Japanese champion runner Tomomi Bitoh completed a 170-kilometer race in the Himalayas last November, and immediately made a beeline for a Tokyo clinic to begin freezing her eggs, hoping to keep alive her dream of becoming a mother.

The 33-year-old former child care worker is one of a growing number of Japanese women joining in a trend authorities in the world's most advanced aging society hope will stem further declines in the birth rate.

"I have this big dream of becoming number one in the world," said Bitoh, who placed second among women in the 2021 Marathon des Sables, regarded as one of the world's toughest long-distance races.