Yamathon 2015 – Report

By Ron Choi

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Figure 1. 770 Yamathon participants packed the Galleria area in Tokyo building.

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Figure 2. J.P. Morgan Lentos II team had hands down the most interesting station photos.

On 30th of May, 2015, close to 800 people participated in Yamathon, a race around the 29 stations of Yamanote line in Tokyo.   The event is quite familiar to the Tokyo residents as it has been held annually since 2009.   This year International Volunteer Group (IVG), the organizer of Yamathon, decided to support NADIA to help their efforts in Tohoku recovery. Joe Pournovin, Events Director for IVG, noted they became interested helping NADIA after seeing its numerous projects in Tohoku area.   The raised funds from this year’s Yamathon will go towards, among other things, building more playgrounds in Tohoku.

In Yamathon, teams of four are required to walk or run to all 29 stations and take a photo of themselves in front of each station sign to prove they visited all the stations along the Yamanote line.   Most people walk. Some run. It is not only a physical challenge, but is also a navigational challenge as the total distance can be anywhere between 40 to 48 km depending on the paths one takes.   Majority of the participants have difficulty navigating the tracks between Gotanda and Shinagawa where the route from one station to another is far from obvious.

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Figure 3. The funds raised in Yamathon will go towards building more playgrounds like this in Tohoku.

2015 Yamathon was special for a number of reasons.   First, it was the venue.   This year’s event was held in the Galleria area of Tokyo building, quite a departure from Yoyogi Park and Tokyo International Forum.  It’s indoors and a much smaller location, but it provided an opportunity to be much better organized. The post-event fundraiser party was held at P.C.M., the bar on the first floor of the same building, which proved to be a big hit with the participants. The bar provided a great location to raise more funds through holding a raffle. NADIA provided many volunteers who were involved in the organizing with IVG for months leading up to the event and also doing the physical work of putting on the big event itself. The total number of participants was the largest ever –210 teams with 770 walkers and runners, a huge increase from 480 in 2014.

The feedback from the participants was resoundingly positive.   Yamathon is, more than anything, a fun event.   One doesn’t have to be super fit athlete to participate.   Some families with children completed the entire course.   Also, given that teams are required to take photos at each station, this provides many opportunities to be creative. In fact, some of the photos taken are quite amazing in their inventiveness.   Many teams take long breaks during the race – stopping in cafes and restaurants for food and drinks, etc. are all par for the course.   There were a large number of teams wearing costumes, making it a much livelier event.

Given the success of this year, the organizers are quite optimistic they may be able to break the 1000 participants figure next year. It only means more funds raised for worthy Tohoku for more years to  come.

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Figure 4. More playgrounds like these will be built thanks to Yamathon.

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Figure 5. J.P. Morgan Lentos II team had hands down the most interesting station photos.