He was second in the Echigo Country Trail last year and determined to win the colourful race in his home region of Niigata this coming Sunday. Jun Kaise is one of Japan's fastest non-professional trail runners, especially on the medium distance. He proved as much three weeks ago when he won the Kushigata Wind Trail, the shortest race in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series. Not that it was a walk in the park, because no fewer than 2500 metres of elevation gain had to be conquered over a mere 30 km. Perhaps Kaise is not just fast, but also stronger than he thinks. A smile on his face wherever he goes, Jun Kaise will be one to watch this weekend. And possibly for the rest of the season, as another victory means 1000 ATM Championship points, which would put him right up there in the ranking. Let's find out a bit more about the Japanese trail runner!
Q: Where were you born and did you grow up ?
In Minamiuonuma city, in Niigata Prefecture.
Q: What created your interest in running and trail running in particular?
To make use of it for my day to day work. Also, I love mountains.
Q: What do you do for a living?
I am a firefighter, or an emergency medical technician. I need to be in good shape.
Q: What do you like about the Echigo Country Trail?
I very much like to talk with the local people.
Q: What is your ambition for this event?
First and foremost, enjoying the contact with local residents.
Q: Do you prefer the long 100k ultras or shorter trail races like the 52k Echigo?
I am at my best racing around 30 to 50 km.
Q: In your eyes, what is the current state of trail running in Japan?
I am excited about it, and I think that it will be even more exciting in the future.
Q: There have been some set-backs in Japan lately for trail runners, with arguably the biggest event UTMF cancelled this year and still without a confirmed date for 2018. What do you think is the reason?
Because the act of running in the mountains can not get the understanding of some stubborn people.
Q: What do you talk about when you talk about running?
The splendor of mountain scenery.
Q: You won Kushigata Wind Trail two weeks ago, is that race comparable with Echigo? Not so much. In my view, KUSHIGATA needs speed, but Echigo is requires a high degree of toughness.
Q: Have you ever run IZU TRAIL Journey? It is the big final of the ATM Championship this year.
Not yet, but I am looking forward to it.
Q: Is it easy for Japanese runners to travel abroad to other trail races in the Asia Trail Master championship series?
In Japan, there are many people who have difficulty in taking leave from work, and it is difficult to travel for more than just a couple of days. So, it is difficult to go to remote areas of Asia.
Q: How do you see the future development of trail running in Japan?
I think that as the number of competing runners increases, it will become more and more familiar and understood, also for those people who are not runners.
Q: Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognise trail running as a genuine discipline. How's that in Japan?
Unfortunately, in Japan this is also the same situation.
Q: Should trail running become recognised as an olympic sport?
I think it is difficult. Because you can not get the same course, distance and altitude difference every time.
Q: What is your favourite piece of running music?
Japanese pop music.