It is not one bit surprising that Fujio Miyachi’s 4-year-old son smiles widely while he runs, and says, “Hi, hi, thank you, thank you, gambatte, hi, arigato” to every single person he sees on the trail.
The young Miyachi, after all, is the product of his father (and his mother).
The older Miyachi, now 44, also runs with joy, but it wasn’t always so. “When I was young, [I was] not good at sports,” he explains. Growing up in central Tokyo, he says he was overweight and somehow, during every P.E. class, he’d have a stomachache or headache and need to be excused. “After class,” he smiles, “it’s gone.”
“When I was young, [I was] not good at sports.”
At the end of junior high school, Fujio decided that he just didn’t like sports, mostly because he didn’t think he was good at them. But he also had a realization that missing out on sports meant that maybe he’d also be missing out on what he describes as “lots of chance for joy.” So, he started running.
It wasn’t instant success for the teen. While his first couple of running events had him dangerously close to the cutoff time, with “the school bus waiting” behind him, a month’s-worth of training showed him that he could improve his speed. “I felt faster,” he says. “This was my first success. Something [was] changing in my mind…sports was fun for me.”
Not one to let “fun” go unnoticed, or unharnessed, Fujio capitalized on his newfound fitness and played soccer with classmates, which made him love school…so much so, that he became a teacher.
“This was my first success. Something [was] changing in my mind…sports was fun for me.”
Fujio would work through lunch at the restaurant owned by his parents’, then head to school “sometimes helping teaching, sometimes helping the Athletes’ Club,” he explains. One day, while looking for equipment for the school’s athletic department, he spotted a leaflet announcing a local trail race. He instantly thought: “I want to climb the mountain!”
In 2006, Fujio the trail runner was born.
He’s competed in many trail running races since, including a few XTERRA World Championship Trail Run races, where, he says, the indomitable Max King, who won the first four XTERRA Trail Run World Championships from 2008-2011, was (unfortunately) in his age group more often than not. He’s since moved from urban Tokyo to scenic Zushi near the coast of Japan, and loves running to the top of his local mountain to watch the sun set over the ocean.
And though he’s a top-notch competitor, it’s not his results that he’s most concerned about.
“I like the mood,” he says about trail running events. “People are very fun.”
“Of course, when we run, [we’re] very serious. But, after the finish, everyone is proud, all of us, of each other,” he says with a smile. But then again, Fujio says everything with a smile.
With trail racing—notably, XTERRA Trail racing—bringing the Japanese runner so much happiness, he wanted to “bring back the experience” to others.
Thirteen years ago, Fujio started a series of 1K to 5K trail events—called “Junior Trail Run”—tailored towards kids. He’s introduced the joy of running to 15,000 kids, starting at age 1. The 1- and 2-year-olds are often carried for most of the course by their parents, and the elementary school-aged kids run alongside their parents, while the older kids run the 5K courses by themselves.
“Kids…they are like a ninja. Very fast. When they go downhill, [they’re] like a ball.”
He explains how parents may be worried about their children tripping or falling on the trail before the event. “After,” he says, “they’re surprised how their son is very fast, or their daughter is very strong.”
“Kids…they are like a ninja,” he says. “Very fast. When they go downhill, [they’re] like a ball.”
Junior Trail Run events are not competitive. The most important aspect, says Fujio, is to create a positive environment and what’s often a first-time trail running experience for the kids involved, and for their parents. Fujio places high value on everyone being proud of each other, and on being kind on the trail. (Hence, his son’s habit of free-flowing, friendly greetings while he runs his father’s events.)
The weekend of April 15-16, Fujio will be in Kenting, Taiwan, undoubtedly smiling and greeting everyone he meets with a kind word…until the starting gun goes off on Sunday morning. He’ll be one of the nearly 500 runners toeing the line at the first-ever Asia-Pacific Championship (APAC) trail race. He’ll tackle the 21K (half-marathon-distance) course that winds through the jungle terrain of Kenting National Park, with steep climbs and descents, and technical footing among rocks, roots and tight sections of trail.
Fujio will be vying for the age-group win and his share of the $5,200 prize purse. (We’re fairly certain he’ll be relieved to not see friend and foe Max King at this one.)
The Trail Run takes place on Sunday, April 16, and is part of the XTERRA Trail Run World Series which includes half- (15-34km) and full-marathon (35km+) distance events on trails around the world. The TRWS events are open to all and include a new “DUO” category where teams of two, male, female, or mixed, must start and finish together. Qualifying slots in each age-group, and in all three DUO categories, are up for grabs in Taiwan for the end-of-season XTERRA Trail Run World Championship to be held in Sugarloaf, Maine.
No matter how he finishes in the race, Fujio says he’ll be happy if he feels he did his best.
“If I did my best after I finish, I feel it and it makes me happy.”
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