GOLDWIN’s Hidefumi Kimura: Running 160 km to Explore New Possibilities

2013/04/18
  • THE NORTH FACE

Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji (UTMF) is Japan’s biggest trail running race.
GOLDWIN’s Hidefumi Kimura runs to seek inspiration for his new products.
“I want to share the joy of running in the mountains with others.”

Running has been the big trend in Japan in the last few years. Trail running, which takes place in the mountains rather than on flat terrain, has also been gaining in popularity. Trail-running shoes and other specialized products are making their way into the market, and the trail-running population is steadily on the rise in Japan. In a country that is about 70% mountains, this makes perfect sense.

UTMF, a 161.0 km race around the perimeter of Mt. Fuji, and Shizuoka To Yamanashi (STY), an 84.7 km race covering half of the perimeter, are among the biggest trail-running events in Japan. Held for the second time this year, the two races aim to convey the importance of rising to a challenge, as well as the joy of trail running and the beauty of Mt. Fuji, the pride of Japan.

GOLDWIN Inc. (HQ: Shibuya, Tokyo/President: Akio Nishida/First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange: 8111), which promotes a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle under the banner of “Sports first,” and The North Face will be supporting the event as special sponsors.

GOLDWIN’s Hidefumi Kimura returns to the UTMF after running a successful race last year. Mr. Kimura is responsible for The North Face footwear and has developed many shoes under that brand. He has been working on the production of special shoes for trail running, which he has been trying out himself.

We asked him about his experience in product development and his goals for the UTMF.

Q: Tell us about your experience of running the UTMF last year.
HK: I was able to complete the race in 26.5 hours and finished 27th overall. I was a little anxious as it was my very first 100-mile race, but the actual race went by very quickly. The race pushed me to my limits physically and psychologically, but thanks to people’s support, I was somehow able to get through to the end. The UTMF is known for its many viewing locations, and the encouragement and cheering by so many people along the way helped me finish the race and made it seem a lot shorter than it actually was.

Q: Why did you decide to try out a tough sport like trail running?
HK: I’ve been running since I was a student, and began trail running after I started working for GOLDWIN eight years ago. I’ve been competing in overseas races for the last four years.

There is a big difference between running on paved roads and running in the mountains. Now I do trail running more. There are so many things I like about the sport, but one of them is the constant change of scenery. I like anticipating what kind of scenery I will come across next when I’m running. In particular, the view of the sunset is absolutely magnificent and there is nothing like it. I simply enjoy the act of running, I guess. I faced so many challenges and difficulties during the race, but the sense of accomplishment I get after completing the race compels me to keep on challenging myself.

Q: What’s your motivation for UTMF this year?
HK: I had fun running last year and it felt very fulfilling. The experience gave me the drive to try even harder next time. My goal this year is to break my own record from last year.

Q: What advice or messages do you have for athletes trying out mountain sports like climbing and trail running?
HK: You will find so much enjoyment in the mountains, and I hope many people give it a try without feeling too intimidated. You may feel that mountain sports require advanced skills. But you don’t need to run a long distance in trail running; you can do a short hike up the mountain, if you like.

But you shouldn’t approach climbing too lightheartedly, as there are some risks involved. Do some basic research beforehand, and prepare appropriate equipment and gear for rainy weather and temperature changes, so that you can fully enjoy the experience. In the last few years more information about trail running has become available on the Internet and in magazines.

Q: Do you find your running experience is helpful in your shoe design projects? What are some key points?
HK: We often apply the feedback that we receive from the athletes to our shoe designs, but after running the race myself, I have a better sense of which opinions are more important than others and how necessary they are. By understanding the little nuances in the feedback provided and relating to the runners’ perspective, I hope to be able to make an even greater contribution to the development of various athletic gear, including shoes and socks.

Q: Tell us about GOLDWIN’s “Sports first” philosophy.
HK: GOLDWIN staff love the festive mood of being part of big, exciting events, so I think they sincerely enjoy playing sports. We feel very moved to see people focusing intently on a race or game and feel inspired to do so ourselves. That’s how the love of sports gets passed on.

Hidefumi Kimura
Footwear Group
The North Face Division

Trail running is a sport that consists of running on unpaved roads in forests or mountainous terrain. The goal of the UTMF is to promote awareness of the importance of preserving, loving, and respecting nature through the outdoor sports of trail running.

■ ULTRA-TRAIL MT. FUJI Event Overview
・Race Organizer Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji Race Committee
・Special Sponsors GOLDWIN INC. (THE NORTH FACE), W.L. Gore & Associates
・Race Dates Friday, April 26 to Sunday, April 28, 2013 (3 days)

・UTMF (Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji)
Number of Participants 1,074 (207 from overseas)
Distance: 161 km / Cumulative altitude gain: 9,164 m
Time limit: 46 hrs
Start/Finish: Yagisaki Koen (Park), Fujikawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture
Starts on Friday, April 26 at 15:00

・STY (Shizuoka to Yamanashi)
Number of Participants 1,053 (62 from overseas)
Distance: 84.7 km / Cumulative altitude gain: 4,860 m
Time limit: 24 hrs
Start: Mount Fuji Kodomo-no-Kuni, Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Finish: Yagisaki Koen (Park), Fujikawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture
Starts on Friday, April 26 at 13:00

*THE NORTH FACE  Website http://www.goldwin.co.jp/tnf/
*UTMF Official Website http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/