SAGAMI GENERAL DEPOT, Japan – About 7,000 people attended an open-post running event and festival here Oct. 2.
It was the first such event on the Depot since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were very happy to be able to safely and successfully host this event for the U.S. Army in Japan community, and for thousands of our off-post friends and neighbors,” said Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, U.S. Army Garrison Japan commander. “This was simply a wonderful way to promote physical fitness, to celebrate our bilateral partnerships, and to provide an outstanding opportunity to gather for food, fun and entertainment.”
U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation officials paired with the Kanagawa Running Association to jointly offer a 13.1-mile half-marathon to start the day, followed by a 16-kilometer (9.9 mile) “ekiden,” or relay race, in the afternoon.
Runners were required to pre-register for the races, but the Garrison also opened the gates to the general public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to offer food, musical performances, children’s games, and other activities. About 2,400 runners registered for the half-marathon, while about 1,200 registered for the relay race.
Zama Middle High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps’ Trojan Battalion cadets opened the event early in the morning with a military color guard ceremony, marching the American and Japanese flags onto stage before both national anthems were played.
USAG Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner welcomed the runners during the opening ceremony, stressing that the No. 1 goal was safety.
Turner, along with Deputy to the Garrison Commander Jenifer Peterson, DFMWR Director Rick Bosch, and MWR employee Rintaro Sato also represented the Garrison in the relay race.
“This is my first open-post running event, and I was amazed by the turnout, athleticism and enthusiasm of our guests,” Turner said. “We had people up front setting a blistering pace that I couldn’t hope to keep up with, people in costumes, and plenty of running clubs. The one thing I can definitely say is it looked like everyone had a great time.”
Garrison personnel from the Directorate of Emergency Services; the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; and the Installation Safety Office worked closely with U.S. Army Medical Activity Japan medics and Japanese first-responders from the running association and Sagamihara City to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance.
Visitors also flocked to the Fall Festival activities, dancing to various bands, enjoying the food, and even just stretching out the grass in the sun to recuperate from the races.
“I’m very proud of the entire team and the hard work that went into planning, setting up and hosting this event,” Tomlinson said.