|The runner's fair at registration on Thursday, with Fuji-san in the background|
|The startline, from the front row!|
The pace was fast, I hadn't appreciated how much of the race is actually relatively flat. My movescount record for the race shows that in the first 10km we only climbed 600m. That's a reasonable climb for a 10k, but meant that we were left with 2400m to climb in the remaining 11km...
I felt I had run the first 5km a bit too fast (21:30ish), it was hot and I felt really dehydrated. At each water station I'd grab a cup of water and try to drink it as I ran, spilling most of it all over myself, but by this point I frankly felt rubbish and decided I wasn't doing myself any favours. I slowed down (10km in 50mins) and made sure I stopped at each water station for a proper drink.
|Umagaeshi Shrine, off the tarmac and starting to climb properly...|
The next place our time would be recorded was the 5th station, at about 2200m. Fairly obviously this is the end of the 5th station race, and this is where we'd jog back down to after the race to get our lift home. It took me just over 44 minutes to climb the 800m from Umagaeshi, and I was amazed at the number of people I was now catching up with. I was trotting along at what felt like a hard but sustainable pace, and for the first time was actually enjoying myself! I remember taking a minute to think about how long I'd planned for this race for, it felt quite unreal to actually be there, running up one of the most famous mountains in the world.
|Getting serious now: Climbing up from the 5th Station|
At the 8th station we had our final timecheck, it had taken me 1:08 from the 5th (2:46 overall), and somehow I was still going well and continuing to pass people. I don't want it to sound like the race was easy, it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done: the air tasted thin, my vision would go a bit wobbly at the edges if I pushed really hard, and I could feel sickness rising in my stomach, but I was moving faster than the runners in front of me, and now to my surprise I was starting to catch and pass a few people with elite "full-colour" top 20 race numbers from last year.
This delicate balance between running OK and passing people vs. really working at high altitude was hard work. I occasionally looked back downhill to Fujiyoshida a long way below, but mostly I focussed on running when I could and just keeping going when I couldn't... I was glad it wasn't far to the top because I could feel my body was close to the edge (metaphorically as well as literally). I had realised at the 8th station that my altimeter was reading low, so I knew that when it said I was at 3500 I was getting close to the top (actually at 3770). Not far now!
|Mt Fuji crater|
Soon I made it to the top, 15 seconds behind Mr. O. The relief was amazing, for a while I couldn't believe I'd done it! No going home and telling people I'd missed cut-off times or any of the other disaster scenarios: I'd finished the Fuji Mountain race.
|The finishline. I have no memory of high-fiving spectators!!|
After a few minutes at the top I went to look at the crater, and met a German called Steffan. He'd had a great run and finished in around 3:02, it turned out later that he was 1st and I 2nd of the non-Japanese runners. It also turned out, over noodles at the park after a loooong and painful jog down to the 5th station and a bus ride to the park, that he too had a broken / dislocated toe! We'd both run the race with our right foot little toe strapped up after seeing it stuck in a very unatural angle a week or so before the race. I think there's a strong chance both of us will be back for another go at this race, with a full complement of operational metatarsals.
|Done! Back down at the 5th station.|