Zao Mountains, Japan, debut as world class field for Skyrunning

142 Skyrunners enjoyed running through rocky ridges connecting Mt. Jizo, Mt. Kumano, and crater lake "Okama". September 10, Sunday, was the second day of Zao Skyrunning, Asian Skyrunning Championships 2017. 15 runners from foreign countries and dozens of elite runners in Japan meet up in the village of Zao Onsen to run Zao Skyrace 28k, 28km in distance with 2,300mD+ vertical gain. As a result of fierce competition in stacked fields, Japan's Ruy Ueda and Takako Takamura relish their victories in male and female race respectively. Although most of spots on podium are taken by hosting country Japan, South Korea's Sooji Park claimed her Bronze medal finally. Asian Championships will turn to Hong Kong in December, for Sky Ultra discipline.

Like Saturday, it was fine, sunny on Sunday in Zao. Zao Skyrace 28k starts with eight kilometer long and gradually inclining ski slope with 1,000mD+ vertical gain. Then runners run rocky terrain around Mt. Jizo (1758m), Mt. Kumano (1841m) and ridge along crater lake. Only runners qualified by finishing designated races can register this demanding Zao Skyrace 28k. Group of six male runners lead the race in early kilometers. After long downhill in the middle, Ruy Ueda and Satoshi Kato were chasing head to head at 15km point. On the ascent back to Mt. Jizo, Ueda started to push harder, and hs lead to Kato was 3 minutes and 45 seconds at 21km point. Kato tried to catch Ueda in the last seven kilometer downhill, but Ruy Ueda held decent lead to the end. Ueda finished at Zao Onsen in 2 hours 42 minutes and 41 seconds, and won Asian Championships. Runner-up was Satoshi Kato, 1 minute and 48 seconds behind.

Male champion Ruy Ueda runs, looking down crater lake. Photo © Sho Fujimaki / ZAO Skyrunning

Ueda, who came back from Chamonix lastweek, says "It was not easy race for me, just a week after racing OCC 56km. However, Zao is the most important event this year in Japan. I am happy to stand on podium as a result of all effort". Yoshihito Kondo takes third place today.

No woman can not challenge female Asian Skyrunning Champion, Takako Takamura, today. She kept calm and quiet for whole 28km in mountains, and finished at Zao Onsen in 3 hours 15 minutes and 15 seconds. This summer, Takamura was successful with her third place in Skyrace Comapedrosa, a race of Skyrunner World Series. She says, "Zao was my key event of the year, as well as Comapedrosa.

Takako Takamura leads women's race toward her win. Photo © Sho Fujimaki / ZAO Skyrunning

All my experience there helped me to push hard today". Yukari Hoshino, the champion of Skyrunning Japan Championships, Utsukushigahara 80k, in July, is the runner-up today with 3 hours 44 minutes and 50 seconds. The third place winner was Sooji Park from South Korea. She is the only and honorable athlete who takes spot on podium in this
Asian Championships from other than Japan.

The results of other international athletes follows. In men's race, 18th was Marcelino Palitog Sana-oy (PHI), 28th Chou Ching (TWN), 39th Heeseong Noh (KOR). In women's race, 7th was Yin-Hung Tsang (CHN-HK), 10th Eunhye Jung (KOR), 11th Yeji Jeong (KOR).

Still in recovery state after summit Mt. Everest, Ada Yin-Hung Tsang from China National Team finished the race strong and ranked overall female 7th at 28km Zao Skyrace on Sept 10 in Japan. She will also join MSIG Lantau 50 - Skyrunning Asian Championship Ultra Skymarathon on Dec 3.  "I could feel my body warming up at the first half of the race and after a technical uphill and reaching the top, running pass by Five Color Pond / crater lake, I started to pick up the speed and pass some runners," she said. Shocked by Japan Skyrunners' speed on uphill, she shared: "The uphill trails in Japan are mainly natural rocky trails and in comparison we are more used to Hong Kong's steps. Seeing Japanese runners running non-stop on the natural hills motivates me to train more and focus more on my calves' muscles."  

                      Ada, Yin-Hung Tsang from China National Team ranked overall female 7th at Zao Skyrace

Michael Maddes, director of China Skyrunning Association, looked back this weekend. "Zao Skyrunning showed us amazing mountains to run in Japan, and all the hospitality of organization team and local volunteers made this event great." he said.

2017 Asian Skyrunning Championships will move on to Hong Kong for final leg, and MSIG Lantau 50 is going to be the Championship of Sky Ultra category on December 3rd.

Result, Asian Skyrunning Championships 2017 - Zao Skyrace 28k

1. Ruy Ueda (JPN) 2:42:41
2. Satoshi Kato (JPN) 2:44:29
3. Yoshihito Kondo (JPN) 2:50:45
4. Yuichi Miura (JPN) 2:50:57
5. Yamato Yoshino (JPN) 2:51:17

1. Takako Takamura (JPN) 3:15:15
2. Yukari Hoshino (JPN) 3:44:50
3. Sooji Park (KOR) 3:49:46
4. Sayuri Orito (JPN) 3:58:49
5. Eri Kuwabara (JPN) 4:01:44

Asian Championships

September 9 – Zao Vertical Race, Yamagata, Japan

September 10 – Zao SkyRace®, Yamagata, Japan

December 3 – MSIG Lantau 50, Hong Kong