Home sweet home
I live at the foot of a range of hills which stretches inland from the sea. Five minutes from the house, a trail climbs up to a ridge, and from there I can walk or run for several hours without seeing another person, or indeed many signs of human life. In winter, the trails are clear, dry, and free from the sticky webs that make summer hiking a series of close encounters with fat, biting spiders. Winter is the time for trail running – for leaving civilisation behind and building up strength for the following season.
Mountain sakura on Sengen Ridge
Today, I ran a loop which starts from Sengenyama (仙元山), runs east along a sawtooth ridge as far as the Yoko-Yoko Expressway, and then loops around to Morita River. At times the ridge offers sweeping views of hill after hill after hill, all covered with untouched deciduous forest. The proximity of the ancient temples of Kamakura, and the emperor’s summer palace in Hayama, has protected this oasis of nature from urban sprawl and from the equally destructive plantation forests which cover most of Japan’s lower mountains. Instead giant hinoki and sugi must compete for space with even larger camphors and cherries and oaks.
The first hour of the trail is so up and down that it is hard to run for more than a minute or two. At times the path tunnels through dense bamboo groves before reemerging in the sunlight. It is hard going. But once you turn north towards Morito River, the trail flattens out and for the rest of the way it is mostly fine running. Just before Futago-yama (二子山) a damp train descends steeply to the middle reaches of the Morito River. Indistinct trails run up the various tributaries, deep into the forest, but today I headed west towards the sea. It is a rare place in Japan – a mostly untamed river, free from concrete and dams, just left to run its course through the steep-sided hills. Before dusk, the air is filled with the chatter of squirrels and the screech of birds. One evening, I caught a glimpse of the rare and exotic Japanese paradise flycatcher which lives in this forest.
The trail exits the forest at a gate with a no entry sign. I remember the first time I went through the gate. I couldn’t believe that such a wild place exists within the urban sprawl of Kanagawa.
I have two great pieces of gear for trail running. The Inov8 Talon 200 are lightweight trail shoes designed for Britain’s wet, boggy moors. They somehow manage to combine a fairly low drop with great support and comfort. I bought them for swimrun, as they hold little water, which makes them perfect for river trails. The Mont Bell Cross Runner 7 has all the features of packs made by the famous brands, but at half the price. It fits like a glove, stays in place, and holds all you need for a day of running.