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.