For a long while I’ve been intrigued by a 70 kilometer trail run in the Utsukushigahara highlands in Nagano prefecture. The whole race is run at over 1,500m above sea level. That not only makes for some spectacular views (I may be running above the clouds!), but it also means it will be much cooler up there on August 31st than down here in Kakamigahara.
Only 400 people get to do the full 70K loop around the mountains so I was quick to sign up immediately when registration opened this week. I learned a harsh lesson last year when the Ibigawa Marathon filled up in just 8 hours and I missed out.
One of the attractions of Utsukushigahara, besides the beautiful location, was that only 30% of last year’s competitors finished within the 12-hour time limit. What a challenge! This year, though, the cutoff has been extended to 15 hours after the other 70% understandably complained. I’ll probably be grateful for the additional time when I’m struggling along the course myself this summer.
70K is a long, long way, but I’d rather not think of it in terms of distance. It’s better, and not so daunting (for me anyway) to think in terms of time. While my longest run to date is only 46km (on the roads), I have done some pretty long challenges. Last year’s homemade 113km triathlon in Shizuoka took 12 hours, my 37km run over the Kakamigahara Alps took 10 and a half hours, my first (failed) attempt at the same Alps took 7 hours and a 110km bike ride I did last summer also took 7 hours. By the time this race comes around, I should have another handful of all-day challenges under my belt.
Utsukushigahara will be the first step towards a goal even greater than doing an Ironman. You need to have completed two 70K+ trail races in order to qualify for the UTMF, that’s the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, a mind-blowing 160km run around Japan’s most magnificent mountain. It seems odd planning so far in advance, but at my age, the years are passing quicker and quicker. It doesn’t seem too far fetched to aim for Ironman Hokkaido in 2014 and the UTMF in 2015. After that, maybe I’ll hang up my running shoes and return to a life of beer and computer games!