Updated: May 23
Saturday afternoon we arrive in Koumi, Nagano, to check in, pick up my bib and join the pre-race party. Our friends Morisaki and Eno are already there. Morisaki asks me “how’s your confidence level?” (we have 100 miles to run. He means: do I think I can finish) “Yeah, I have no idea” is all I can answer. He looks dissatisfied.
Back to the minshuku for carb loading, yoga and sleep.
We’re up at 3:30am. I cram down some breakfast, and we head to the start line depo. I hand over my drop-bag which I will use to resupply my pack after each 34km loop. At 5am I shake hands with Morisaki and off we go. We run together for a while but about 5km in I encounter stomach problems and have to stop. Feeling better, I run well and finish the first loop in about 4:45.
I rest a while at the depo, eat some more and feel good heading out on the second loop. Leaving the first aid station there’s a guy next to me running at about the same pace. He says he has driven for 2 days from Shikoku to come to this event. His name is Tada and we learn that we’ve been in races together before. We talk like old friends and I again forget about how tired I’m starting to feel. On the long descents during the second half of the loop I feel like I’m unable to run and decide to change my shoes when I return to the depo.
Back from her hike to several peaks of the Yatsugatake massif, Mutsumi is waiting for me with fruits. I see her face and for a moment I’m able to forget that I’ve just run 68km of mountainous terrain. I take off my HOKA shoes and socks, pop a blister and put on a fresh pair of socks and my Altra lone peaks. My feet feel like they’ve just broken out of gaol. Darkness falls not long into loop 3. Nonetheless, I’m suddenly able to run downhill. The long descents become speedy care-free solo karaoke sessions. I stop to fill my bottles at the third aid station and from the darkness I hear a voice say “Elliot”. I look up, “oh, Morisaki”. He says he’s unable to eat, feeling tired and sick. I tell him we’ll stick together for a while. He tells me that Eno has fallen and broken his ribs, but apparently he’s still running. I think wow, everybody’s having a rough time. Then I realise Morisaki is moving pretty well. Soon I can’t keep up, and after the next aid station he disappears again into the darkness.
I run the entire 4th loop in the dark. I don’t remember much of it. Somewhere I caught up with Morisaki again and he says something I never thought I would hear him say: “I can’t run anymore”. I walk with him to the next aid station. I don’t see him again.
Back at the depo my head isn’t working anymore, but the sun is coming up and with Mutsumi’s help I get my kit together and head out on the last lap. I run, or I walk, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that’s all I need to do to finish.