30K参加者 ジェームス・マリオンさんの大会レポート2023.06.02



James Mallion Profile

Coming from Canada, James has always been interested in the outdoors, mountains, skiing and climbing but his passion for running really took off as the pandemic forced people to stay at home.
Now, as normalcy starts to creep back into the world and organized races are a thing again, James seeks to challenge his mind and body on the roads, mountains and trails.
James is also a big movie buff, he hosts a podcast interviewing creatives on inspirations, he’s a music lover, a sports fan of both team and endurance sports and a bit of a craft beer aficionado.
Look to James for the perfect long run playlists or the best brew recommendation after you finish your next marathon or trail race.

ジェームス・マリオン プロフィール

また、ジェームスは大の映画好きで、クリエイターのインスピレーションをインタビューするポッドキャストを配信していて、音楽好きであり、チームスポーツとエンデュランススポーツのファンであり、クラフトビールの愛好家でもあります。 ランニングのための完璧なプレイリストや、マラソンやトレイルランレース後におススメの最高なクラフトビールをジェームスが教えてくれるでしょう。



The 2nd FunTrails Round Minano

Before I give my thoughts on the 2023 Fun Trails Round Minano trail race. I feel like I should give a bit of background about myself for context. I just turned 40, my birthday in fact, was one day after the FTR Minano race. I have only been running with consistency for a little over 2 years now, I started to make running a regular habit during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, I have aimed to push my mind and body to see what I can accomplish with running, while trying to enjoy the process throughout. Last year in 2022, I decided to challenge myself to enter some races.

I participated in a road marathon and 4 trail races ranging in distances from 10km to 50km. Three of those trail races were in Japan and one was in Canada, where I’m from. Each of those races was a lot of fun and plenty challenging. Through this process I realized I was becoming hooked on trail races as the way to challenge myself. I view running on the trails and in the mountains as a time when I can escape the stresses of the world, get back to nature, seek beauty and feel free.

As 2023 came around I felt the need to continue my trail racing journey and explore races in my area and beyond. I know I’m not alone on this journey either. While road and marathon running will always be more popular here in Japan, I feel like trail running is gaining some ground and getting more public interest year by year. One can simply look at the multitude of options for entering different trail races all across Japan. The choices of races are often overwhelming. It is becoming possible to enter a trail race every weekend of the year from about March to December.

So, with all these race options available, how does a Fun Trails produced race stack up against the competition? Well, after recently completing my first race with them, I’d say pretty well!

The Fun Trails Round Minano 30km race was the second trail race of the year for me. I’m always excited at the chance to get into nature, run and explore a new area, in this case Minano, in Saitama prefecture. I was also pretty excited to get the chance to try a race from an organizer I had never tried before.

Fun Trails was founded by seasoned Japanese trail runner, Shunsuke Okunomiya and started in 2015. I had previously heard about Fun Trails but haven’t had the chance to join one of their races until now. Perhaps Fun Trails’ most famous race they organize is the FTR Chichibu and Okumusashi that takes place every year in November, also in Saitama. It attracts many of the top trail and ultra-runners around Japan. It includes a 30km and a 100km division and this year will be its 8th edition.
Fun Trails also organizes and produces a number of other races around Kanto, Kansai and beyond that all seem worth checking out. So definitely give their main page a visit if you’re looking for a bit of, well, fun.

The Birth of Minano Fun Trails

Diving into the FTR Minano specifically, this is a race that was initially planned to take place in 2020 on Sunday, June 21st and would have included both a 25km and 50km division.
Unfortunately because of the Corona pandemic and state of emergency in Japan at that time, the race had to be cancelled. It wasn’t until last year in 2022 when the race finally made its debut as the 1st FTR Round Minano, on Sunday, June 26th 2022 and included a 30km and a 50km division. The initial race last year seemed to be a great success and enjoyed by everyone who participated. The only challenging aspect I heard from last year was how hot the weather was that day and how the heat played a major factor in how hard the race was for many.

Perhaps in response to last year’s hot weather, this year the race was held more than a month earlier, on Sunday, May 14th, 2023. This year’s course was very similar to last year’s and also featured a 30km and 50km division. The weather this year was indeed much cooler than last year and was ideal for a long run. The temperature stayed below 20c all day, it was cool and cloudy with occasional sun.

Quick Facts

What: 2nd FunTrails Round Minano Trail Race
When: May 14 (Sunday), 2023
Where: Minano City, Saitama
Who: Over 1000 entrants; (540 in the 30km, 478 in the 50km)
Last Edition: June 26, 2022 (1st Fun Trails Round Minano Trail Race)

The Lead Up to the Race

Joining a Fun Trails race is simple and straightforward. All the race information is available months in advance on the race website and runners can sign up via Runnet. Something to keep in mind for those with limited Japanese language skills, most of the information on the race and the entire sign-up process to the race is entirely in Japanese. This may be a bit of a challenge for those new to Japan or visiting the country for a short time. That said, using Google Translate or other tools should be able to get you through the process without too many problems.

In the weeks leading up to the race frequent emails were sent out by the organizers informing racers of essential equipment, registration times, transportation options, weather updates and more. It was all quite helpful so as to not forget anything. For me personally, this race required more essential equipment than I’ve had to carry before in a race.
As I mentioned, Fun Trails is famous for their 100km race, FTR Chichibu & Oku Musashi, which for safety reasons requires entrants to carry a lot of gear during the race. In my past experiences, I’ve only been required to carry water and racing gloves. For this race, regardless of the distance, 30km or 50km, racers were required to carry in their packs multiple items, like a first aid kit, a survival blanket, a hooded rain jacket, a headlamp, sports tape and more. While carrying all this gear may have seemed excessive for some, I personally didn’t mind. Carrying extra gear provided me with a peace of mind for my safety that if something went wrong in the mountains I’d be fine. I also felt that carrying a fuller pack would prepare me for longer races in the future that also required carrying extensive gear.

Getting There

Part of the appeal of this race for myself and I’m sure many others living in the greater Tokyo area is the accessibility of getting to Minano, Saitama. The venue of the race was Minano Sports Park, which is around a 2 hour drive from the Tokyo area. The venue is big and open and is more than suitable to host sporting events. There was ample space for the registration tables, bag storage, food stalls and stalls selling running gear. The venue also included a parking lot for those who drove. These parking spots had to be reserved in advance.

Since I don’t drive, I opted to take the train to the race. Via train, the venue was about a 15 minute walk from either Kami-Nagatoro Station or Oyahana Station, both on the Chichibu Railway line. Again, from the Tokyo area, this trip via train can be reached in a little under 2 hours by taking the Tobu line and transferring to the Chichibu line either at Yorii station or Kumagaya station. For myself, coming from northern Chiba prefecture, it took me about 2 hours and 45 minutes by train. This meant an early wake up and a long train ride. Doing this was a bit tiring but still very much achievable to get to the venue on time in order to check-in and register by 9:00 am and then start the race at 9:30am, the start time for the 30km race.

For those runners in the 50km division, registration closed at 6:30am and the race started at 7am. Unless you lived in the area or were staying close by, coming by train would not have been possible. For the 50km entrants the most likely options were to drive early in the morning to the venue or stay in the Minano area the night before.

Upon reflection, the nearly 3 hour train ride there and back for me was a bit too long for comfort. I would recommend people in a similar situation to stay at a nearby inn or hotel and enjoy the previous day around Minano. Especially if you are entering the 50km race, with a 7am start time, I think it makes the most sense to take your time and come to the area the day before. Registration for both divisions was also available the previous day (Saturday, May 13th) and doing so would afford you more time to relax on race day, rather than rushing to arrive and register. For myself in the future if I return to FTR Minano, regardless if I do the 30km race or the 50km, I will opt to stay at a nearby inn and make my morning a little easier.

My Morning in Minano

After my train ride north I finally made it to Kami-Nagatoro station and along with some other racers walked about 15 minutes to the race venue. Once inside Minano Sports Park, everything was smooth and easy. There were more than enough staff and volunteers to make registration, which included checking in and getting your race bib, take almost no time at all. I should also mention that all participants had to submit a health check and equipment checklist upon arrival. Racers then received a brilliantly designed Minano Fun Trails t-shirt as a participation prize. This is one of the nicer shirts I have in my growing race shirt collection and was a nice bonus.

With registration taken care of, I was left with about an hour to go before the race was set to start. There were plenty of benches and tables to organize and pack all your gear and supplies for the race. I was super impressed with the organization and flow of the event in the morning and even with the lack of wait-time for toilets, which is something I also consider essential pre-race. Before I knew it, racers were lining up towards the start and the race was set to go.

My First Fun Trails Race Experience

As referenced earlier, the race was split into two categories: a 30km division, which I ran, and a 50km division. Both courses featured plenty of scenic views, a mix of terrain between road and trail and lots of climbing. The 30km course had over 1500m of elevation gain and loss, while the 50km course had close to 2500m elevation gain and loss.

Wait, but was it Fun?

There are many aspects of this race that stick out in my head that made it live up to the ‘Fun’ moniker in its name. The first one was the people involved. From the pre-race opening speech, to the locals cheering on the course, the elementary and junior-high school students helping out, to the many volunteers working at the aid stations and on the course, everyone seemed so passionate and enthusiastic about being involved. As a racer this can make a big difference when the day gets hard. The slogan of the race, “Move Forward with a Smile” seemed fitting for all the kindness I experienced throughout the day. I did indeed smile a good deal of the race.

Did I Mention the Aid Stations?

When talking with friends about this race afterwards, another thing that stuck in my memory was the quality and frequency of the aid stations. There were 4 aid stations on the 30km course and 7 on the 50km course. These stations were about every 6km on the course, which was just about perfect for me. The aid stations alternated between drink stations and full aid stations that included food, drinks and medical support. While the drink stations were welcoming and well stocked with water, cola, sports drinks and salt tabs, the full aid stations were what really impressed me. In addition to the drinks listed, they included a wide range of salty, sweet, refreshing and filling snacks and foods. This included things like fresh locally grown strawberries, breads, udon noodles, senbei rice crackers, inarizushi and more. Those on the 50km course had even more options at the later aid stations that included things like sandwiches and rice balls. In the handful of races I’ve taken part in these past couple years, the aid stations at Fun Trails Minano truly impressed me the most and made my experience more enjoyable.

Even though racers were required to carry their own nutrition in their packs throughout the race, I ended up coming home with a lot of what I packed due to the offerings available at the aid stations. As I made my way through the course I looked forward to reaching the next aid station, anticipating all the delicious food and refreshments I could enjoy. I made sure to stop, thank the people involved and enjoy myself.

So, how was the Course?

While I can’t speak directly to the 50km course, the two courses were identical for the first 30km. This is where the shorter course ends at Minano Sports Park and the 50km course then continues on for an extra 20km. I did hear from some people who did the long course that the extra 20km included two more significant climbs that were quite steep and tricky, but that the added sections also featured scenic views of Chichibu Kegon Falls and Suisenji Temple.

Speaking from my experience on the 30km section, it was certainly challenging, but not as steep and demanding as some other trail races I’ve run in the past. The cut off times were also generous for both sections, with the 30km having a total cut off time of 8 hours and the 50km having a cutoff of 12 hours.

The 30km course basically featured three climbs, with the longest being around 7km to start the race. It then included a shorter but steeper 4km climb around the middle of the course and ended with a final 1.5km climb near the end. The course terrain included about 35% of roads to go along with 65% trail, so there was a chance for frequent road runners like myself to run on some familiar terrain.

The View from the Top

One of the main reasons I enter trail races is to enjoy time in nature and experience the beauty and views of the natural environment. Despite being cloudy most of the day, FTR Minano provided all that was looking for and more. There were lush forests, scenic old temples and houses, cattle fields and great views of the Kanto plains. I often had to slow down and take a look around me to appreciate all the beauty surrounding us. Despite the added difficulty the 50km would provide, I’m already thinking of trying that course next year to take in even more of the Minano area.

Another aspect of the race I really appreciated was the number of racers on the course. As there were less than 500 racers in the 30km division it was never really that crowded even on narrow climbs and single track trails. I can only recall a couple times as I was flying down some downhills, that I had trouble passing people. Overall, the course was quite open and most runners were able to pass others without an issue. That said, if you do feel strong going into the event, it is never a bad idea to start near the front of the pack to avoid the potential of getting stuck behind slower runners.

The course markings and volunteers on the course were also quite helpful to ensure no one got lost on the course. There were a few tight turns or spots where I could envision runners making a wrong turn, but ultimately the course was fairly easy to navigate. Participants were required to carry either a digital or a physical map and I occasionally made use of my digital map to ensure I was on course. After the race I did hear of a few people having some small issues of going off course, this was never a problem for me however, as I always felt sure of where I was.

Fun for Everyone

All in all, the race took me a little over 3 and a half hours and was a great way to spend a Spring morning. I would recommend this race to almost all intermediate runners and beyond. While the 30km distance and elevation gain may be a bit too much for beginners, those with some experience on the trails should be able to get through the course within the 8 hour cutoff with no issue. Those more experienced trail runners looking for a challenge can join the 50km race and push themselves even further.

For me, this race was exactly what I was looking for. I got some more practice running in the mountains, I enjoyed some beautiful scenery, then I got to enjoy some amazing aid stations and warm greetings from locals. Fun Trails has a number of races they organize and produce so if you are reading this I wouldn’t hesitate to join one in your area. If you can’t tell, I was super impressed with my first Fun Trails experience, the combination of the professionalism, the people, the course and the aid really made for an unforgettable experience. This was my first time running with Fun Trails but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

第2回FunTrails Round Minano

2023年のトレイルレース「FunTrails Round Minano」についての感想の前に、まずは私自身について自己紹介させてください。私は「FTRみなの」の翌日が誕生日で40歳です。ランニングを習慣化したのは、Covid-19の大流行時で、2年以上前からです。それ以来、ランニングで何ができるかを考え、そのプロセスを楽しみながら自分の心と体を追い込むことを目標にしてきました。昨年2022年はいくつかのレースに挑戦しました。




「FunTrails Round みなの30Km」レースは、私にとって今年2回目のトレイルランレースでした。私はいつも、自然に触れ、走り、新しいエリア(今回は埼玉県の皆野町)を探索するチャンスをに楽しみにしていました。また、これまで挑戦したことのない新しいレースに挑戦する機会もあり、かなり興奮していました。



「FTRみなの」は、当初2020年の6月21日(日)に開催される予定で、25kmと50kmの部門がありました。しかし、当時日本ではCovid-19が大流行していたため、残念ながらレースは中止となりました。そして、昨年2022年6月26日(日)に「第1回FTRみなの」として、30kmと50kmの2部門が初開催され ました。昨年の初回レースは大成功だったようで、参加された皆さんは楽しんだようです。ただ、昨年は、当日の天候が暑すぎて、その暑さがレースの過酷さに大きく影響したようです。

そのためか、今年は開催日を1カ月以上早めて、2023年5月14日(日)に開催されました。コースは昨年とほぼ同じで、30kmと50kmの部門が設けられました。 今年の天候は、さすがに昨年よりずっと涼しく、長距離走には最適でした。気温は一日中20℃を下回り、涼しく、曇り空で、時折太陽が顔を出していました。


イベント名:第2回FunTrails Roundみなのトレイルランレース












初めてのFunTrails レース体験



このレースには、「Fun」の名に恥じないような様々な側面がありました。まず1つ目は、関わる人たちです。レース前の挨拶から、コース上で応援する地元の人たち、お手伝いしてくれる小中学生、エイドステーションやコース上で働く多くのボランティアまで、みんながとても情熱的で熱心に参加しているように見えました。レーサーとして、レースが過酷になったときにスタッフの励ましや笑顔は大きな差を生むことになります。大会のスローガンである「Move Forward With A Smile(笑顔で前へ)」は、私が一日を通して経験したすべての優しさにぴったりだと思いました。実際、レース中、私はずっと笑顔でした。