Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Road running in the Japanese snow

Iwabuchi-sensei elated at the end of the road

I usually avoid road running like a black plague, but when the road is not black with mind and leg-numbing tarmac, but white with ploughed snow and surrounded by mountains it is another matter. Walking isn't possible in this two metre deep snow until it hardens up, so it is great to discover (thanks Richard!) that some of the minor roads are ploughed and, with only a handful of shocked and bemused drivers to deal with, they make for great running.

Running through a remote village, with its population of elders busy shovelling snow

Trail shoes and a cap to keep the snow out of your eyes are a good idea. Studs with metal inserts would be even better. It feels like a trail run, or running through sand, as the resistance, slippiness and roughness of the snow pull you around as you run. Excellent. Care is required, as there is a lot of ice around, sometimes hidden under a few inches of powder. The snow ploughs do a great job of clearing the road, but seem to polish the snow surface. This makes for some amusingly bad free-form dancing when attempting to stay on your feet. Running in the deeper snow at the edge, or keeping to chained tyre tracks helps.

Road running Jim, but not as we know it. River near Tamonashi

Of course it is being out amongst mountains that makes it really special. Iwabuchi-sensei has a full marathon this weekend, so it was good to get out for three hours ata reasonable pace on Sunday, and we even made a full circuit of Numazawako - who knew those little roads would be ploughed? The people who live there and need to get about, that's who.

Children in their mountain village just off the school bus

When running a valley road with Richard we bumped into some of the children I had been teaching earlier in the day, no doubt wondering what on earth we were doing. What a place to grow up. Anonymous suburbia it is not.

A bit heavy on the icing sugar

The snow is at it's height now - what am I saying, there is more forecast this week. The extraordinary forms it takes, and it's transformation of everything, is a great pleasure - look, it even turned me into a 'road' runner.

Run Rudolph, run!

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