2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Preview

Ultra-Trail Mount FujiA strong field of 100-mile mountain experts is assembling in Japan to take on the 2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, a 105-mile (169k) loop around Mount Fuji that features more than 27,000 feet (about 8,300 meters) of gain.

Changes are abound to the race this year, which serves as the 10th event in the 2015 Ultra-Trail World Tour. Previously held in spring, the race has been moved to September this The North Face logoyear for several environmental concerns. Also, the race will travel in the counterclockwise direction, which interestingly puts the race’s hardest terrain in the first half.

The Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji kicks off at 1 p.m. local time this Friday, which is 10 p.m. Thursday night MDT in the U.S. Of course we will be there, providing live coverage of this year’s event.

iRunFar’s coverage of Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji is brought to you by The North Face. Thank you, The North Face!

2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Women’s Preview

Dong Li

Dong Li

Dong Li (China) has had a heckuva year. If I were her, I might be sitting on my couch with my feet up. After a couple years of trail running success in her home country, she has exploded onto the international scene in 2015 with a second at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, second the MSIG Sai Kung 50k, third at Transgrancanaria (interview), a win at The North Face 100k – Australia (interview), and a fourth place at the Mont Blanc 80k. She sits at the top of the Ultra-Trail World Tour rankings, so I’m guessing her big motivation for being her is to maintain that spot. I *think* this might be her 100-mile debut.

Uxue Fraile (Spain) just raced to second place at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (interview) four weeks ago, via a tempered, smart race from start to finish. There’s no way she’s recovered, is she? Even so, she should still be in the mix. Before UTMB this year, she ran to sixth place at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships and fourth place at the 2015 Eiger Ultra Trail. She’s in ninth in the UTWT but with only two of three races in that points total. She stands to move way up in the rankings with a strong run around Mount Fuji.

Fernanda Maciel - 2014 UTMF

Fernanda Maciel

Like a number of women men in this preview, Fernanda Maciel (interview) (Brazil) dropped from UTMB. However, she ran and hobbled about 77 miles of the course before doing so with foot pain and other physical maladies, so she’s probably not fully recovered, either. She’s UTMF’s highest-placing returner, having taken second place not far behind winner Núria Picas last year (interview). Before UTMB this year, she finished third at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

Aliza Lapierre (interview) (USA) is a runner who goes about her business, kicks butt, and does so quietly and without much fanfare. So far in 2015, among other races, she’s won the Bandera 100k, finished eighth at Transgrancanaria, and fourth at Western States. She’s here hunting for Ultra-Trail World Tour points, I’m sure, as she sits poised to move up from 11th place with just two races run it it so far. Sitting here in late September, she just might have the freshest legs amongst this group of top women.

Amy Sproston - 2015 TNF100-Australia

Amy Sproston

Amy Sproston (USA) is using this as her UTMB DNF revenge run. At UTMB, her stomach went south early and she wasn’t able to salvage her race, though she tried hard to. This means that she ran 100k four weeks ago, which also means that she’s probably right on the cusp of being recovered again. Among Amy’s 2015 performances are a win of the HURT 100 Mile and a second place behind winner Dong Li at The North Face 100k – Australia (interview). Amy has raced several times in Japan, including winning the 2014 Hasetsune Cup, so this sort of racing scene is familiar for her.

Shona Stephenson (Australia) was second and sixth respectively at the 2013 and 2014 editions of UTMF. So far this year, she’s run to sixth at the Tarawera Ultra and third at The North Face 100k – Australia behind winner Dong Li and second place Amy Sproston.

More Women to Watch

  • Christina Bauer (USA) – Most of our community knows Christina as Rob Krar’s wife, but she holds her own just fine in U.S. shorter-distance trail races. She took second at the 2014 Flagstaff Sky Race and eighth at the 2015 Moab Red Hot 33k, an American early season barn burner. I think she’s run just one 100 miler so far, a ninth place and just squeaking under 30 hours at the 2013 Wasatch 100 Mile.
  • Yukari Fukuda (Japan) – 5th HURT 100 Mile behind winner Amy Sproston and third place Kiyomi Kuroda, 12th UTMF 2014, 2nd Hasetsune Cup 2014 behind winner Amy Sproston
  • Shun Hu (China) – 9th Mont Blanc 80k 2015
  • Kiyomi Kuroda (Japan) – 3rd HURT 100 Mile 2015 behind winner Amy Sproston, 9th UTMF 2014
  • Deb Livingston (USA) – 4th Miwok 100k 2015
  • Marie McNaughton (New Zealand) – 4th Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2015 behind second place Dong Li, 8th Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2015
  • Yukari Nishida (Japan) – 7th UTMF 2014
  • Kaori Niwa (Japan) – 8th Transvulcania 2015, 8th UTMF 2014
  • Hitomi Ogawa (Japan) – Winner Ontake 100k Ultra Trail 2015, 2nd Gasando Trail Running Race 2015 behind winner Yukako Takashima, 3rd UTMF 2013
  • Nampetch Porntharukcharoen (Thailand) – 2nd The North Face 100k – Thailand 2015
  • Xing Ruling (China) – Winner The North Face 100k – China 2015 but has been racing ultras for years and is an icon for Asian women’s ultrarunning.
  • Nora Senn (Switzerland) – Strong performances through 2014, especially in long and steep ultras, but it looks like she’s been taking it easy competitively this year.
  • Yukako Takashima (Japan) – Winner Gasando Trail Running Race 2015

2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Men’s Preview

Yan Long-Fei - 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Champ

Yan Long Fei

Like his female countrymate Dong Li, Yan Long-Fei (China) has already had a big 2015, including a win of the Vibram Hong Kong 100k (interview), second at the MSIG Sai Kung 50k, a win of The North Face 50k – China, and a fourth at The North Face 100k – Australia. Dude’s got wheels, having run at least 2:15 in the marathon, so he’ll probably roll away from the field in the road sections. Since this course is peppered with alternating road and mountain bits, it’ll be fascinating to see what happens to him in the mountains, too. Also like his countrymate Dong Li, I *think* this is his 100-mile debut. [Update, September 22, 5 p.m.] Yan Long-Fei isn’t racing.

Didrik Hermansen (Norway) has supernova-ed the international ultra scene this year, after a few years of running well at the national level. This year, Didrick has finished second at Transgrancanaria, taken 10th at the IAU Trail World Championships, won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail (interview), and took third at the UltraVasan 90k. Didrik sits in sixth with just two races out of three that are scorable in the Ultra-Trail World Tour. A strong performance here and he can move into the tour’s money positions.

After a strong start to 2015 which included a win of Transgrancanaria ahead of second place Didrik Hermansen and fourth place Sondre Amdahl, 14th at the IAU Trail World Championships, and fourth at Western States, Gediminas Grinius (Lithuania) suffered big time at UTMB four weeks ago. He dropped at mile 93, ouch. Was that off performance a fluke or is the guy tired from a big year of racing already? In any case, he can’t possibly be recovered from his almost-100 miler less than a month ago. He’s in seventh in the Ultra-Trail World Tour, just behind Didrik with two races scored out of three. If he can put together a good race here, he, too, can move up in the UTWT rankings.

Jeff Browning

Jeff Browning

Jeff Browning (USA) took a big hit at UTMB a month ago, where he DNFed for the first time in his long ultra career after about 50 miles due to rolling an ankle early and being reduced to a hobble. The good news is, he put less than 50 miles on his legs four weeks ago. His legs could be in just the right spot for racing this weekend, and let’s hope his ankle is, too. Before UTMB in 2015, Jeff also went seventh at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k and won the Ultra Fiord 100 Miler in Patagonia.

Sondre Amdahl (interview) (Norway) was also a drop from UTMB in late August. He suffered early onset hamstring pain and stopped at the 50k point. Like Jeff Browning, he’s hopefully healed and will be running on a pair of fresh-ish legs as a result of his early DNF. Like many of the top dudes here, Sondre has raced a lot in 2015, including a second place at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k (interview) behind winner Yan Long-Fei, fourth at Transgrancanaria behind winner Gediminas Grinius and second place Didrik Hermansen, and 15th at Western States. Sondre is third in the Ultra-Trail World Tour rankings, so he’s probably here in part to try and maintain that spot.

Gary Robbins - 2015 Wonderland Trail FKT sq

Gary Robbins

Gary Robbins’s (Canada) new baby will be about five weeks old on game day, so he’s going to win the award for most exhausted runner on the start line. Earlier this summer, he set a new FKT on Washington State’s Wonderland Trail in clockwork fashion (interview). He should still be fit, and while his legs could be fresh from running a bit less during the first month of his baby’s life, there’s just no way his energy systems will be. Gary was a DNF here last year but was fourth in the 2013 edition. Earlier this year, he ran to fourth at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k ahead of seventh place Jeff Browning.

Brendan Davies (Australia) was sixth here last year, but, like so many in this preview, he’s not coming in fresh after having just raced to a 19th place 6:56 at the IAU 100k World Championships two weeks ago. This, I think, equaled his 100k PR and means he’s got a good pair of road-running legs right now. In the mountain-y ultras of 2015, we’ve not yet watched Brendan race to his potential with his non-competitive finishes of Transgrancanaria, The North Face 100k – Australia, and Western States. I’m not sure what all this means for Brendan this weekend?

More Men to Watch

  • Silvino Cubesare (Mexico) – 2nd Ultramarathon Caballo Blanco 2014, Tarahumara from Mexico’s Copper Canyon, relative of the more well known Arnulfo Quimare
  • John Ellis (Australia) – 3rd The North Face 100k – Australia 2014
  • Tomokazu Ihara (Japan) – 4th HURT 100 Mile 2015
  • Sim Jae Duk (Korea) – 2nd Tokyo Shibamata 100k 2013, has been at the front of Asian ultrarunning for a long time
  • Keita Kobayashi (Japan) – 8th UTMF 2014
  • Arnaud Lejeune (France) – 9th UTMB 2013
  • Jason Loutitt (Canada) – Just raced off his potential at the IAU 100k World Championships two weeks ago while coming back from injury, 4th 2014 Chuckanut 50k
  • Sébastien Nain (France) – 13th TDS 2014
  • Tetsuaki Nomoto (Japan) – 7th UTMB 2014
  • Masatoshi Obara (Japan) -– Winner Gasando Trail Running Race 2015
  • Sota Ogawa (Japan) -– 9th MSIG Sai Kung 50k2015 , 5th Hasetsune Cup 2014
  • Tomonori Onitsuka (Japan) – 2nd Ontake 100k Ultra Trail 2015
  • Kazufumi Oose (Japan) – 11th Hong Kong 100k 2015, 10th MSIG Sai Kung 50k 2015
  • Arnulfo Quimare (Mexic0) – 4th Coldwater Rumble 50 Mile 2015, Tarahumara and character in Born to Run book
  • Daniel Rowland (Zimbabwe) – Winner Jungle Ultra Stage Race 2014 [Update September 23, 8 a.m.] Daniel Rowland isn’t racing.
  • Sange Sherpa (Nepal) – 4th Eiger Uiger Ultra Trail 2015
  • Takuya Yamada (Japan) – 2nd Shinetsu Five Mountains Trail 110k 2014
  • Koji Yamaya (Japan) – 10th Vibram Hong Kong 100k 2015, 8th UTMF 2013

On Entrants List but Not Racing

  • Jez Bragg
  • Rob Krar – He’s not ready to race again after the back injury that made him drop from TransRockies and not start UTMB. He is here in Japan, though, to crew his wife Christina.

Call for Comments

  • Who’s got this one in the women’s field? In the men’s?
  • Who do you think should be on this list and why? Let us know!
  • Who is primed to surprise us with a breakout performance?
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 4 comments

  1. Coach_Al

    Hi Meghan, as her coach, I can attest to the fact that Deb is coming into UTMF with tremendous fitness and great preparation. She not only was 4th at Miwok (a very early season race to test fitness), but also won the Speedgoat Overall Classification with 3 days of hard racing resulting in a win in the Quadbanger, 5th in the Vertical mile, and 20th in the 50k. She's got many wins on her resume including Grindstone 100 and others. She's definitely ready to rock. :)

    1. Andy

      Hear hear! All of the Shenipsit Striders and the rest of us here in CT and the New England trail running world are pulling for you. Go get it Deb!

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