Running Japan: A rough guide

I’m going on a long run. I know, I know - “another one!?”. This time I’m taking on Japan, over 2,000 miles of it. I’m terribly excited, slightly nervous and extremely determined. To get myself to this point I’ve run 600km across Sri Lanka as a ‘warm-up’, covered 8 marathons in the previous 8 months and before that spent many hours just staring into space and dreaming of standing on Japan’s southern tip, having run across the whole country. I knew I was going to do this before I had ever run a marathon, before I had even left the UK to start cycling. It is quite literally a dream come true.

Now I’ve actually got to do it! Here’s how...

Planned route

I’m planning to run over 2,000 miles from the most northerly point of Japan to the most southern point (on the mainland). It is a meandering route joining together hundreds of places I wish to visit after two years of dreaming/planning, but largely focusing on the countryside and not the megacities. I’m after lakes and rivers, hot springs and cold showers, mountains and valleys and wild camping nirvana.

Starting from Cape Soya I will head off on a meandering route across the island of Hokkaido, taking in snowy roads and wind blasted coastlines I’ll head inland through Furano and back towards the coast and the capital of Hokkaido -Sapporo. I’ll largely stick to the coast till the end of the island at Hakodate.

The main island of Honshu is frankly, massive. Starting from Aomori I plan to run through the centre, across the prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata, before slowly making my way easy through Tochigi, Gunma and Nagano. I’ll skirt the edges of Kyoto and Osaka before crossing onto the isolated and mountainous island of Shikoku from Kobe.

After a few hundred km’s in Shikoku I plan to rejoin Honshu, heading along the south coast via Hiroshima before finally blitzing it south across the final of Japan’s four biggest islands - Kagoshima. At the southern tip of Kagoshima is a place called Cape Sata, this is where I hope to finish.

Distance

The first time I planned this it was 2,500km. The second time it was 3,000km, the third was 4,000km. I have settled on a varied and interesting route that is something around 3,500km but in truth, I have no idea what the final total will be.

I plan to run between 30-40km per day, sometimes less, sometimes much more and with rest days every week. It will probably take over 100 days, but I hope less than 4 months.

Holy mountain! An extra challenge?

And I recently discovered there are three holy or ‘sacred’ mountains in Japan of which Mount Fuji is the largest and obviously most well known. The other two are Mount Haku and Mount Tate, both happen to be on my route plan and I therefore plan to climb all three sacred mountains while in Japan, weather and access permitting.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve taken enough on here.

Preparation/Training

Well there was that time I ran across Sri Lanka...

...but really how can you train for running 2,000 miles? There are few precedents and those who have taken on such challenges often speak of ‘easing into it’ by using the first few days or weeks as training, building up to a regular routine. That’s a sensible idea.

I’ll probably just go hell for leather though.

Gear

Lots of it - will be posting a full kit list later this week.

Motivation

I left the UK in June 2018 to take on a grand adventure and cycle to Sydney. But I planned to set myself challenges along the way, and after running marathons across Europe and running across Sri Lanka this will be the biggest and toughest challenge yet.

I am motivated by a desire to test my limits, both physical and mental. I am fit and healthy and able to give it a go, and wish to fully take advantage of the situation I find myself in.

I love being outside, climbing hills, swimming down rivers and exploring unknown terrain. I get a big kick out of running and cycling long distances. I am obsessed by strava statistics. I wear a big grin on my face every time I achieve something I hadn’t previously realised I was capable of. I am fascinated by Japan, it’s food, it’s people, it’s diverse landscapes and incredibly beautiful language. I want to discover why the Japanese have a fanatical love of trail running. I wish to climb a few mountains and stumble down a rocky road or two. I could go on, and on, and on. I am so, so, so excited for this.

The desire to run across a whole country was also inspired by a few British adventurers. Namely these people.

Great British Adventurers

Anna McNuff - ran the length of New Zealand - I met Anna in Bristol and found her boundless enthusiasm infectious and empowering. I’m hoping to run a stage of her ’barefoot britain’ challenge with her in the summer.

Elise downing - ran the entire UK coastline - that’s badass

Sean Conway - ran the length of Britain - AFTER having already swum and cycled the length of it too!

Jamie McDonald - ran across Canada and the USA dressed in as a superhero - he’s called adventureman, he is utterly selfless and inspiring, and he’s from Gloucester!

Alastair Humphreys - ran the Marathon de Sables - also cycled around the world, packrafted Iceland, walked across the Empty Quarter desert, invented ‘micro adventures’ and was the original inspiration for me quitting my job and cycling to Australia!

Fundraising

I am also raising money for a cause very close to me.

I feel somewhat fortunate to be able to go on an epic adventure like this. I was born with congenital heart disease and underwent two open heart operations as a baby in Bristol. The Bristol Heart Institute is the hospital at which I now attend regular check-ups, scans, MRIs and occasionally participate in research projects.

The BHI is a wonderful place full of amazing, dedicated and caring people. It is one of the leading units in the UK for treating heart disease, and I am so happy to be able to fundraise for the hospital on behalf of Above and Beyond.

I planned to raise £5K for the Bristol heart institute and I’m currently approaching that benchmark. But I don’t want to just limp over the line, I want to smash through it. (A good metaphor for my hopes of finishing this run...)

You can help me by sharing the word - if you could tell a few people about my plans and fundraising, it would mean a lot.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/peter-lamb7

Scrollable route plan

All there is left to do..

...is run.

If you enjoyed reading this, feel in any way inspired by it or frankly just need to kill a few more minutes of your lunch hour and are in a generous mood, please consider sharing it with a friend or family member. You can also donate to my charity fundraising for the Bristol Heart Institute here:

https://www.justgiving.com/account/your-pages/Peter-Lamb7

You can subscribe for future updates in the footer below.