This Sunday the Asia Trail Master Championship series touch base in Japan again for the Hakuba International Trails, a new entry in our series after being a successful Candidate Race last season. Hakuba is close to former Olympic Winter Games host Nagano and takes place in and around a famous ski resort. It is a very popular race of 53 km with a good mix of runable and technical terrain - almost typical Japanese - and in the trend of Echigo in June, it is an event that is about more than just running.
The 53 km race is the main event and has attracted nearly 900 runners of the 2000 event participants in total. There's also a medium and short distance race on the programme catering for beginning trail runners or athletes from other sports disciplines. Among the latter are even some olympians! Daichi Suzuki was a gold medalist swimmer at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. He is now the Director General of Ministry of Sport in Japan, and he will be having his first trail experience ever! In addition, nordic skier Akito Watabe, who scored silver in this year's Olympic Winter Games in Pyeungchang. And also Aiko Uemera, a four-time olympian in mogul skiing.
This being the first time in the area, we will get to know a lot of new names this weekend. Tokyo's Tomohiro Mizukoshi and Niigata's Jun Kaise on the other hand are already established runners in our series. Jun Kaise is the double winner of Kushigata Wind Trail (2017 and 2018) and also a third-place finisher in Echigo Country Trail last season. Tomohiro Mizukoshi, of course, is the current number three in the Asia Trail Master Championship, having led the standings for a short while a few months ago. He has been running mainly in South East Asia and was second in Magnificent Merapoh Trail 100 only a month ago.
In the women's we will be paying attention to the performance of France's Carole Fuchs, winner of Cordillera. Mountain Ultra in March, and 2nd in Echigo three months ago after climbing Mount Everest. Can Fuchs - back in training since weeks - take a win in Japan? If she does, she also becomes a serious contender for the Championship later in the year.
We will be reporting live from the action at Hakuba Trails via our usual social media channels.