Shona Stephenson Ultra Runner
Shona Stephenson Ultra Runner

The Ultra Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF) and Japan lived up to it’s reputation on all fronts. Apart from the opportunity to run around Mt Fuji and experience this perfect mountain in all it’s glory, the UTMF course was so tough, ruggered and really technical. Some of the climbs were so steep they were un runnable, with a few of them needing ropes for safety and to just be able to scale the rock face on the mountain. At the gear check in we were made to show our travel insurance policy. WTF? Are you serious? What on earth would I need accident cover for?
How hard could the UTMF be? It can’t be that hard, people had finished it in 2012. If they could do it so could I. My goal for the UTMF was first to finish the course in one piece, finish the course un injured and hope that my effort would be good enough to give me a top 5 finish. This was my first true international event and I wanted to make sure I was representing inov-8+Descente, Barefoot Inc, Hammer, injinji, Skirt Sports, and Zenzah to my fullest capabilities. With these goals in mind I prepared for my 2nd 100M only 1 month after completing my 1st Northburn 100M in March.

The UTMF started at 3pm. This late start and the local diet threw my body out of whack. My normal support crew being either Mikey or Drop Bags were not available. Only 1 drop bag for the entire 161km was available at the 79km point. I was so lucky that my brother in law Glen lived in Japan. Glen was kind enough to be my support crew. Glen being Glen and extremely adventurous Kiwi decided that it would be faster, cheaper and more efficient if he rode his road bike around Mt Fuji, instead of driving a car. I put all my trust in this mad bike riding kiwi who has been living in Japan for the past 8 years. The advantage of using Glen as my support crew was that he was going to be self sufficient and he spoke Japanese. I was sooooo lucky to have him helping me out as he almost did not make it to the start line due to work dramas. Yet I was full of confidence 3 hours before the start of he race as I handed him over my drop bags for each check point that he was going to make it to. We decided that I would only see Glen every 20-25km.
I prepared for battle, mentally and physically by writing on my arm the following;
“Climb like and ANZAC Descente like a Kamikaze”. Being ANZAC day the day before and Descente being my Japanese Sponsor and knowing that I do descend like a Kamikaze, on gods winds.
“This is Tough But I am Tougher”. Our Ultra Training Australia Slogan
“Go get them Tiger”. Something my mates say to be before races.
“Finishing is the only option”. Meaning that I must finish at all costs no matter how bad I am feeling.

The weather forecast for the race was grim. Possible rain, through the night the temperature was to drop below zero with a wind chill at minus 16 degrees at 1800M which we’d be passing in the middle of the night or early morning. Brendan and I decided that we needed to rug up to prevent hyperthermia.

My UTMF race kit was the following;

  • inov-8 x-talon 190’s The surface screamed for grip! (Yes people I ran 161km in the 190 x-talons even 1 month ago I did not think it was possible!)
  • injinji Trail Socks
  • inov-8 Gators
  • Zenzah Compression Calf Guards
  • Zenzah Thermal Gloves
  • Skirt Sports Fitness Shorts
  • Hammer Singlet
  • inov-8 Team Race Top
  • Hammer Thermal Arm Warmers
  • inov-8 Base Elite 140 LSZ
  • inov-8 Race Elite 180 Thermoshell (back up if the conditions turned foul)
  • inov-8 Race Elite 60 Windshell
  • inov-8 Raceshell 220
  • inov-8 Racepant 150
  • inov-8 Wrag Green and Red
  • injinji Visor and Hammer Visor
  • UltrAspire Omega Pack with Hydrapak Bladder
  • Hydrapak Bladders x2
  • Ay-Up Ultralite All Rounder Head Torch
  • Sunnto Watch
  • Oakley Clear Lenses Glasses (to help stop my eyes from watering)

We all headed to the start line of the UTMF about 30min before the race, chatted to our sponsors from inov8+Descente who have just bought the license to inov-8 in Japan, Race Directors from the inov8+Descente Hakuba 50km Trail Run in September. Man this was a treat. I was being asked back to Japan by the race director and my sponsors even before I had a chance to prove to them that I would run. This was nuts! Now I felt the pressure to perform.
I tried to stay calm and just be myself and hope that me being me was enough to secure a strong position in the field. Brendan and I moved our way to the start line and within a few minutes after saying “Hi” to the English speaking elite runners from Australia, UK, Canada and NZ we heard the count down and we were off and running in the UTMF.

Shona Stephenson UTMF 2nd Place Trail Runner
I pushed the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji ribbon up and over my head and scooted underweight it and flew out of the blocks. I was laughing. I was leading the race even in front of the elite men. This never happens. Too funny. I ran out on to the road and just chilled. Turned my legs over and made the most of the easy road km’s I was given. The elite boys all soon passed me and I settled into a nice comfortable rhythm. After a few ks I hit the first climb of the day a 500m climb up a single man track, wooded stairs. I punched out an nice cadence and let my legs do the work. I was soon passed by the great Krissy Mohel. Her long mountain legs carried her up the climb with ease. I watched and studied her action. I then copied her, running the straights and walking the switch backs. I looked back down the slope and spotted Gretel Fortman about 50m behind. She was looking really strong. My goal was just to try and keep Krissy in view, and get out of view of Gretel.
The trail soon started to descend and I rolled down the amazing trails, waving, jumping leaping and enjoying fun ride the Japanese mountains were serving up. I hooned through a tunnel and was astonished to find that I was right on the tail of Krissy. I hung here, hiding and at the water stop at A1, I jumped passed Krissy as she re-filled water and hooned out onto the road. I made use of the easy kms. We hit the single man track and then my guts were not happy.
I had been eating MEAT 2-3 days before the race. I did not want to offend my Japanese hosts. I ate wagyu beef, salmon, fish, among many other traditional Japanese foods and heaps of rice. This was totally the wrong thing for my body. 1 1/2 days before the race I informed my lovely host that I could not eat this kind of diet, as I am a vegetarian and my body before a race only likes simple, fast absorbent carbs with little protein to total opposite to their Japanese Diet. I felt like I was already such burden being vego, and I dare not also ask for having a potato only diet. We were staying in a traditional Japanese Hotel, futon beds, Japanese hot Bath Houses, with amazing tasting menus style breakfasts and dinners. I felt like I was being ungrateful if I’d asked for my potatoes. So I carbed up on rice. Similar to what I did before Tarawera, and it really was not working for me. It probably did not help that I happen to have my period too! Far out man! I was now cursing myself for being stupid and for forceful enough to understand that my pre-race diet WAS IMPORTANT.
I took 2 gastro stops as I felt the energy drain from my body. About 30min later when I cramped again and had more problems I took 1 more. Whilst I was in the bushes I spotted Krissy and 3 blokes passing me. Dam it. Trust my guts to lose me positions again. I ran into A2, 23.8km and asked Glen to grab me for gastro stops as I’d had run out of them. My guts were feeling queazy and I needed a few more to help me out.
“She’s 2min ahead of you”.Glen said.
“Yeah she passed me whilst I was in the bushes”. I replied
I knew it was now going to be a tough day out. I was now going to play catch up with my energy stores as I was losing energy and hydration every time I went to the bathroom and I did not have any more gastro stops. I just had to hope that what I had taken would be enough.
I ran out of the check point and up the climb. And put on my Ay-Up head torch. A few blokes passed me initially on the climb, but the longer the climb it seemed the more blokes I was catching. I used the ropes and dragged myself up to 1485m. I tried my hardest to eat regularly and keep myself hydrated at the same time waiting for the gastro stops to kick in and for my stomach to settle.
I rolled down the steep descent picked off most of the blokes. At the bottom of the valley my guts went again and I just had to hope that that would be the last time it would happen. I could tell my body was not using the fuel that I was putting in for energy efficiently. I felt weak and lethargic.
About 10 minutes later I was starving! Great!!!!!!! Eat. Eat. I shoved in a Hammer Bar and drank some Perpetuem and tried to kick it. My stomach was now ready to accept food and process it as energy. I also was mindful that I needed to work on my hydration too.
I ran into W1, 36km and refilled my front water bottle with water, and move straight back out onto the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji track.
I then started the next steep climb of the day called Yukimidake 1605m. This climb was gnarly! Ropes, stairs, tree roots, rocks, bamboo. This climb had everything. Again a few blokes passed me at the base but towards the top I was nabbing them back. All the training was paying off and I was holding my own against the best in the world.
I rolled down the hill, thinking inov-8 for designing the x-talons 190! Man I could put all my trust in those shoes. They served me well through this extremely technical muddy descent. I picked off the blokes one by one. I rolled into A3, 54.9km feeling much better. My guts had settled a bit and I felt like I was going to be okay.
“I’m okay, I don’t need gastro stops, my guts had settled”. I said to Glen knowing that he was having problems locating some for me any way. Really I knew I needed a few more just to totally stop any cramping. I moved out of A3 still holding 2nd position and knowing that I probably had a gap on 3rd only because I can descend a mountain like know one else I know.

Shona Stephenson UTMF 2nd Placed Female
I started the biggest and longest climb of the day. The climb went on for 50km! BORING on a mix of fire trails, wide power line service tracks. I tried my hardest to punch out a rhythm, but my head got the better of me. I was again out of energy. I tried to put some more in but my guts were just too unsettled. I went back to using just Perpetuem and Hammer Bars for a bit longer. I made sure I kept my Hammer Endurolyte’s and Anti Fatigue Caps going every 40min-1 Hour and I just hoped that I was strong enough to get over this climb . Come on Shona you’ve felt like this before in a race. The UTMF is meant to be tough.
At the 64.4km mark at W2 I took on some Coke, hoping that it would settle my stomach but it only made me feel really sick. Bugger. That’s that trick out the window. I pushed on for the next 15km just counting out a rhythm and praying that I was not going to get caught on tis climb. I was passed by 3 guys. I was not happy and it meant that I was slowing down.
I tried to put in Gels, little by little I could do it by adding heaps of water so it did not shock my gut. I decided that I’d have a 1/2 a Hammer Bar on the 12, perpetuem on the 10 and 20 and Gel on the 30, Perpetuem on the 40 and 50 and so on. But man I felt like crap! Come on you had a bad patch like this at Northburn. It just what a miler feels like.
I finally made it to the 79.3km Ultra Trail Mt Fuji A4 and I was happy yo see Glen. I grabbed my drop bag and decided my inov-8 x-talons 190 were doing the job so I stayed in them. I grabbed my food bag and swapped my hydrapak bladder over, quickly drank some miso soup to warm up my chest and I was out of there. I still had another 15ks of climbing before I had some relief.
This was when I got really confused. I must have been low on fuel and my brain was not functioning properly. I knew there was a walking only section but I’d lost my profile map along the track and I was not sure where I was in conjunction with it. I asked the volunteer and I thought they said walking section at the road turn off. It was not until I was caught by the next runner behind me that I clicked that we may have a problem. I asked to look at his map and I realized that I’d been walking for 5ks unnecessarily! STUPID! I then started to run. I then found myself out on a road and a few hundred meters later I was lost running around in circles. Another runner found me and directed me to the correct track. The track was a tight narrow single man track and he was wearing Hokka’s. I just had to pass him otherwise I’d have Gretel on my arse.
After a few more climbs up UTMF muddy tracks I emerged at A5 passed a few more blokes running into the check point and I felt like I was going to be okay. My asthma was just starting to play up on the climb. I grabbed some miso soup and some Pringles and a banana and I was off and running again to the gates into the Mizu-ga-Tsuka and still onwards to the top of the biggest climb of the day, at the coldest part of the day.
I looked at the ground and it was white with frost. I’d been wearing sunnies and a inov-8 wrag all day to make my own mini warm micro climate. But it was now at freezing and my breath had wet the wrag and instead of keeping my lungs warm they were slowly freezing them. I started to struggle with my breathing. I wheezed my way up to the top of the climb.

I tried to take in the beauty of my surroundings. The sun was rising and I was in the most beautiful part of the course. This place was special. I could see why the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji race organizers wanted up to WALK through this sacred place. It was pristine and perfect mossy garden.
I pushed on my quads and breathed heavily, trying to get in as much oxygen as possible. I started to really struggle with my breathing. If your not an asthmatic you will never understand. But to all those asthma suffers out there I know what you go through and it sucks.
I heaved my way to the top of the 1800m climb and I just could not help myself. I was really up-set with how slow I was going but right then and there I decided to enjoy where I was. I was standing on Mt Fuji at Sunrise and I had to have a photo taken of me by the volunteer.
I was so happy that the climb was over. It was perfect. Pure Bliss. I could not ask be to in a more beautiful place than where I was then and there and I savored the moment. Heaven. When would I enjoy such an amazing sunrise again? This was the best race ever!
“Run, run, run”.The UTMF volunteer said.
“Thank you!” I said in Japanese as I ran off they must have been freezing standing up there in the sub-zero conditions. I then rolled down the volcano! This was MAGIC! MAGIC! MAGIC! I was running down the side of Mt Fuji in lovely soft volcanic solid at sunrise with the sun in my face, Mt Fuji at my back and photographers taking my photo! There was even a radio control helicopter filming my amazing descent! I was in ecstasy! This was just the best fun I had had in a long time!!!! I could not believe what I was doing. It was such a BLAST. Running down the side of the most recognizable Mountain in the world. This was so cool I was loving every moment of it.
I rolled into the check point A6 and I was informed that I was about 40min behind Krissy, This I was stoked with. I was not doing so badly. I grabbed some banana’s, Pringles and miso soup and got the hell out of there.
I soon felt ill again. Every time I ate I felt sick. Maybe it was me having my period, low blood sugars, gastro earlier on in the race but I was playing catch up all day long. The sun was up and I had to make the most of the next descent. I rolled into A7 105.3km passing a bloke on the road and I felt good. It was 7am and I was just ahead of my schedule.


Trail Running
Trail Running

This was where it all went wrong. I moved out of the check point and up the climb at the coldest time of the day into a cold head wind that froze my inov-8 wrag and I chilled my lungs and I started to suffer badly from asthma. (Next race I’ll change Wrag’s at every check point so it is nice and dry).
I was in such a state I started to cry. I was really scared. I could not get enough air in or out of my lungs and I felt dizzy. Come on Shona calm down get it together. I gasped, and wheezed my way to the top, cried and sobbed. I was panicking. I could not breathe. I had 4 puffs of ventolin and I waited, wheezing, pushing on, crying, willing myself to making it through this tough period. 10 min later I had another 4 puffs, and increased my outward breathing. Blowing the air out of my lungs hoping this would help get more air back in. My diaphragm was cramping, and my ribs tightened around my lungs. Every breathe hurt me. Breathing felt like someone was stabbing me in the side of my ribs. I took some more Endurolyte’s and drank more fluid, ate some food and tried to remain calm. 10 minutes later I was still having problems, coughing, wheezing, gasping for air and I had 4 more puffs. I was petrified now. I was coughing and wheezing so much it was really hard to get enough ventolin into my lungs effectively. I’m sure I was wasting 1/2 of it with every puff as I coughed and wheezed the medication into my lungs. Come on warm up. Let the track change direction so I’m out of this cold northerly wind. I then remembered that I forgot to take my preventive over 5 hours ago. This was why I was having so many problems.
I spotted a volunteer.
“Hi, can you please call ahead to the next check point and tell Glen Leadbetter from my support crew that he must have my asthma medication on him?” I asked gasping, coughing and in tears. “I’m asthmatic. I’m having problems breathing”.
We chatted in broken English and Japanese to each other and he then informed me that the next check point was 11km further on. This terrified me. I was going have to run on for 11ks with asthma symptoms? I ran off sobbing. I was scared that I was not going to make it to the next check point.
Come on Shona. Finishing is the only option. Calm down, you can do it. I started to blow out as hard as I could so I could get more air in. My diaphragm was so sore, my ribs killed me. My trachea was narrowing. I was getting worried. Come on warm up.
A few guys passed me. One of them informed me that Gretel was behind me but ages back and the South American Runner pulled out. I had a massive gap on the other runners. I just had to look after myself and I would make it to the end. Come on asthma go away.
I soon descended off the mountain and the air temperature rose. I made use of the easy straight road ks and ran into the check point at A8. I spotted Abe, my Japanese inov-8 + Descente contact. He was so happy to see me and I was doing so well for inov-8 + Descente for him. I soon found Glen, Nadine who is Brendan’s wife and I quickly found my asthma medication. I tried my hardest to inhale the asthma drugs deep into my lungs, but it is so hard to do this properly when you are having spasms in your lungs. I coughed my lungs out but tried to smile and joke so my support crew and sponsors would not worry to much about me. I knew I was sick. I was not sure if my lungs could take much more.
I had my bag checked by the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji officials, swapped my food bag over and Nadine suggested that I load up on more gels just in case as the next section was the most gnarly out of them all.
I don’t know if this helped me or not knowing this information. But I was soon walking out of the check point with Mark from Australia. I don’t know if Mark and I were a good team. He was hurting so much and I don’t think I needed the distraction. But it was what it was and we happened to find each other running and walking at the same pace up to Ishiwariyama 1413m.
The trail up to Ishiwariyama just blew my mind. It was steep, ruggered, muddy, slippery and covered with what looked like pilgrims. I was blessed with spotting the most beautiful shrine half way up the climb. There was paper decorations strung onto the rocks and an enormous braid tied around what looked like a sacred boulder. I paid my respect as I crawled my way up the steep slope on my hands and knees using the ropes .
The track continued at this gradient for a further kilometer and I was passed by a Chilean Runner who passed me around the 80km mark. I followed him until we made it to the check point. I was feeling rubbish. Sick, lethargic and just exhausted. This race was taking every last ounce of energy out of me. I was at my limit.
The UTMF volunteer at the check point tried to explain to us the gradient of the next section. What he described and what was drawn on the wall ended up being totally wrong. What he drew was that we’d already reached the top. So I decided to go light on the supplies.
I soon worked out that we had not even started the tough climb yet.
I looked up and I saw a monster of a mountain in front of me. I spotted the ropes that had been placed out on the rock face to help us with the ascent. I was then startled by a UTMF camera man. Shit now I will have to climb up this mountain fast so I don’t look crap on TV. Great. I thought.
I crawled, tugged, pulled, climbed my way up the rock face with my pack on my back. I marveled at how much more smoothly the UTMF camera man moved compared to me.I did not feel half as agile as he appeared.
Every time I made it to the top of the rock shelf, there was anther one to greet me and another, and another. I soon spotted Mark again. We yelled a few greetings to each other! Swore together and decided that our fate was well and truly fucked to say the least. Bloody hell this was tough. I now know why they insisted that we had insurance policy! If you made a wrong move you could fall 10m and break your neck. Far out this was hairy. I really felt for the runner coming later at night. I soon caught up with Mark again and we made our way together to the top of the mountain.
We reached the peak and I soon passed him before he then passed me on the descent. My x-talons 190 were finding this hard descent murder under foot and I was starting to hurt a bit. If I were to run this race again next year I would swap into inov-8 Trailroc’s 245 for this leg…..but the inov-8 x-talons 190 were amazing on the ascent! Catch 22.
The trail got steep, ruggered and painful. My quads were murdered! I was exhausted! I’d also run out of water and most of my food. This section blew all my splits out of whack! This leg was the toughest 20km I have ever encountered.
I tried my best to roll down the hill but is just was so brutal, steep, hard, ruggered terrain. This is descent is meant to me my bread and butter. But the surface was so unforgiving. I was soon emerge out onto a fire trail but instead of there being dirt or gravel I was confronted with concrete slabs. OUCH!
I then started to cough and wheeze again. Shit not my asthma coming back. My lungs now felt like they were clogged with mucus and dirt. I was slowing giving myself pneumonia. Foul. I was trying to cough it out but I was dehydrated and I had nothing to produce mucus with. I stopped and walked, and tried to hack my lungs out. Coughing uncontrollably. I felt sick. I was soon passed by Mark again and I asked him for some water. I was feeling sick in my lungs and I had to clear it out. He was so nice to me. I decided that I only needed 1/2 of the bottle that he had left and I drank it all up. I then stopped to try and clear my lungs.
Mark continued on and I was alone with my thoughts for the next few kilometers. This is not a race. This feels like a bloody training run. Where are all the fast Japanese runners? This is their terrain, they should be up here pushing me. I wanted to stop. I felt so crap. This was the toughest day I had endured. I was over it. The UTMF had taken everything from me. Come on when is this going to end?
I hacked up my lungs and coughed and wheezed some more. I tried to run but I was gain having problems breathing. Cramping in my chest. I stopped and had some ventolin. 2 puffs in the hope that it would get me into a normal breathing pattern again. I should be flying down this descent. Come on Shona. Let’s end this. I ate a Hammer Bar and hoped for the best. Man at this rate I was going to be lucky not to run out of here with out a head torch on. All my fight had disappeared.
After I took my ventolin I turned around and I spotted Hitomi Ogawa floating down the hill behind me. Shit. Now you’ve done it! You stupid idiot. You’ve lost 2nd position. You have about 25kms to go in the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji. I’m not sure if you can out sprint and race someone for 25kms. I’m not sure if your lungs will hold out at that pace for 25km and considering that you’ve felt shit all day. I’m not sure if you have enough energy for 25km of real racing when you’ve lacked energy all day.
Bloody hell. How much are you prepared to hurt to defend this spot? I asked myself. You’ve done it now. I know I can out run someone for 10km…….I guess I will have to do it for 25km. FUCK! I wanted to come 2nd.

Game On.

The UTMF race had begun. Hitomi came up beside me, then moved in front of me. I tucked in behind her and let her take the head wind and allow me to warm up again to fast running pace. We were soon spat out onto the road and the gradient of the descent became slightly steeper. I pulled out next to her. I then noticed that even with my crappy asthma, Hitomi was having to breath harder than me to try and keep up. I then decided that my running technique was better than hers and I was much lighter on my feet with a faster cadence and more power and knee drive. I flew pass Mark, and wished him luck. Mark must have been laughing to himself. What a sight this must have been. I was dead only 1km ago. Now I was racing for my sponsors and position.
I pulled out in front of her and I decided that I could take her on to the finish. But I was going to have to fight for it.
I soon spotted Abe about 200m from the check point. I pointed behind me, implying that I’ve been caught and that I was going to need all the help I could get to get out of the check point as fast as I could. I ran in to A10 and the crowd erupted noticing that it was game on between Hitomi and me. I could also tell that they were happy that the Japanese girl was a possibility of finishing 2nd.
“Ive lost 2nd. I fucked up” I said to Glen.
“No you have not. Look I got you the coke that you wanted for the last check point. Now get the hell out of here. You can still come 2nd”. He encouraged.
With that I was off and running with a full coke bottle in my hand, trying to scull fizzy coke on the run. I was a bit worried, as earlier in the day the Coke made me feel sick, but at this stage it was hitting the spot. I was mindful that it can give you a sugar spike then a low, and I also counted the amount of calories it had in it too making sure I was not going to over eat for the hour.
My race strategy was then to get out of sight of Hitomi. I raced like hell to get as much space between us as possible. I turned back to see if she left the check point about 1km after the check point and I almost fell into a canal, and I had to leap across the 50cm gap into a pile of rubbish to avoid breaking my leg in the 5m narrow concrete drop. Shit Shona just run. Don’t look back.There is no point looking back at this stage. You can look back at the top of the climb when you are out of view.
I drove my legs up the climb, pushed on my quads and sucked in and much air as possible.I soon passed a bloke, then another one, then the Chilean Guy who passed me back on the mountain. I was flying. I made it across the first visual gap, past a photographer, yet I dare not look back. There was no point at this stage. Looking back would only slow me down.
I pushed up the climb, come on this is what you’ve done all that training for. Push, push. I dug deep into my lungs and I hope I had enough lung capacity and energy to get me to the finish. My quads and calves were screaming at me. This is what you train for. Let’s go.
I checked my fueling and I took on some Hammer Gels and I ran out onto the road past the volunteers. I looked back and I could not see anyone following me. Good. Go Shona, go. Well done, now lets get past that next gap without anyone seeing you. I ran and walked up the road. I felt heavy. I checked my pack. I quickly sculled some perpetuem, then emptied out the rest of the bottle, I then sculled some sports drink and again emptied out the bottle. I wanted to conserve my energy and not have to carry any extra weight then I had too. Lightening the load made me feel so much better. I was running again. I looked across the valley and I could not see any runners close to me. Well done Shona all your the work is paying off.
I spotted the turn off to the fire trail descent and I was informed that there was only 10km to go. I rolled down that descent as fast as my legs would take me. I decided that the x-talons 190 were the shoe for me and they were taking me into 2nd position. I was flying now and oh so happy.
I flew down the hill and rolled through the shrine at the base of the mountain, jumped down the steps and started to do some sums in my head. Was it possible that I could make sub 26 hours? This was my new goal.

Shona Stephenson inov-8 and Hammer Athlete
Shona Stephenson inov-8 and Hammer Athlete

I ran flat out along the footpath along the road and I spotted the finish line across the lake. I asked a local runner how far to the finish line and he informed me it was 2km. I did my sums and I realized I was going to come under 26 hours if I pushed with all my might.
I flew across the bridge down the stair and along the footpath towards the finish line. I high fived the crowd all the way to the finish line. I then spotted 2 small Japanese girls and stopped dead in my tracks and doubled back and high fived their hands. They could be future runners one day I thought.
I hooned down the finishing race slapping everyones hands and ran across the finish line. I was totally ecstatic. I was so happy that Hitomi made me race it to the end otherwise I’d be coming in with a head torch on. What does that say about me? I really love racing? I will only do what’s needed? I know I push harder if I am racing. I can always find just a little bit more to give. I came across the finish line and I started to cough my lungs out. I really was not well. I knew pushing for 25km was going to take it’s toll on my health.
25 hours 56 minutes. It was the longest distance I’d run, the highest elevation that I’d climbed and the longest time on my legs. I’m so happy with my placing but I know I could have run it so much faster if I’d looked after myself properly.
I waited for Hitomi at the finish line. I put 20 minutes between Hitomi and myself and any of the other runners who I past in the last section. I was so proud of my fighting spirit. I thanks Hitomi for making me race and finish of the UTMF with strength and dignity.
I spotted Brendan Davies and he informed me he’d come 5th! I was over the moon with happiness for him. It was a great day out for inov8 + Descente.
Bring on The North Face 100 in Australia in just 3 weeks time.

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