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Aoyama Gakuin University to Help Promote and Train Marathon Guide Runners for Visually Impaired

Aoyama Gakuin University held an awarding ceremony for the university's track and field ekiden team, which won the Hakone Ekiden (held January 2-3) for the second year in a row. The ceremony was held on March 5, in Tokyo, Japan. At the ceremony, Nobumitsu Hotta, Chair of Aoyama Gakuin University, announced the school's plan to proactively offer school-wide support, from kindergarten to graduate school, to the Paralympic games and adaptive sports. In addition, Susumu Hara, head coach of the ekiden team, said that one of the team's goals will be to help promote and train guide runners for visually impaired marathon runners.

Guide runners are the eyes of runners with total blindness or severe vision impairment. They run side by side, connected by a rope or other device. They are a vital presence for visually impaired runners who cannot run alone, and the lack of guide runners is a constant issue. The Japan Blind Marathon Association holds courses to train guide runners and makes efforts in promotion and training, often seeking support from universities and corporate organizations. Aoyama Gakuin University's support will be greatly appreciated, as more runners are aiming for the Paralympic Games and improving their skills。

Yuya Ando (third-year student), captain of the new team, commented on guide runners saying, "If there is anything we can do, we want to offer solid support and run together." Kazuki Tamura (second-year student), who won the fourth course at Hakone Ekiden, said, "I believe we share a passion with Paralympic runners. If we can contribute somehow, we will make an effort to do so, and lift Japan together."

Yasushi Yamawaki, President of the Japan Paralympic Committee and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, attended the ceremony as a guest speaker. He expressed his gratitude for the university's announcement to support adapted sports, and said, "It will be tremendous support if your ekiden team helps promote guide runners. The Paralympic Games and adapted sports are still unfamiliar to many, but they have the ability to make our lives richer by giving us courage and awareness. I am truly looking forward to your support."

text & photo by Kyoko Hoshino
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