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Runtrip

 

“Surfers go on surf-trips to catch good waves, runners go on run-trips to find good courses.”   

This is the phrase written on the top page at a website called “Runtrip

 

I came across this website from a Google search as part of a task I was assigned a while ago, trying to find ways for us to collaborate with fitness communities within Japan. Without even imagining this website will basically build my running career at that time, I contacted Mr. Eiichiro Omori, founder of Runtrip. He himself is not only just a runner, but he has run the Hakone Ekiden (Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race) in his college years which is one of the most prominent university ekiden (relay marathon) races of the year held between Tokyo – Hakone on 2nd and 3rd of January, every year.

 

With Omori-san as CEO, Runtrip is a company running an SNS for runners where registered users (free of charge) can post and search for running courses all over Japan and even overseas. The posts include a brief explanation of the course, map, road type, elevation, amount of traffic lights, recommended time of day, street lights and running station information.

Instead of the conventional “Like” button in most SNS, they have unique “Ran” and “Want to run” buttons for the courses that are posted. Running events from casual group runs (some followed by drinks afterward) to serious time trials and races can also be found on the website as well.

Even with my short and not-so-experienced running career, the distance and level indication of the events and group runs make it easier for runners like myself to participate without hesitation and worrying if I can keep up or not. With this experience, I have learned not only to enjoy the run itself but also to make new friends and connections with people who share the same interest, which is another reason I look forward to when joining an event.

Runtrip often holds campaigns collaborating with companies like Fitbit, giving out Fitbit watches to winners to encourage runners to challenge more, and win mileage from ANA (All Nippon Airways) to “go on a Runtrip” to places away from home. My personal favorite is the “Run for Yu” campaign. “Yu (湯)” means hot water in Japanese, in other words, onsen (hot springs) and baths. Tying up with KNT travel agency, the campaign offers users to use onsen facilities as running stations with special offers at a discount price.

Unfortunately, the English version website is yet to be launched. But it is currently under process translating the contents and will be available in the near future. “Very soon” emphasizes Omori-san everytime we discuss the subject. Fit Japan will announce the news when the English version is live, in the meanwhile you Google Translation service does a reasonable job of translating the site.

Of course, if you have plans for traveling to Japan or an expat living here and looking for a group run to join, we would be happy to help you join a running event with the Runtrip team during your stay. Usually, at least one or two people are English speakers. Or, if you yourself would like to hold an event and get to know runners in Japan, feel free to let us know. Message us via the contact page, we’d love to help you organize it and enjoy the many wonderful running options available in Japan.

 

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Pictures from a run in beautiful Hakone.

A short post of pictures from my weekend running in beautiful Hakone.

Sekisho Hakone Town Tori Gate, Hakone. Views of lake Ashi Views of lake Ashi Cyclist Enjoying the Path. Winding green trails Bamboo pathway View of Lake Ashi Lake Ashi Hakone Onsen Half Marathon in Hakone.

With a last minute decision made to join a friend for a weekend in Hakone, I was happy to have discovered a very pleasant half marathon distance run half way around Lake Ashi . The run includes a reasonably steep climb at the halfway point and takes you to a peak of the Hakone Skyline which rewards you with magnificent views of the lake and surrounding mountains. I also rediscovered the sheer bliss of a soothing hot spring Onsen for post run recovery and relaxation!

If you are looking for an energizing weekend away from the buzz of Tokyo city, then I highly recommend Hakone as a destination for you to run free among the trails of the mountainside, to enjoy the cool country air, the relaxation of the hot spring Onsen baths and the to take in the spectacular countryside views.


Tips on Hakone

  • Hakone is a short 1hr trip on the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station or around 2hrs by regular rail on the Odakyu line
  • Consider staying in a Ryokan as I have done previously, many of which have their own private Onsen and not to mention the warm local hospitality provided
  • Stay a night or two and improve your chances to catch views of Mt.Fuji. Sadly this trip I did not as it was covered by clouds the whole time.

Tips for Onsen

  • When taking Onsen be sure to scrub yourself silly using the soap and showers provided before hopping into the hot tubs, it’s an important part of the culture to be pristinely clean
  • While they are separated male and female, be prepared for full nudity as swimming wear is not generally acceptable in the Onsen and the little towel provided doesn’t offer you much to cover up with!
  • You may be asked to cover up tattoos if using a public Onsen
  • Enjoy! Nothing beat’s hot Onsen for recovery after a long cool run in the mountains.

Tips for running in Hakone

  • I will be researching and returning to Hakone for more running, so this will become a separate post sometime in the future
  • Take a running backpack with hydration capacity for longer runs as you might want to head off the beaten path and need your own supply of hydration & food
  • Ensure you check the weather forecast and take warm gear as the mountains can get cold and change quickly despite the sun being out
  • It gets dark quickly, plan your timing and ensure you are safely done before night falls

 

Hakone, in Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park west of Tokyo, is a mountainous region known for hot springs resorts and Mt. Fuji views. It also encompasses Hakone Jinja, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate; Lake Ashi, which can be toured by boat; and the boiling sulphur springs of Owakudani valley, seen from the Hakone Ropeway cable car.

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Runners Station, Kojimachi.

Front Entrance Variety of clothing and supplements Common Area Garmin Watches for hire / sale. Shower Capsule Mens Locker Room #1 Mens Locker Room #2

Situated 500 meters from the Imperial Palace running track, you quickly get a sense the owners of Runners Station Kojimachi have thoughtfully crafted this environment with a genuine knowledge of what a runner’s needs are and that they share a passion for running as much as you do.

Runners Station Kojimachi offer a variety of services, with the core facility being the use of a locker and a clean shower + towel rental. This is priced at only ¥700.

Other services include the option to store running shoes (via monthly membership) to rent a garmin watch or running shoes and you can also purchase from a variety of running clothing and supplements they have available.

Coffee and Tea facilities are available in the communal area for ¥100 and there is free wifi available too!

They are located directly above Kojimachi Station on the Yurakucho line and easiest to access if you take Exit 4 and follow the stairs to the top.

Although I have yet to encounter an English speaking staff member this really is not a barrier. They have even created a handy PDF map and explanation in English to help us non Japanese enjoy the service and the route.

Runners station is a warm, welcoming and friendly environment that is dedicated to the service of runners wanting to enjoy the ever popular Imperial Palace running track and I recommend you try them out for yourself.


 

Hours of Service
Weekdays (Tue-Fri) 10:00 to 22:30 (21:00 last admission)
※ Monday Closed

Saturday 8:00 to 20:00 (18:30 last admission)
Sunday and holidays 8:00 to 18:00 (16:30 last admission)

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Where to run in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace.

Where to run in Tokyo. The Imperial Palace.

If you are visiting Japan for the first time and looking for a place to run that’s central in Tokyo then look no further than the Imperial Palace. The track at the Imperial Palace is the quintessential Tokyo City running destination and it might well be the most popular of all running locations in Tokyo for Gaijin and local Japanese alike.

Why is Running at Imperial Palace so Popular?

  • Central access from a number of stations in the area makes getting there by train easy. There are nine train stations (Hanzomon, Sakuradamon, Hibya, Yurakucho, Nijubashimae, Tokyo, Otemachi, Takebashi, Kundanshita) that all either take you right to the route or close enough for a short walk/jog or jog to the track
  • There are no traffic lights or other reasons to stop/start along the way
  • It’s an even 5km loop start to finish, so it’s simple to measure your 5km 10km 15km etc etc distance if you don’t have a sports watch
  • Access to numerous clean public restrooms along the route
  • Water Fountains access for a quick sip or replenishing your water bottle. Especially handy if you are doing multiple loops in the summer time.
  • Community spirit of runners is alive. Rain, hail or shine and regardless of time of day, there seems to be always at least a handful of runners out enjoying the course with you
  • Well lit and safe while Tokyo itself already has an exceptionally low crime rate the Imperial Palace is well lit and guarded by numerous police who are stationed around the palace
Gardens at Imperial Palace
Gardens at Imperial Palace

Helpful Tips

  • Most (maybe all) of the train stations have lockers if you need to store goods while you jog
  • Check out the running services in the nearby area such as Runners Station where you can shower, use a locker, grab supplies – you can even rent running gear from them if you need it. They even have an english text imperial palace running map illustrating the water stations/bathrooms.
  • Run only counter clockwise around the course, it’s simply an etiquette that’s followed by all to keep congestion to a minimum.
  • Much like most of Tokyo, there are no trash cans on the loop so be mindful of this and hold onto any litter until you are home.
  • In contrast to the last point and somewhat out of place for Japan there are no vending machines along the route, if you seek a drink other than water you can simply cross one of the roads at the traffic lights and run for a while. You are bound to come across a vending machine in no time.
  • The route can get congested as some areas of the path narrow and the runners numbers do get high during peak times. The Japanese runners of course are generally highly courteous people, locals will nearly always clear the way when they can ‘sense’ you are wanting to pass. If you are stuck and the person is unaware, simply call out Sumimasen (pronounced soo-mii-mah-sen), which simply means Excuse me!

 

Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace
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Tokyo Marathon. Registration Opens!

Tokyo Marathon. Registration Opens!

The buzz in the city surrounding the Tokyo marathon epitomises to me the the depth of the running culture of Japan. The marathon is televised live and nationwide on Japan’s national public TV network (NHK) and as you explore the city ahead of your race participation you will be hard pressed to find a resident of Tokyo who isn’t aware and excited about the event.

Spectators turn out in the thousands and are frequently numbers deep as they energetically cheer you along.

 

I personally have completed the Tokyo marathon for the past 4 years in a row and plan to do so for at least the next 6 years. In coming posts I will be writing more about the Marathon and why it’s the the one marathon I plan to return to for a decade.

If you are going to run the Tokyo Marathon, or visiting Japan and need help to find your way around the health and fitness scene, don’t hesitate to Contact Me with any questions.

Don’t delay register for for a space in the 2016 Tokyo Marathon lottery now! Ganbatte!

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Held annually in Tokyo, the Tokyo marathon has been officially titled as one of the ‘Marathon Majors’, positioning itself among the ranks of Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York and London marathons.

From today Saturday, August 1, 2015, 10:00 a.m. (JST) until Monday, August 31, 2015, 5:00 p.m. (JST) it is open for registrations.

Competitors have a 6 hour 40 minute window to complete the 42.2 km marathon course which routes through the heart of Tokyo starting in Shinjuku and finishing in Ariake Bay providing participants a unique marathon experience throughout the vibrant Tokyo city streets.
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