It is 14h59, Sunday, May 20th, in Oike Park, by the peaceful shores of lake Kawaguchi. As the award ceremony reaches its end, Seiji Okamato and Ryu Kodama, the last two runners, cross the finish line hand-in-hand to a huge round of applause and are welcomed onto the stage by both the organizing committee and the winners of the races. Seiji Okamato proudly shows a bag full of trash he picked up on the trail and carried all the way.
High spirit of Trail Running
Even though there was a huge gap between the 18h 53 min it took race winner Julien Chorier (FR) and the 48 hours the last runners needed to run around the Mount Fuji volcano, the trail running spirit was in full force for this first edition of The Mount Fuji Ultra Trail. A strong spirit of commitment, will power and solidarity was present in each runner's mind, whatever their level. For each of them, finishing the race was a sort of personal Holy Grail.
Tsuyoshi Kaburaki and the crew of organizers and volunteers can be proud of their event, which was no small task to set up and manage. Last year's race was cancelled, and this year the race had to be modified in the last weeks, as some of the areas were not authorized by the national park. As with every new event, there were some points to improve for next year, but the most important elements were covered, resulting in a successful first race with a lot of energy and emotions.
None of the participating runners will soon forget the experience of running around beautiful Mount Fuji area. Thanks to excellent weather conditions, the views of the mountain were magnificent and Saturday's red sunset, followed by Sunday's deep-blue sunrise, were great moments of harmony with nature.
A very engaged section on the race
As expected, the last quarter of the race turned out to be the crux. From check points A8 to A9, the distance didn't mean much compared to the 20 or so successive steep climbs and descents. This particular section reinforced the notion of self-sufficiency required on such a race -- on it, runners followed a ridge, with certain very steep portions equipped with fixed ropes. For many experienced racers, this terrain was a real surprise and they spent much more time than expected on this portion of trail. Michel Poletti, organizer of The North Face® UltraTrail of Mont Blanc® and experienced ultra-runner, admits that it took him more than nine hours to link the two checkpoints separated by "only" 27 km.
At the lead of the race, after running with Julien Chorier until check point A4, Adam Campbell (CAN) took the lead for a few minutes. But the French runner soon caught up and passed Campbell again. Julien then passed A8 with a six-minute lead. On the section that followed, he was able to not only to maintain the lead, but to still gain precious minutes through the toughest section. He then ran alone to the finish line. Adam Campbell, who, impressively, was running in his first Ultra, proudly claimed the second-place step on the podium. Hiroki Ishikawa was in the running for 3rd place until he literally collapsed due stomach pain at check point A6 and was forced to abandon the race. The battle for third place was intense, until Kenichi Yamamoto, a Mont Fuji local, was able to set his pace and grab a spot on the podium.
Saturday morning at 10h00, the STY (82km) race is launched on the second half of the UTMF trail and brings in some fresh power. Although dealing with hip injuries, Fernanda Maciel chose to run the shorter race and brilliantly took first in the STY. After the second night fell on the race, the time gate of A8 closed at 20h00. Numerous men and women were still engaged in the most technical section and progressed in silence, guided only by their headlamps.
During the race, the two Petzl Headlamp aid stations at A3 and A8 turned out to be very useful. Employees of Japanese distributor, Alteria, replaced several lamps that were out of order and offered fresh batteries for maximum of visibility on the trails. Several runners were able to run with NAO demo lights and were very satisfied with the 350 lumens of intelligent light that they wore on their heads.
UTMF 156 km Men
- 1 Julien Chorier 18:53:12
- 2 Adam Campbell 19:26:29 NAO runner
- 3 Kenichi Yamamoto 21:15:02
- 4 Shogo Mochizuki 21:54:56 NAO runner
- 5 Minehiro Yokoyama 22:33:48 NAO runner
- 6 Koji Yamaya 22:37:30
- 7 Shunsuke Okunomiya 22:48:23 NAO runner
- 8 Katsutoshi Saijo 22:57:43 NAO runner
UTMF 156 km Women
- 1 Nerea Martinez Urruzola 24:05:04
- 2 Hiroko Suzuki 27:16:32
- 3 Nora Senn 28:31:57
- 4 Yukari Nishida 29:03:31
- 5 Hitomi Ogawa 29:39:34
- 6 Akemi Ban 30:12:10
STY 82 km Men
- 1 Toru Miyahara 8:48:30 NAO runner
- 2 Osamu Misaitu 9:00:24
- 3 Yoshihito Kondo 9:33:39
- 4 Jeremy Ritcey 9:44:46
- 5 Hideto Sato 10:07:33
- 6 Hiroyuki Okochi 10:16:02 NAO runner and Alteria employee
- 7 Noriaki Yokouchi 10:24:42
- 8 Tetsuo Watanabe 10:36:11
STY 82 km Women
- 1 Fernanda Maciel 11:08:12
- 2 Kumiko Amikura 12:32:30
- 3 Tomomi Kobayashi 13:02:37
- 4 Yuri Kanbara 13:23:52
- 5 Shiho Hironaka 14:10:53
- 6 Rei Hokari 14:18:18