Celebration muted by weather-shortened race
by Than Acuff
Three years ago when Stevie Kremer joined the Salomon running team, she caught wind of a race on Japan’s Mt. Fuji and the event has piqued her interest ever since. Yet, with a full schedule of events over the past three years she’s never been able to make it to the Fuji Mountain Race until this year, when she lined up on Saturday, July 22.
And while the event fell short of expectations, Kremer still won and then eventually ran to the top of Mt. Fuji two days later.
“What has intrigued me about it was that it was uphill only and I’ve wanted to do this race ever since I joined Salomon running,” says Kremer.
The race starts in the town of Fujiyoshida and climbs up Mt. Fuji for 21 kilometers to the finish line at the summit on the rim of the volcanic crater for a total of nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. The first 10 kilometers are on pavement before the course turns onto a semi-smooth path up to the 16-kilometer mark. At that point the course goes nearly straight up a technical, rocky trail to the finish line.
Kremer flew into Tokyo on Monday the week of the race and after two days of sightseeing, headed into the mountains to get a preview of the course. Unfortunately, it was during that time that the weather started to turn and talk of cutting the race short started circulating.
Kremer managed to get some time on the course leading up to the race and knew that while the initial road section of the course would hamper her, she could make it all up once the course turned onto the trail and started really climbing.
“I’m more of a trail runner so the start doesn’t play to my strengths,” says Kremer.
It wasn’t until race day as she was headed to the start line that the race organizers decided to stop the race at the 16-kilometer mark, with no option to finish on the summit.
“It was just raining, there was no thunder and I think that they could have changed the cutoff times and still sent us to the top,” says Kremer. “It was a shame.”
Nevertheless, Kremer lined up with 2,000 other runners in the rain and without much fanfare, headed up the road for 10 kilometers. Once the course turned on to the wide dirt path, Kremer estimates she was in the top 10 and by the time she reached the finish line, she had made all the necessary moves to take the women’s title.
“It really didn’t seem like it mattered because we weren’t able to make it to the top,” says Kremer. “We previewed the course and I knew what was coming so I was excited about it, but it is what it is.”
While the race was done, Kremer was not finished, as she looked to try to rally some people to continue up the mountain, race or no race.
“I was definitely the angry ringleader,” says Kremer. “I wanted to go up right after the race.”
While she couldn’t convince anyone to go that day, she did manage to find a crew to join her on a run to the summit two days later and they ran to the top and around the volcano rim under blue skies, bringing a nice close to the trip to Japan.
“It was pretty amazing,” says Kremer.