AOMORI, Japan (Kyodo) -- A 1,000-kilometer road relay between Aomori Prefecture and Tokyo began Wednesday in support of northeastern Japan's continuing recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters.
Some 1,400 runners and cyclists launched the "Road to Tomorrow" relay in Aomori with the goal of crossing the finish line at Tokyo's Komazawa Olympic Park two weeks from now on Aug. 7. The host nation marked one year to go until the 2020 Summer Games on the same day.
The relay, part of the organizing committee's ongoing efforts to brand the Tokyo Games as a "Reconstruction Olympics," was launched with the help of the Tokyo metropolitan government. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike attended the starting ceremony and took part in pre-race calisthenics with local participants.
The course runs along Japan's Pacific coast, where damage from the 2011 tsunami was the heaviest, passing through the six prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Chiba before finishing in the capital.
Naoko Takahashi, who won gold in the women's marathon at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, was among the runners in the first leg of the relay.
"I want us all to feel as one, and pass (our sashes) with smiles on our faces," Takahashi said.
Olympic medalists Nobuharu Asahara and Yuko Arimori will also join as guest runners at some point.