On a cold March night, Kansei University senior Haiji Kiyose encounters Kakeru Kurahara out for a run. When in high school, Kakeru had dominated the interscholastic long-distance races he entered, and Haiji, who was also a runner in high school, is drawn instantly to the rare beauty and power of his running form. Haiji persuades Kakeru to move into his apartment house, Chikuseiso. Although he had to give up running some time ago due to injury, Haiji has been aching to return, dreaming in particular of running in the Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip Ekiden Relay, the pinnacle of college-level long-distance racing, held annually on January 2 and 3. He has just one year left to make his dream come true. Meeting Kakeru spurs him to action.
An ekiden team has ten members, and there are ten tenants at Chikuseiso. Among them is a 25-year-old heavy smoker and an utterly nonathletic manga nut. But Haiji decides they make a team, and begins applying carrots and sticks, threats and sweet-talk, to prod them all into shape. Though they follow his direction only halfheartedly at first, the competitive spirit gradually takes hold and they fall fully in step. They train daily, go through an intensive summer training camp, and enter a preliminary race. A city marathon then offers them a chance to test their growing strength. There are obstacles along the way as well?Kakeru's past and his misperceptions; the others coming up against their own physical or psychological limits?but in the end the humble team of ten from Chikuseiso joins the race alongside the best of the powerhouse college teams . . .