Sato Ogawa and Yoko Kato captured the XTERRA Japan 50K trail run titles on a beautiful blue sky day in the Nikko National Forest on Sunday.
The race is arguably the hardest and most scenic on the entire XTERRA World Tour. Race headquarters is at the Kan Ko So Resort in Marunuma – a hot springs retreat that caters to fisherman during the summer and is completely snowed-in during the winter months.
The course starts at 4,700-feet and climbs up and down a variety of mountain tops and valleys, including Mt. Shirane high atop the Marunuma-Kogen ski area. Its high-point is 8,500-feet and all-told includes nearly 10,000-feet of climbing in dense forest filled with pine, oak, walnut, and aspen trees.
“It’s an insane mountain challenge, and world-class all the way,” said Australian adventure racer Jarad Kohlar. “The amazing part is it’s almost entirely on these perfectly carved out single track trails in the mountainside.”
The winning time for Ogawa, a 36-year-old from Yamanashi who is an elite runner for Salomon, was 6:13:46, more than 45-minutes ahead of the runner-up Makoto Kurosawa. Kato, who is 50-years-young and perpetually wins the grueling long-distance XTERRA Japan trail runs, won the women’s title in 8:45:05.
Only a quarter of the nearly 200 runners who took part in the 50K made the time cut-off, with many of those coming in more than 10 hours after the 6:30am start. Runners who didn’t make the cut were re-routed to a 30K course.
There was also a “Light” 15K run, won by Kentaro Hashimoto (1:24:44) and Ayako Shirato (1:51:06). Shirato is the wife of event organizer and Japan triathlon legend Taro Shirato – who also produces the Ironman Japan race in Hokkaido (this weekend).