Review: Fujisan Marathon – Mt Fuji, Japan (November 29, 2015)

Overview

  • Race Name: Mt Fuji Marathon
  • Date: November 29, 2015
  • Country: Japan (5th country)
  • Start Time: 9am
  • Cutoff Time: 6 hours
  • Hotel: Tachikawa Grand Hotel (3.5 star)
  • Size: 10,000 in all races
  • Course: Big Loop
  • Scenery: Superb
  • Hills: Not Bad, tabletop on the back 13.1
  • Water Stops: Well staffed; water and energy drinks
  • Bathrooms: Plenty, must remove shoes for some bathrooms
  • Crowd Support: Great for the first/last 10k then sporadic
  • Registration: Some in Japanese, packet pickup is outdoors at start/finish

Travel

Most people will fly into Tokyo and take a series of trains to get to Mt Fuji (2-3 hours from Tokyo). You can see Fujisan from the air if your flight approaches Haneda from the west and, on a clear day, you can glimpse it’s peak from downtown Tokyo.

I flew to Japan from Phuket, Thailand via Seoul, South Korea in Economy on Korean Air. I flew back to DC out of Tokyo via NYC in First Class on Japan Airlines.

I registered and starting looking for hotels about three months before the marathon. This was too late and the only places available were over $300/night or a double bunk in a Hello Kitty themed hostel – no thanks. There are gorgeous lodges and hotels near the start, but availability is limited so be sure to book in advance.

I ended up staying about two hours away at the Tachikawa Grand Hotel, about a three minute walk from Tachikawa Station. It took me just under two hours to get to the marathon, but I was also much closer to Tokyo. Tachikawa is a big rail hub so it was very easy to move around and, most importantly, express trains stop there!

The Race

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Morning

The Fujisan Marathon race organizers really know how to put on a race. Refreshment stations were well staffed and the course offered spectacular views of Japan’s tallest and most iconic mountain. The marathon course winds around a series of lakes at the base of the mountain and, in 2015, the marathon started at 9am with a six hour cutoff. The start/finish area is in the town of Kawaguchiko. The on-course measurements ascend (1-42km).

I woke up at 5am on race day to eat bread and get dressed. As a side note, the best bread on the planet comes from a bakery inside Tachikawa Station. I bought a loaf one morning and came back that afternoon I bought every loaf left 🙂

There was a special marathon express train that left Tachikawa at 5:50am and arrived around 7:30am. I didn’t want to be waiting in the cold for the 9am start, so I opted to take the slower commuter train at 6am and arrived at 8am. I did the same journey the day before to pickup my packet.

The bathrooms at the start had very long lines, so I opted to use one on course and, unfortunately, many runners had the same idea. The bathroom was part of a gift shop connected to a restaurant and we all took off 0ur running shoes before getting in line. Once our shoes were off, we queued up and waited for the toilet slippers (this is a whole thing in Japan). The stop took at least ten minutes and the course had really thinned when I was running again.

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Everyone had to take off shoes to use the bathrooms #japan

The day warmed up nicely (50s) and we had lots of great views of the mountain. There were jazz bands and traditional drum lines in Kawaguchiko and we were immersed in nature once we left the town. I read race reports saying the road surface is rough and destroys shoes. The asphalt seemed pretty standard to me. Maybe the route refresh fixed this problem?

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2015 Mt Fuji Marathon Course Map

The tabletop on the altitude map occurs on a switchback between the two lakes (21.8km marker). The first, eastern lake is Lake Kawaguchiko and the second, western lake is Lake Saiko. I ran this section of the race with a group of Taiwanese runners who would randomly shout to pump each other up. It scared me the first time, but I got into it and surprised them by joining in.

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Saiko Lake, 2015 Mt Fuji Marathon

Clouds came in the afternoon and the temperature started dropping. A new course was implemented this year (2015) and my Epson 810 logged 28 miles. I didn’t see anybody else complaining about the distance so it’s possible my hunger for photos tacked on some extra miles. Regardless, if they increased the distance to 30miles I would still say this race is one you can’t miss! You can see my full album from the race here and I made a short video of my trip, including the 2015 Bangkok Marathon. Join me on my marathon journey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

3 thoughts on “Review: Fujisan Marathon – Mt Fuji, Japan (November 29, 2015)

  • August 20, 2016 at 10:47 am
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    Great review. Thinking of doing an overseas marathon in the near future and this one is definitely near the top of the list. Did you have any trouble with the language, ie; people that far out of the city not speaking English etc?

    Cheers

    Troy

    Reply
    • September 30, 2016 at 3:29 pm
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      Hello!
      Apologies for the delay. I’ve been neglecting my blog and am finally getting around to checking comments and putting up a new flurry of posts. My experiences in small towns were overwhelmingly positive throughout Japan. Someone with strong english speaking skills stepped in everytime I encountered a language barrier. Japan LOVES running. I can’t emphasize that enough. Most people in the United States see runners as people who like to exercise but it’s definitely a sport in Japan. If you decide to race in Asia, stop by a local/boutique bakery and pick up a couple expensive loaves of milk bread the night before your race. I made the mistake of only buying one loaf before my marathon a few weeks ago and totally wish I’d had a second loaf for the morning!

      Reply
  • August 23, 2017 at 2:12 am
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    The fourth Mt. Fuji Marathon will be held on Sunday, 29 November 2015 at Fujikaw aguchiko-machi, Yamanashi Prefecture.

    Reply

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