The three-day ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI 2023 was held from Friday, April 21, 2023 on a course that connects trails in Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures at the foot of Mt. Fuji. For the first time in four years, the event welcomed runners from overseas, and a total of 3,452 runners (including 246 international runners) participated in the two races, the largest number since the first race in 2012.
The two races that took place this year were the FUJI (formerly known as the UTMF), with a distance of 164.7 km and a cumulative elevation gain of 6,451 mD+, and the KAI, with a distance of 68.4 km and a cumulative elevation gain of 3,064 mD+. At the awards ceremonies, top runners from all over Japan and those from China, South Korea, and other countries stood on the podium.
Fuzhao XIANG (China) became the female champion of the FUJI, in which 2,387 runners started from Fujisan Kodomo-no-Kuni (Fuji City, Shizuoka). Xiang, who was also the champion of this race in 2019, led the women's race from start to finish. She reached the finish line at Fuji-Q Highland (Fujikawaguchiko Town and Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi) with a time of 24:14:51 and claimed her second victory. She just participated in a 100 km race in China a week before and became a runner-up. After finishing the Fuji, she commented, “I was a little bit tired and felt really sleepy during the race. I love this race thanks to the wonderful nature of Mt. Fuji and the volunteers who warmly welcome me. I want to run the KAI next time," she said with a smile. The runner-up was Rong Rong CHEN (China), who moved up in the later part of the race to finish with a time of 25:28:55. “It was an honor to run in this race that goes around the beautiful Mt. Fuji,” she commented after the race. Chizuru OFUCHI (Japan) finished third with a time of 26:37:13. OFUCHI, the top female Japanese runner to finish the race, also won the New Hero Award which is given to a runner 29 years old or younger who has achieved remarkable results.
In the men’s FUJI, Jiaju ZHAO (China) remained at the top of the race throughout with a controlled pace and became a champion with a time of 19:35:24. He showcased the world-class strength at Mt. Fuji. After the race, he commented, "My goal was finish at 20 hours but when I realized that the second runner was right behind me, that drove me to run faster.” As for his former teammate, Jing Liang, who finished second in the ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI 2019 and then tragically lost his life in an accident during a trail running race in China in 2021, he shared his thoughts, "I hope he is happy for me for winning today in the FUJI.” Yuya KAWASAKI (Japan), who kept chasing ZHAO without never allowing him to widen the gap, was the runner-up with a time of 19:54:57. He commented, “ZHAO was out of sight soon after the start, but I kept chasing him, believing I had a chance. I witnessed the great strength of ZHAO.” Runners who performed well in the past ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJIs competed for the third place, and at the end Tomonori ONITSUKA (Japan) won the third place with a time of 20:59:25.
In the KAI, the second race since last year, 807 runners ran the 69 km course. The KAI course consists of the second half of the FUJI course, starting at Fuji-Q Highland and coming back there. In the women’s race, Chihiro AIBARA (Japan), who caught up with the leading runners in the mountain zone at the second half of the course, became the champion with a time of 8:46:31. At the awards ceremony, she commented, “I am happy to be in this race and became a champion.” Aya WAKABAYASHI (Japan) came in second at 9:14:20, followed by Junko TOKUMOTO (Japan) in third at 9:18:39.
In the men’s KAI, three runners led the race as they switched positions. Kento TAMURA (Japan), who widened the gap with the following competitors on the final descent, won the race, reaching the finish line at Fuji-Q Highland with a time of 6:45:15. This is 47 minutes faster than last year's winning time. TAMURA also received the New Hero Award. He commented, “I am going to run the KAI again next year and then the FUJI in two years.” Hiroki KAI (Japan) who was last year’s KAI champion, was the runner-up with a time of 6:48:23, only three minutes behind TAMURA. Jisub KIM (South Korea) was the third place with a time of 6:58:34.
Overseas runners who have stood on the podium in the past ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI also participated in this year's KAI. Dylan BOWMAN (USA), the champion of the ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI 2018, finished fourth, Seth SWANSON (USA), who was in the third place in 2018, finished ninth, and Mike FOOTE (USA), the third place in 2014, finished 14th in this year’s KAI.