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"Hell Running" - Chinese Site Calls Japanese Women's Distance Running Too Cruel

translated by Brett Larner

High schooler Yumika Nagahama leading the Jan. 15 National Women's Ekiden for the Kanagawa team.

Since the start of the month it's been cold in Japan.  A record-breaking kind of cold that has seen snow piling up even on the Pacific side of the country, and for better or worse that word "snow" has been generating buzz around the world.  Yes, it has been a cold winter, and now that fact has become a hot topic in China.  Particularly in relation to women's distance running.

The picture above is from the "National Women's Ekiden" that took place in Kyoto on Jan. 15.  Kyoto experienced a blizzard, even "whiteout" conditions.  Far too harsh to go ahead with staging a running race in conditions like that.  It's natural to wonder why the race wasn't cancelled, but it seems likely that they weren't expecting the snow to escalate to the point that it would be enough to stop the race.

Japanese women's distance running is being called, "hell running," "crazy" and "too cruel."  The athletes are probably so focused on their race that they can't worry about such things, but is anyone worried about whether it's OK for the people watching?  There's no telling what will happen next year, but if people are expressing concern all around the world then they have to take some sort of measures.

The original article, translated below:

Unbelievable!  "Appalling" Images of Japanese Women Running Relay in Snowstorm

Recently Japan has experienced a winter of bitter cold, but although Kyoto's National Women's Ekiden was held as scheduled, anyone who watched it onscreen would feel that the snowy conditions were too cruel.  Snow fell from the Jan. 14 and through the noontime start on the 15th, but despite 10 cm accumulation and temperatures close to zero it wasn't enough to stop the race.  Never having been cancelled since its first running, the National Women's Ekiden went ahead as planned with a full live television broadcast.

During the broadcast announcers struggled to accurately cover the race, saying, "There is really too much snow," as the snow obscured runners' bib numbers.  After a total of 42.195 km the women representing Kyoto won the final victory.  Some netizens expressed admiration of the first-class resistance to the cold exhibited by the Japanese, but many viewers were distressed by seeing the "appalling" scenes on the broadcast.  It became difficult to make out the human forms on the screen.


Anonymous said…
That's not too cold. The real travesty was the announcing.
Patrick said…
Zero Celsius? As in 32 Fahrenheit? I live and run year-round in Minnesota, USA, where our winters usually resemble Siberia. These conditions are nowhere near "cruel", evidenced by pictures of these strong women in singlets voluntarily choosing to compete.
Brett Larner said…
I take the criticism as an indication of differing cultural ideals of gender identity or women's roles in society. Many people watching the race including me saw hundreds of strong, tough badasses. Others apparently saw delicate flowers they think belong in a hothouse.
Metts said…
Civilians, non runners, will never understand.

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source article:
translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo © 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved