Lithuania’s Gediminas Grinius and Spain’s Uxue Fraile (post-race interview) outpaced the rest of their respective fields to win 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.
With heavy rain before and during parts of the race, an already challenging course was made more difficult by slippery surfaces and mud. Despite two lower-altitude, weather-induced reroutes, originally thought to make the course faster, finishing times were slower and returning participants unanimously agreed that this year was much more difficult than previous ones. It seems, then, that Uxue and Gediminas used a combination of speed and toughness to finish in front. Since this also was the 10th race in the 11-race Ultra-Trail World Tour, Uxue and Gediminas, who were already high in the rankings, leap to the front of them.
As usual, we’ll be updating this article with additional results as well as links to UTMF-related articles and photo galleries. (Leave a comment if you see great resources out there!)
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2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Men’s Race
France’s Arnaud Lejeune (post-race interview) rocketed off the start. When we saw the leaders for the first time at 11.5 kilometers into the race, he was two minutes ahead of any other runner and 4.5 minutes ahead of the main lead pack. When we saw runners at 31.5k and 46.5k, it was the same story: Arnaud was respectively 4.5 and 5.5 minutes up on any other man.
Nepal’s Sange Sherpa took the bait on Arnaud’s rabbiting, and he ran off the front of the main pack of men and in second until after 31.5k. Beyond there, Sange ran strong and calm all race long, however, he would slip back in the rankings.
After chilling among the main lead pack for the first part of the race, by 31.5k in, Lithuania’s Gediminas Grinius (pre-race interview) had broken off the front of that pack and into the third position. Though he tempered his answers to “How are you feeling?” questions, he looked wicked comfortable from the first time we saw him at 11.5k onward.
Between the 46.5k and 69.6k aid stations, runners travel through the Tenshi Mountains, the race’s most technical and remote section. If you come out looking good on the other side, chances are, you’re going to have a good race. Gediminas came out on fire, and though he was 20 minutes off the lead in third place, it looked like it was a matter of time until he would take over the lead. At the 90.4k aid station, Gediminas arrived nine minutes back of the lead, but left just one minute behind due to a smooth transition. By the 110k aid station, he had vaulted into the lead and gapped the rest of the field by 13 minutes. That number steadily rose for the race’s final 60k until he finished some 75 minutes ahead of everyone else.
Norway’s Didrik Hermansen has proven his talent and potential in shorter ultra distances, and in the first half of the race he looked like he would be a force to be reckoned with in his first 100 miler. However, in the race’s overnight hours, his stomach turned, he spent three hours vomiting, and he was forced to drop at 110k.
After moving back into second position, Arnaud hung onto that spot all the way through the finish. We were told that, a couple kilometers out from the finish, Arnaud was walking, unable to run more than a few meters at a time. Remarkably, he even walked the finishing straight and across the line. Talk about putting it all on the table. His hot pace was risky but ultimately successful.
American Jeff Browning’s (post-race interview) performance was easily the most pleasurable to watch. Jeff spent more than the first 50k outside of the men’s top 10, and he looked super chill there. When we saw him at 69.6k, he’d snuck into the last spot in the men’s top 10. From there, he climbed the proverbial ladder. The only question was how many rungs he’d ascend by the finish. The answer went like this: seventh place at 90.4k, sixth and 110k, fourth at 110k, fourth at 135.5k, third at 141.7k, third at 157k, and third at the finish. His intelligent pacing early allowed him to hammer the race’s final 50k, move into third position, and hold it. For perspective, Jeff was 71 minutes behind eventual second place Arnaud at 110k and just over five minutes at the finish.
Norwegian Sondre Amdahl (pre-race interview) executed a solid race. Early on, he ran with the main lead pack, but between 46.5k and 69.6k, through the Tenshi Mountains, he dropped back a bit. He came out of them in fifth but some 35 minutes back. However, at 110k, he transitioned well and, though he arrived in fifth, he left in third. He ultimately gave up that third position to the hard-charging Jeff Browning in the race’s final bit. Like Arnaud, Sondre looked as if he used everything he had to finish fourth.
Japan’s Masatoshi Obara, who took fifth, executed a race very similar to Jeff’s. We didn’t see him inside the top 10 until 110k and from there he gently moved up positions until the finish.
Japan’s Kazufumi Oose took sixth after running much of the second half of the race in the middle of the top 10. Denmark’s Simon Grimstrup and Sange worked together in the race’s final third, and they crossed the line in a tie for seventh. Ninth and 10th places respectively belong to Keita Kobayashi and Hiroaki Matsunaga, both of Japan.
2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Men’s Results
- 1. Gediminas Grinius (inov-8) — 20:40:58 (pre-race interview)
- 2. Arnaud Lejeune (Hoka One One) — 21:54:51 (post-race interview)
- 3. Jeff Browning (Patagonia) — 22:01:01 (post-race interview)
- 4. Sondre Amdahl (Altra) — 22:51:59 (pre-race interview)
- 5. Masatoshi Obara — 22:55:33
- 6. Kazufumi Oose (Salomon Running) — 23:10:58
- 7. Simon Grimstrup — 23:30:12
- 7. Sange Sherpa — 23:30:12
- 9. Keita Kobayashi (The North Face) — 23:39:25
- 10. Hiroaki Matsunaga (The North Face) — 23:46:06
2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Women’s Race
American Amy Sproston took things out. When we saw her at 11.5k, she led with Spain’s Uxue Fraile (post-race interview) tucked in a couple footsteps behind. The pair had formed a gap from the main pack of almost five minutes. Amy would continue to lead until sometime before the 69.6k aid station in the infamous Tenshi Mountains. It was there that Uxue assumed the lead and held it until the finish.
Uxue said after the race that the green trees, rocks, roots, and mud of the Tenshi Mountains reminded her of her home in Basque Country, so it’s no wonder that she had set a gap of 35 minutes between her and all the other women at 69.6k, after the mountain range. For the next 30k, Uxue expanded her lead to as much as 54 minutes. While that lead would shrink and then grow again to 70 minutes by the finish line, she wasn’t challenged. Her back-to-back second place at UTMB and win here in a four-week span is impressive.
American Aliza Lapierre (pre-race and post-race interviews) spent the first third of the race swapping among the top-four positions. When we encountered her at the 46.4k aid station before the Tenshi Mountains, she said that she miscalculated her nutrition for the previous section, and hadn’t had fuel for 90 minutes. Because of this, when she next headed into the Tenshis, we wondered how she’d come out the other side. Turns out, not too bad. She came out the mountains in fourth and 46 minutes off the lead, but within spitting distance of second and third places.
Second place there, Amy, was suffering sleepiness, so she took her first of three naps between there and the finish. Her sleepiness, probably incited by a head cold, took her out of podium contention. However, relentless forward progress eventually works out for almost everyone, and she crossed the finish in eighth place. At the race’s award ceremony, Amy said that she’d been issued a one-hour penalty for crew violations, which would move her back to 10th place. However, at the time of this publishing, the results still list her in eighth.
Aliza said afterward that her race was a series of wave crests and troughs, and her experience became about managing them. From about 100k to 135.5k and once she’d assumed second position, Aliza must have been cresting a wave because she cut into Uxue’s lead by a couple minutes at each checkpoint. By 135.5k, Aliza had swallowed more than a third of her gap to the lead.
However, from there, she gave time back and was even passed for a time by Spain’s Fernanda Maciel (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Japan’s Kaori Niwa. Fernanda said after the race that the first half was difficult for her, and that in the second half she felt much better. She and Aliza swapped positions over and over, both in the beginning of the race and at the end. Aliza would surge on the runnable sections while Fernanda moved faster in the mountains.
After not seeing each other during the middle of the race and Aliza running some distance in front of Fernanda, Fernanda bridged the gap in the technical terrain between the aid stations at 141.7k and 157k, and put a small gap on Aliza. Fernanda might have been doubly inspired to move here as Kaori was in the middle of a late-race surge, too. In this section, Fernanda moved into second, Kaori third, and Aliza fourth. However, the pavement into the 157k aid station favored Aliza, and she was able to pass Kaori and reconnect with Fernanda. From there, Fernanda and Aliza decided to work together, and would stay as a pair until the finish, where they crossed arm in arm. Kaori rolled across the line a short 5.5 minutes later.
Fifth place was Yukako Takashima, sixth place was Yukari Fukuda, and seventh place was Kiyomi Kuroda, all of Japan. Amy finished in eighth position, but, as previously explained, it remains to be seen if she’ll stay there due to a time penalty. Japan’s Haruka Yamanouchi and Emi Sagawa finished in ninth and 10th positions.
2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Women’s Results
- 1. Uxue Fraile (Vibram) — 25:34:02 (post-race interview)
- 2. Fernanda Maciel (The North Face) — 26:44:25 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- 2. Aliza Lapierre (Salomon Running) — 26:44:25 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- 4. Kaori Niwa (Salomon Running) — 26:52:11
- 5. Yukako Takashima — 27:39:19
- 6. Yukari Fukuda — 29:08:18
- 7. Kiyomi Kuroda — 29:31:19
- 8. Amy Sproston (Montrail) — 29:40:11
- 9. Haruka Yamanouchi — 30:28:02
- 10. Emi Sagawa — 30:47:17
2015 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Articles, Race Reports, and More
Articles and Photo Galleries
- Scott Livingston’s report and photo gallery from crewing wife Debbie Livingston (includes great photos of top runners and culture, and an explanation of Scott’s crewing misadventure)
- Scott Livingston’s photo gallery
- Gediminas Grinius, 1st male
- Jeff Browning, 3rd male
- Debbie Livingston, 16th female
iRunFar’s coverage of UTMF was a result of the dedicated work of a number of volunteers and support staff. Thank you to Rob Krar, Aliza Lapierre’s stepdad Jeff, The North Face San Francisco ladies’ trio, Nakata, and Natsuki for assistance in telling UTMF’s story!