With the impetuosity of youth, when the race gun went off, I ran far harder than was sensible, and consequently suffered terribly for the next two hours to the fifth station, where the gods had kindly arranged a typhoon and the remainder of the race to the summit was called off.
I vowed never to do the race again. But that was some 15 years ago, and time dulls the pain and dims the memory. And so I found myself at the start line in Fuji-Yoshida once again, staring up at the massive bulk of Mt. Fuji, with the goal 21 km distant and almost 3000 meters higher.
With the aim merely being to finish within the cut-off of 4.5 hours, this time the “race” was actually enjoyable. Once the asphalt had finished after 11km and the climbing started, the last few months of being in the hills paid off and I could settle into a rhythm, checking the altimeter every 15 minutes and calculating estimated arrival time. I felt keenly aware of a responsibility to stay alive (I was not quite married last time) and so kept a steady, comfortable pace. Unfortunately, a 59-year-old man was not so lucky, becoming the first fatality in the 61 years that the race has been held.
I was surprised to see that, beyond the fifth station, the route was the regular hiking trail, which was packed with everyone from elementary schoolkids to octagenarians. More surprisingly, I saw no tension between the hikers and 3000+ runners, neither when hikers held up runners on narrow sections, nor when runners kicked up clouds of dust on the scree descent. I felt sorry for the unsuspecting hikers who happened to have picked the wrong day.
The best part about finishing is that I never, never have to do it again. Oh, except to take the dog up.