By Anbi Yamamoto
“Ganbare Ganbare!” Women are cheering on the athletes. Athletes are on their last 10km run. They run beside the magnificent sea. Surrounded by majestic nature, the athletes can hear the sound of their heart beating and the beating heart of Muroto.
Every year since 2015, about 300 triathletes gather at Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark. It has become one big event in Muroto, Kochi and was chosen for the Lumina Best Race in 2019, a triathlon magazine in Japan. However, sadly the 2020 competition was canceled due to the Covid19 pandemic. Moreover, it had to cancel the competition two years ago due to a typhoon. Muroto Geopark Triathlon is relatively new and unfortunately it is facing financial difficulties said the competition organizer Mr. Takeda. He also belongs to the Muroto chamber of commerce.
“It is not easy for us to hold the competition. Even right from the beginning,” Mr. Takeda laughed.
Triathlon is a relatively new sport. The first race was held in America in1974 and it was added to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Because it is a new sport, many local people in Muroto don’t really know anything about this sport.
“It is difficult to gather volunteers to help us,” Mr. Takeda commented. “Every year we have been struggling to find local volunteers”
At the first competition there were many who volunteered but every year the number has been decreasing so he asked me if there is some kind of solution to this problem.
He is also concerned about how we can contribute to the community of Muroto. Most importantly how locals can enjoy and be part of the competition. Muroto Geopark Triathlon is facing challenges but Muroto City is also in a challenging decade now.
Muroto Geo Park triathlon is held in the South East part in Kochi Prefecture called Muroto City. In 1959, this city was merged with five towns and villages: Sakihama-town, Murotomisaki-town, Muroto-town, Kiragawa-town, and Hane-village. At this time, the population of this city was 33,109. But by 2015 the population had decreased to 14,723 and is still now decreasing. In half a century, the population has decreased in half. There are many reasons to consider but mainly because of the young generation leaving local areas to work in the city.
However, in 2015 when the event, “Kochi Family and the Whole Eastern Expo” was held in the eastern part of Kochi Prefecture, they took this chance and this was the beginning of the Muroto Geopark Triathlon. They wanted the participants to feel the majestic nature, local products and the warmth of locals living there. They hoped participants would become fans of Muroto after they leave. Even though the competition has only been held four times, there are so many people who participated in these competitions that love the Muroto Geopark Triathlon.
“I remember this triathlon competition being really tough,” said a man who has competed in the first five of the triathlons. “Especially the up and down of the bike course. But because of this tough course we were able to talk about the memories of this competition with our triathlon mates.”
He intends to participate again if he gets the chance.
“Tough courses make better memories,” he added.
We hope the next competition will be this year 2021. Even though facing many difficulties the organizers are always looking for the next stage. Their next hope is to be registered with the JTU (Japan Triathlon Union) official national tournament.
“We don’t know what will happen, ” says Mr. Takeda, “but we just have to give it a try.”