition of the DHL Ekiden, one of the biggest relay marathons in the world. Moreover, the DHL Ekiden counts as the Belgian Championship. This year, the FEB is putting its weight behind the running competition. A handful of top managers will attend the ‘FEB Speakers’ Corner’. It underlines the importance of the Ekiden as the country’s biggest corporate sports event.
During the DHL Ekiden, team members cover the mythical marathon distance of 42.195 km together. The first, third and fifth runners each cover 5 km, the second and fourth runners 10 km and the final runner covers the remaining 7.195 km. The relays are not done with a relay baton but with a ‘tasuki’, a relay sash to be worn across the shoulder according to Japanese tradition.
The start and finish of the DHL Ekiden are at the King Baudouin Stadium and all relays also take place there. The course winds right through Laeken Park, in the shadow of the Atomium. Prior to the relay marathon, a Kids Run will also take place in and around the King Baudouin Stadium. Children aged 4 to 12 can have fun on a 1 km course. The start of the Kids Run will be at 12 noon, with the first runners of the DHL Ekiden starting at 1pm.
Who are the top favourites?
939 teams have registered, over 100 more than at the previous edition. Traditionally, the top favourites are members of athletics teams. Among the women, the USBW girls (Union Sportive Braine Waterloo) are strong contenders, but the CSDY Filles and DAC 1 are also sending a strong and ambitious team to Brussels. In the men’s race, the battle for victory is likely to be between Atlemo 1, AC Pegasus, CABW 1 and 2, CSDY Tancrède, DAC 2, Roba 1 and 2, KAVR and Team Van de Wattyne (ACG).
Anyone can participate in the DHL Ekiden with a team of six. Not only athletics clubs, but also groups of friends, families, corporate teams, associations, …. The sporting challenge, having fun together and team spirit are paramount. One association that faithfully takes part every year is Tous à Bord. This organisation is committed to helping people with physical disabilities. All runners from Tous à Bord, who will compete in the DHL Ekiden with three teams, will push a buggy on Saturday.
DHL ‘unified’ with Special Olympics
Title partner DHL is putting extra emphasis on diversity this year. “We are all set for Saturday,” said Danny Van Himste, CEO of DHL Express BeLux. “This year we are particularly looking forward to our unified runs, where our employees run the final leg together with a Special Olympics athlete. But besides that, the DHL Ekiden is also simply a top team-building event where the well-being of our employees, and that of all participants, is key. The fact that we can pay extra attention to diversity this year is the icing on the cake.”
FEB Speakers’ Corner
The Federation of Belgian Enterprises (FEB) is also putting its weight behind the DHL Ekiden this year. FEB’s aim is to get as many of its member sector organisations and companies to the start line as possible, demonstrating that sport is a perfect lever for a healthy lifestyle for all employees. Before and after their sporting performance, participants will have the chance to be inspired by numerous engaging sports speakers at the FEB Speakers’ Corner, including Bart Steukers (CEO Agoria), Patrick Rottiers (Country Managing Partner EY), Astrid Verhoeven (Marathon Athlete and Managing Partner Project Mensch), Bart Buysse (CEO Fevia), Francesca Vanthielen (News Anchor Kanaal Z) and Danny Van Himste (CEO DHL Express Belux), who will all attend FEB’s Speakers’ Corner on Saturday and put on their running shoes.
Minister Gatz delivers hopeful message
Brussels Minister Sven Gatz welcomes this Saturday’s new edition of the DHL Ekiden and carries a message of hope: “On 21 October, Brussels will host the Belgian Ekiden Championship. This year, no fewer than 900 teams of 6 runners will cover the Olympic distance. Sport has the power of bringing everyone together in physical effort, pushing themselves. The Brussels Capital Region certainly welcomes this event in complex circumstances but believes more than ever in living together. On Saturday, we will experience ‘exercising together’ and, I sincerely hope that we are taking steps towards a tomorrow that is respectful without extremism.”
In order to guarantee safety as much as possible at the event – and everywhere else in the public domain currently – vigilance by police, security and stewards will be stepped up. In addition, sports bags and rucksacks will be checked at the request of the security services. The organisers of the DHL Ekiden know how important dry and warm clothing is for a runner after finishing but ask all participants to limit the number of belongings or bags as much as possible to allow a smoother checking-in process, and to take into account longer waiting times at the entrances.