Runners legs taking part in a running race. Lots of coloured running shoes on show

Speaking at the Japan Society annual lecture at Nomura International on March 11, Julia Longbottom CMG, Britain’s Ambassador to Japan, announced the creation of the UK’s inaugural ekiden running relay race, sponsored by the FT and Nikkei Inc.

The inaugural UK race will take place on June 24 and will follow an iconic route from Oxford to Windsor along the Thames Path. The race takes place in the same year that Japan’s Hakone Ekiden, the most prominent ekiden on the sport’s calendar, celebrated its centenary in January.

Longbottom said: “I have the privilege of announcing that the partnership of the FT and Nikkei have agreed to sponsor the [UK ekiden], so it will be called the FT Nikkei UK Ekiden. We hope it will be something that will last long into the future and help deepen the ties between Japan and the UK.”

The ekiden tradition traces its roots back hundreds of years to a time when runners relayed important messages and goods between stations along predetermined routes. The word ekiden means station and convey, or to tell.” Today, ekiden has evolved into a popular relay race format in Japan that emphasises teamwork, endurance, and camaraderie.

Anna Dingley, founder of the UK Ekiden, said: “This event not only introduces the iconic ekiden race to the UK, but also represents a unique opportunity to bring together a wide spectrum of people, companies, universities and charities involved in UK-Japan communities to showcase the spirit of teamwork in an exciting format.”

John Ridding, FT CEO, said: “The FT has been part of Nikkei Inc since 2015. In the spirit of cooperation and the success of our global alliance, we’re delighted to support this uniquely Japanese event as it debuts in the UK. It’s a wonderful opportunity to cement ties between our countries and cultures.”

Tsuyoshi Hasebe, President & CEO of Nikkei Inc., said: “The FT Nikkei UK Ekiden embodies the spirit of unity and shared success that characterises the close cooperation between Nikkei and the FT, and between Japan and the UK. It’s an honour for Nikkei to be a part of an historic event that will bridge distances through the universal language of sport.”

The UK Ekiden will feature 21 teams of 10 runners. The participating teams will be composed of runners from corporates, universities, and UK Japan-related organisations, each reflecting different aspects of the UK-Japan relationship.