In Japanese healing and martial arts, the word ‘Hara‘ refers to the abdominal power centre – in typical Japanese appreciation of a world in dynamic balance this is both a place of great softness, which exposes the vital organs when open, and a place of deep strength, from which great physical and spiritual efforts originate.
So it is appropriate that the winner of Japan’s newborn but iconic 100-miler, Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji, over the weekend was none other than homegrown hero Mr. Yoshikazu Hara. Even as one of Japan’s top road runners – a blazing 6:33 for 100km – Hara even flew under Japanese radar prior to UTMF, without any prediction of his success. This is unsurprising, as road speed frequently does not translate to trail dominance. Australia (and Inov8‘s) own Brendan Davies has himself bucked this trend, devoting himself to building an impressive array of trail skills and showing the results for it last year, recording a sub-7-hour 100km in the World Championships just months before smashing an already exceptional Great North Walk 174km/100+ miler course record by close to 2 1/2 hours.
To get a sense of how tough the Fuji course must have been for runners on the weekend, Davies secured an impressive 5th place at UTMF, finishing barely an hour behind the leader in an internationally competitive field. On the Great North Walk course just 6 months ago, without anybody to really run against after the first 30km and an extra 14km in the legs, he was able to finish a full hour faster. This indicates what a toll the cold conditions and over 9,000 metres of ascending must have taken on runners in Japan.
So it is with some excitement that we read of the success of 4 Hoka runners, with the most prominent being Mr. Hara himself! A doctor, rather than a professional athlete, Hara raced to victory in a pair of Bondi Speeds bought from a running shop after initially testing models brought in by the local importer of Hoka OneOne.
UTMF 2014 winner Mr Yoshikazu Hara, his lovely partner, and his Bondi Speeds!
With the top 3 this year finishing within a 10-minute window, and Mr. Hara beating out last year’s winner Julien Chorier by only 8 minutes, competition for the victory was intense. A quick summary from the French Hoka crew describes his race as follows:
He ran a very clever race
, taking his pace , not trying to be among the very first ones at start . At km 55 , he was 20min back over the 2 leaders at that time , one of them being our team manager and athlete Cyril Cointre .
He caught up with the leaders at about km 70 , following a long moderate grade climb .
He built a small advantage yet his lead was never more than 10 min . Everybody was chasing him but his mental strength, the crazy support of thousands of Japanese fans, and of course his Hoka Bondi B made him fly to this amazing victory ahead of 2 of the very best Ultra runners in the world!
Three other Hoka runners featured in the top 15, with a Uruguayan athlete by the name of John Tid taking 6th place, Hoka team manager and athlete Cyril Cointre
placing 9th, and Christophe Le Saux
from Team Hoka France coming in 13th on a course he might well have found short compared to his more typical outings.
Congratulations – obviously not just to the winners and the Hoka wearers but to all participants, organisers, and volunteers at this great race. As the sister even to UTMB and just a short flight from Australia, UTMF seems set to become a regional jewel in the ultra running crown over coming years.
And remember to run from your hara!