ULTRA-TRAIL Mt.FUJI

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Unlike in urban environment, there are various types of risk in natural environment. On unpaved trails, we are exposed to the risk of fall relentlessly and have no shelter for emergency. In natural environment, we have to be defensive in all activities. “We have to bring emergency kit to avoid dangerous situations”, “That is the rule to play in natural environment”. We may not use it in most of the case, but we should bring it even for very rare case. That is our policy in our event.

Why do we require racers to have mandatory equipment kit?

Obviously, every single racers are different in skills and physique from others. Racer’s equipment kit might be different each other. Each racer may bring his or her own equipment kit and enjoy as he or she wants in private trip to mountains. However that does not work in the case of public event. Racers with variety of policies and skills get together in public event. Event organizer is responsible to set mandatory equipment kit, organize the event to make it work, and make all racers enjoy the event with sufficient equipment. That is how our rules and regulation works.

As event organizer and racers work together to get it enjoyable, safety of the event is brought in working together as well. Organizer is responsible for lowering risk of the event so as to make it manageable. Racers are responsible to keep their safety by adapting changes in natural environment.

In the south slope of Mt. Ryugatake, where the altered course go through, there was rainfall early morning of the race day. In that morning, we have confirmed that there were not higher risk of rockfall than usual by visiting there several times. In addition, we asked all racers not to wear ear phones but to listen to the sound of natural environment. It is impossible to avoid all risk there only by the effort of race organizer, excepting for cancelling the event. On the other hand, racers can not avoid risk of injury if rocks fall from side wall next to the course, even with the best sensitivity to changes of natural environment. That is what we mean by “co-work with organizer and racers”.

Rules and mandatory equipment kit is the conditions to make this co-working for avoiding risk. We race organizer is preparing rescue system with assumptions below.

– Racers can keep their own safety in normal situation.
– Racers can make call to rescue team by themselves in emergency.
– Racers are equipped with tools and clothes to keep them safe in emergency until they are rescued.
– Racers know how to use each item in mandatory equipment kit.

Racers should know that they are not safe in the event if they fail to follow our rules and mandatory equipment requirement.

Why did we disqualified racers?

We regret that more than twenty racers are disqualified in our event due to missing mandatory equipment. Honestly, we felt personally compassionate in some cases. However, it was difficult in some other cases to say racers were ready to keep them safe. Well, those disqualified came in safe without mandatory equipment. But who knows they might get into fatal trouble later if they are not checked equipment?

If we let them keep going, it means not only exposing them to risk but also exposing other racers with mandatory equipment indirectly. For example, we do triage when we have several wounded or troubled racers who can not even walk. If one of them do not have rain jacket and pants, he or she will be in higher priority considering possibility of acute hypothermia. As a result, others will be left over for four to six hours, although they can picked up within two hours if everyone fully equipped.

Please note that we did not picked mandatory items to check, so to punish some racers with certain intent. We chose just a few items that keep racers safety and are useful in emergency.

Learnings for next editions

Having more than twenty disqualified racers, we recognized with regret that our event has a lot to improve. Have we successfully shared purpose of rules and mandatory equipment with racers? Is is well balanced between social or personal value of the event to racers, effectiveness in safety, and penalties to those who failed to follow our rules?

On the other hand, we have realized improvement in moral and skill of racers from previous events. In emergency call, some racers told us exact place of them in point of topographic course map. In previous events, most of racers said just “I do not have map” or “I can not use map anyway”. This year, it was very easy in communication because all racer on emergency calls had and read topographic maps, and we did effective and efficient rescue work as a result.

What we learned is that understanding the root of rules and mandatory equipment is effective to avoid even difficult risk, and to make the event more enjoyable. We race organizer hope to share these learnings with racers.