Legend has it that a long time ago, Yatsugatake was an ordinary mountain with only one summit and was higher than even Mt. Fuji. Envious of its height, Mt. Fuji’s goddess struck the former with a long stick, and that’s why Yatsugatake—which literally means eight, or many, mountains—has so many peaks now.
In reality though, there are more crests than that. Spanning over 30km long from the north to south, this ridgeline of volcanoes is situated near this article’s featured ultramarathon. It is said that you can rarely see a mountain’s pinnacle from its foot, but Yatsugatake’s many peaks catch and hold clouds, even in the warmer months. This splendidly clear alpine view in Nagano Prefecture, Japan is just the backdrop of the scenery you’ll see on the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Highland 100km Ultramarathon.
Ushering its 21st edition on Sunday, 17 May 2015, the esteemed race will be expecting 3,000 participants to run 100km, 71km and 42km—four fifths of whom will be in the first category. Setting out before daybreak from Nanmoku Society Gymnasium, these fit runners not only have to beat the cold—the lowest temperature for last year’s race was -1.4 ℃!—but also complete the courses in 14h, 10h 15min or 6h 30min respectively.
Watching the dynamic Yatsugatake gradually light up as the sun rises, runners will course through a forest trail in the chilly spring morning. With the scent of fir trees and resin wafting in the air, runners will pass by Nanmoku village, known for its fresh highland-grown lettuces and other vegetables. Throughout the race, there will be water stations located every 5km providing refreshing natural mountain water, sports drinks, raisins, candy, noodles and locally-grown fruits like oranges, strawberries and grapes.
After the challenge of ascending up to the highest elevation point at 1,908m, runners will see the first hot spring—yes, you get to dip into a hot spring while on a marathon! At the first finish line, Happo hot spring will be beckoning the 42km runners to soak in it while the rest carry on running a lot of downhill routes before coming to Komi-cho village, just after the 50km mark.
These hard-core endurance runners will meet a turning-point at Kitaaiki village, where “Mount Ogura” or Japanese rhododendron flowers bloom, tinting the land multiple shades of violet, fuchsia and white. All around, the gorgeous scenery is ever-changing and the winding roads encased by towering trees are easy on the eyes. At the 71km finish line, yet another hot spring awaits! Meanwhile, the unwavering 100km runners will be rewarded with views of Minamiaiki’s waterfalls, as well as Kawakami village, the source of the Chikuma River, the longest river in Japan.
The top six men and women in each category will receive awards. In tandem, another special award will be presented to Yatsugatake Nobeyama Highland 10-time finishers. These courageous runners, who have finished ten straight races in a row, will be honoured with the special title <<ΔΕΚΑΚΙΣ-NIKHTHΣ>>, or Dekakis Nikitis, meaning “ten times winner”.
Nobeyama Short Marathon
On the same afternoon, a short marathon will also start from Nanmoku Society Gymnasium. There will be four categories: 10km for runners aged 18 years and above, 5km for elementary students and above, 2km individual for elementary students and below, as well as a parent-child 2km. The top three in each category will be awarded.
Entry fees are 1,000 JPY for both the 10km and 5km events, and are free for under 18 year olds. Both the 2km individual and parent-race categories are free too.
A total of 1,500 slots are open for sign-ups till Friday, 10 April 2015, or until capacity is full.
You can find out more about the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Highland 100km Ultramarathon on its official Japanese website.