Posts tagged echigo
Echigo: Kota Araki unstoppable as Mizukoshi grabs ATM lead

The 3rd edition of the Echigo Country Trail in Nagaoka, Niigata, was the most successful to date with around 1000 runners who traveled to the traditional countryside of Japan, roughly 2,5 hours northwest of Tokyo by shinkansen bullet train. In beautiful weather, Kota Araki once again proved to be one of his country's best trail runners with an outstanding race victory in the men's 53 km. Half a year ago, Araki also won the Izu Trail Journey. He finished in 4:46 - a new course record - and over fifteen minutes ahead of Sota Ogawa, who in so doing collected his first ATM championship points after the DNF at Penang Eco 100. Ogawa ran a strong race on the generally runable course, although he prefers it rough and tough. He concluded in 5h02, and was able to hold off Kenichi Kawano and Tsutomu Nagata. Seven minutes later, Kazufumi Ose arrived in fifth place. Earlier this season, Ose was second in the 9 Dragons 50/50 in Hong Kong. 

Another sixteen minutes later, in 6th, came Tomohiro Mizukoshi. His assignment was clear at the start: finish in the top 14 to claim the points lead in the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship. He did it in style and therefore is the first ever Japanese runner to be on number 1 on our championship ranking. Mizukoshi wouldn't be Mizukoshi if he hadn't grabbed the bull by the horns in the race, of course. Just like in Penang Eco, he started fast and mixed with the naturally faster-paced runners ahead of him. A courageous strategy, but he pulled it off. There's a gap of four weeks till the next points race in the ATM Championship - Mantra Summits Challenge in Indonesia on 14/15 July - so at least until then Tomohiro Mizukoshi can call himself the ATM Championship leader! 

The women's race also produced an amazing result as 47-year-old Yukako Takashima took the victory in 6:16. An impressive feat as in second place was nobody else than France's Carole Fuchs in 6:52, winner of the Cordillera Mountain Ultra and several other races outside the ATM circuit. Fuchs, of course, had just returned from a mountaineering expedition and a successful ascent of Mount Everest. It is normal she is not at her best level right now, yet let's not take anything away from Takashima's win neither. The podium was completed by Mayumi Kobayashi.

Kirk Kenny's highly-anticipated photo album of the Echigo event weekend will be made available on our facebook page later this week.  

With Ultra Trail Mount Damavand (postponed to August 2019) and Tam Dao Mountain Trail (postponed to later date) not taking place this month, the ATM Championship is taking a one-month-break now until the Mantra Summits Challenge in Malang, East Java, Indonesia on 14/15 July. That one promises to be another cracker with a very technical mountain course of 75 km and 5500 hm. 

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The women's podium this year

The women's podium this year

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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? 

Back from Mount Everest: Carole Fuchs

Back from Mount Everest: Carole Fuchs

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:

Sota Ogawa and Tomohiro Mizukoshi finds themselves together again this weekend

Sota Ogawa and Tomohiro Mizukoshi finds themselves together again this weekend

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Echigo Country Trail opens registration

The 2018 Echigo Country Trail has opened registration for the 3rd edition on Sunday, 17 June. The colourful event in Japan's countryside of Niigata, Northwest of Tokyo, will have a slightly beefed up main race. Total length is now 56 km with elevation gain still just above the 2000 hm mark. 

As usual, the event receives full support from the local communities around Oguni Forest Park and Nagaoka City. All participants are invited to take part in the welcoming party on Saturday afternoon, and enjoy dinner with local delicacies, music and dance. It is also possible to stay overnight in traditional Japanese homestays. 

You can access Nagaoka easily via Shinkansen from Tokyo. Or you can fly to Niigata direct from a few Asian destinations. 

Apart from the 56 km main race, shorter distances are also available. However, only the 56 k qualifies for points in the Asia Trail Master championship. 

International registration, click here

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Okunomiya wins a fast Echigo Country Trail

Pre-race top favourite Shunsuke Okunomiya won a fast edition of the Echigo Country Trail 52k in just under five hours. The celebrated Japanese runner was pushed forward all the way, though, by his compatriot Hayato Kimura. Kimura was never far behind and took second place just five minutes behind Okunomiya. Niigata's Jun Kaise came back from a modest start to take third place, and after winning Kushigata Wind Trail three weeks ago is now the top Japanese runner in the ATM championship. Kazuyuki Takahashi was a solid fourth place, and Kobe's Yuta Matsuyama completed the top 5. In the women's race, Kayo Siimbo led from start to finish. 

The race was held in good weather conditions with rather cool temperatures at the start. Nevertheless, the 2000 metres of elevation gain are  treacherous, as several forest climbs are so steep ropes are required to reach the top. As a result, there were again a considerable number of DNFs as the cut off time proved rather tight. 

A photo album of the event can be found on our facebook page

Echigo Country Trail - Run through traditional Japan

THe Echigo Country Trail has established itself as one of those unique races on the Asia Trail Master calendar. Not necessarily because of the race course or distance (52 km, 2000 hm), but because of the warm and jolly atmosphere during the event. Festivities already begin this afternoon at race pack collection and are followed by an organised dinner at Oguni Forest Park, close to Nagaoka in Niigata. That is the west coast of Japan's main island and north of the Japanese Alps. Local communities are delighted to have the race and come out to cheer for the runners, as if it were a road marathon. The race tomorrow morning itself promises to be a good one as well again, with several top Japanese runners present, mixed with motivated international runners. Jun Kaise, second last year and recently winner of the Kushigata Wind Trail is a favourite, along with Shunsuke Okunomiya.

Our team is present at the Echigo Country Trail and as usual will be reporting live, signal permitting. Follow the action on our social media channels. 

Japanese trail running is gradually becoming more accessible for international runners with also the IZU Trail Challenge coming up as the Asia Trail Master final and Japanese SuperTrail later in December.  Registration for the Izu Trail is now open but remember only until the end of this month! It is one of the biggest races in Japan and fills up very quickly. 

Lots of green around the course of Echigo

Lots of green around the course of Echigo

Echigo Country Trail 2017 opens registration

The 2017 edition of the Echigo Country Trail in Oguni Forest Park, near Nagaoka in Niigata, Japan, takes place on the weekend of 17 and 18 June. This colourful race counts 53 kilometers and a substantial 2500 metres of elevation gain that are often quite steep as well. The entire event receives the kind support of the local communities in this countryside area of Japan that international runners otherwise seldom get to experience. The local online registration has already opened and there is also the possibility for international runners to register using PayPal. 

Registration via Japanese site (PayPal payment) 

You can check our Tale of the Trail on our cover page, and you can watch the below video to get an idea of what this colourful Japanese race is all about. There's a substantial part of road in the 53 km as well, but the experienced organiser Hiroaki Matsunaga has announced his intention to reduce the stretches of tarmac and use as much trail and offroad as possible to connect between villages. As such, the total race distance and course map may still be altered somewhat come next spring. 

Race preview - Echigo Country Trail opens ATMs in Japan

This weekend marks the beginning of the Asia Trail Master series in Japan, the country that has embraced the sport of distance running perhaps more than any other Asian country since decades. The Echigo Country Trail in the Oguni and Ojiya Nature areas close to Nagaoka in Niigata promises a great weekend out and a race that fits the time of year just before the real heat of summer kicks in. The event is very welcoming to international runners, which due to language barriers is unfortunately not always the case in Japan. As such, the Echigo Country Trail will provide runners from all over Asia a great opportunity to get a first hand experience of trail running in Japan.  

The 52k race course will lead participants through Echigo, Oguni and Ojiya counties on authentic local mountain trails.  Total elevation gain is respectable, yet not excessive with 2000 hm. The race is set to commence at 6 a.m. and the cut off time is 10 hours later. 

The event is organised by Hiroaki Matsunage, who has been a very familiar face on the Japanese trail running circuit for years. Exploiting his own extensive international running experience, Matsunage established the Echigo Country Trail last year in a shorter version, and has now beefed it up to a genuine long distance trail course with the support of the local authorities in Niigata. 

One of the race favourites for sure is Shunsuke Okunomiya. Winner of the Hasetsune Cup, a popular race with tradition in Japan, the 37-year-old has made it in the top 15 of UTWT races amongst the very elite. 

Shunsuke Okunomiya

Shunsuke Okunomiya

"At Echigo there will be many famous and strong runners at the start line. So I have been quite excited for this race for some time already," says Okunomiya. "It will actually also be my first time running in this specific area, so I will be using all my five senses and have fun for sure. This race is also my first race in which I can score points for the Asia Trail Master championship. To be honest I had not yet heard about it, as this will be the first time points can be scored in Japan. Let's see if I could in the future target more races and aim for a high ranking at the end of the year. For sure I hope that Echigo will be joined by other Japanese events in the Asia Trail Master series. I want more international runners to come to Japan and enjoy our great trails and natural scenery." 

The Echigo Country Trail will be run on Sunday morning, but the event already begins a day earlier in the afternoon with a local fair and opening ceremony with dinner. As such, the event is about much more than just running, and is set up as a genuine cultural community event. 

As usual, we will be reporting live from the event on Saturday afternoon and Sunday throughout the race, subject to mobile connectivity, via our standard social media channels. 


A very authentic course map for the 52k race

A very authentic course map for the 52k race