GOLDWIN’s Ayako Murai: Running the UTMF to Spark Creativity

2013/04/19
  • THE NORTH FACE

Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji (UTMF) is Japan’s biggest trail-running race that takes runners around the entire perimeter of Mt. Fuji.
GOLDWIN’s Ayako Murai runs to find inspiration for new product ideas.
“The love and challenges of sports are what make my life exciting.”

Trail running is a sport that takes runners away from flat surfaces and into mountainous terrain. With some races covering more than 100 miles, the sport is known for its excruciating difficulty. Nonetheless, trail running has been gaining in popularity in recent years, drawing many women participants as well.

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 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.

One of the participants in the UTMF is Ayako Murai, who works in The North Face Division of GOLDWIN. Ms Murai is completely hooked on trail running and even competes in events overseas. We asked her to share her excitement over the upcoming UTMF, Japan’s biggest trail running event, and the joy of trail running, particularly from a woman’s perspective.

Q: What attracts you to trail running?
AM: At GOLDWIN I’m responsible for the product development of The North Face apparel. I had never even heard of trail running before working in this industry; it was in a sense uncharted territory for me. I just wanted to give it a try. But once I got started, I was completely hooked. The gorgeous scenery leaves me in awe. The sound of my shoes brushing against small branches and the soil brings me pleasure even in the darkness. And not to mention the people: the staff members who run and manage the event, the bystanders who cheer for the athletes day and night, and the athletes themselves who respect and compliment one another for their performances—only in trail running can you find this spirit of sportsmanship. This sense of camaraderie is one of the biggest factors that draw me to the sport.

Q: Do you have any goals you would like to achieve at UTMF?
AM: I’ve competed in many races in the past, but this is my first 100-mile race. I’ve always wanted to reach this milestone as I build up my experience in trail running. I’ve no idea how far I can go, but I hope to be able to cross the finish line where everyone will be waiting.

Q: Are there any other female trail runners at GOLDWIN?
AM: In the past many female employees did road running, but almost none did trail running. Nowadays quite a few are taking up trail running. Many employees at GOLDWIN, men and women, enjoy sports. Inspired by their Senpai, or mentors, junior employees often take up a new sport. The love of sports thus gets passed down. We feel that enjoying sports and constantly challenging yourself makes our otherwise mundane lives more fulfilling.

Q: What are the recent trends in women’s trail running?
AM: Trail running is still a very small market, but I feel the number of trail runners, including women, is increasing every year. Unlike in other sports, many people over 40 are participating in trail running. Maybe this is because trail running requires experience, perseverance, and strength. In general, female runners look and feel younger than their age.

Q: Do you have any advice for women running in the mountains?
AM: It’s a good idea to know the risks involved and ways to manage them before heading to the mountains. Women in particular should prepare for cold weather, as they are more susceptible to cold than men. Also, some women avoid sweets to lose weight, but they won’t be able to function at all if they run out of energy. It’s extremely dangerous if you become demobilized in the mountains. Use trail running as the reason to eat lots of sweets that you’ve been craving for!

Q: How can you apply the knowledge and information you have gained in the mountains to your daily life?
AM: It was great experience learning about the equipment and ways to protect yourself in the mountains, as that knowledge is also applicable to disasters and emergencies. After having run in the mountains so many times, I can now prepare appropriate equipment for various temperature and weather conditions. My experience also allowed me to relate to the people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, which happened during the cold season. At the same time, I learned how to protect myself with a minimum level of equipment and supplies while enjoying the outdoors.

Ayako Murai
The North Face Division
Apparel Group

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/