Mizukoshi aiming for ATM points lead at Echigo!
The 3rd edition of Echigo Country Trail will see close to a thousand runners strike down in the Oguni Forest Reserve of Nagaoka in Japan’s countryside. This is one of the most colourful events in our series, thanks to the overwhelming hospitality of the local people, and the expert organisation and direction by local professional runner Hiroaki Matsunaga. On Sunday, there’s again a 52 km race on the menu: runable for the most part, but with some very technical hills nonetheless to break the rhythm and test runners’ resilience.
As this is a race in Japan, obviously Japanese runners are top favourite to score the podium spots. But one woman could actually upset the natural order of things. Thailand-based Carole Fuchs from France will be doing her second ATM points race of the season, and after her demonstration during the Cordillera Mountain Ultra in Philippines last March it is hard not to see her at least on the podium on Sunday. One thing that could of course hamper Fuchs this weekend is that she hasn’t done much specific running training since CMU. Instead, she - successfully - climbed Mount Everest! Japan’s Tomoko Ueno was 4th last year in this race, can she improve this season to grab a top three?
In the men’s, we can expect anything to happen. Jun Kaise is always a favourite on home soil in this part of Japan, Niigata. A few weeks ago, the sympathetic firefighter again won the short an crispy Kushigata Wind Trail. Clearly in shape, can he do better than his third place in Echigo from last year. Jun Kaise was also the best ranked Japanese runner in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship.
Speaking of which, another Japanese runner can propel himself into the top spot of this year’s ATM championship! Tomohiro Mizukoshi from Tokyo has been a very busy bee traveling and racing in Malaysia and South Korea as well as Kushigata. Mizukoshi is third in the standings with 1510 points now with four race results in bag already. Echigo will be his fifth race and he will be the first of the top male runners to reach the fifth level. He needs 265 points to overtake points leader Pablo Diago Gonzales, which corresponds to a place in the top 14 on Sunday. If Mizukoshi succeeds, it would be the first time a Japanese runner is on top of the ATM championship ranking.
For the race win, Mizukoshi - a good road runner as he showed during Penang Eco 100 - will be up against other big names in Japan such as Sota Ogawa and Kazufumi Ose. Ogawa had a DNF in Penang due to heat and stomach issues, and will be keen to set something straight this weekend. Ogawa has also planned Mantra Summits Challenge next month and wants to compete for the championship. Kazufumi Ose already has 500 championship points in the bag this season: he was second in the 50/50 of The 9 Dragons in Hong Kong last February.
As usual, we will be reporting live on our social media channels from Nagaoka and the Echigo Country Trail.
You can also follow action here with a webcam: