January 05, 2011
After two days, 10 runners and 216.9 kilometers, all that was left between Natsuki Terada and a victory for his university team in the final stage of the Tokyo-Hakone relay marathon was one city block of pavement.
But then the college freshman took a wrong turn:
Terada and his Kokugakuin University ultra-marathon team were in eighth place at the time of his error. Remarkably, he recovered from the error and still finished ahead of one other runner in the pack, which ensured that the team finished in 10th place and earned the final automatic qualification for next year's race.
It's easy to sit on our computers and laugh at Terada's error (clearly the television truck couldn't go the final block; was he expecting it to cross the finish line?), but after running 23 kilometers in front of thousands of cheering fans on national television, it's easy to understand how the young runner made the mistake.
The Hakone Ekiden is a major sporting event in Japan. First competed in 1920, it pits 20 college teams against one another in a 10-stage, 217 km race.
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