This post is directed at members of the Gifu Runners Facebook Group, a group of runners living in or around the Gifu region of Japan.
There is a clear lack of full marathon options for us in Gifu. In fact, there are only two marathons that I know of: the hugely popular Ibigawa Marathon and the almost unheard of Kisogawa Marathon. Both events have their merits, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a third option? One that we can organize and run whenever we feel like it?
Here are some requirements I think are necessary if we were to set up our own marathon.
A Gifu Runners Marathon should…
- be in Gifu (duh!)
- have parking
- have toilets
- be on roads or paths with little traffic
- have no roads that require waiting to cross
- have a route that is easy to memorize without signs or map-checking
- have opportunities to get aid
- be flat enough to make personal records achievable
- be accessible for all participants
- be flexible in case of bad weather, road works, etc.
Gifu prefecture is a big place, and I can’t pretend to know of the perfect place to hold this kind of event, but I’d like to propose one route that I’ve traveled a few times. Here’s a map of the course with proposed start, finish, turnaround and aid markers:
View Gifu Runners Marathon in a larger map
Let me address the 10 points above.
1. The proposed Gifu Runners Marathon is in the heart of the prefecture, just north of Mino City. The Nagara River is well-known for its white-water rafting, and the mountains it runs through are simply beautiful.
2/3. The proposed course starts at the Shinbu Kominkan (新部公民館) bus stop. I assume there is parking and toilets there at the community center or at the shrine next to it. The course I’ve plotted is along the rather quiet Route 324. It’s 10.5km in length (for reasons explained later) and finishes at Minamikodakara Onsen, which I know for sure has parking and toilets.
4. The road is on the opposite side of the river to the main road (Route 156) and is only really used by cyclists, farmers and local residents. Obviously we would have to keep to the side of the road, but traffic shouldn’t be a problem.
5. Because there is nothing but mountains on one side of the road, the only roads that need crossing are narrow, country roads, like those you see between rice fields. I’d be surprised if you had to stop running.
6. The route is easy to memorize because it’s one road. If you stick to that road you can’t go wrong. Turn right or left and you’ll either run into the mountains or the river! The end of the 10.5km stretch is easy to recognize because it’s a hot spring with a big car park and even a train station.
7. Because we don’t have enough people to set up multiple aid stations, the course is kept short. A full marathon would be “there and back” twice. Ideally, three volunteers would be needed. One at the start, one in the middle and one at the end. That would enable aid and encouragement to be given every 5km. A rolling aid station in a support car or on a bike would be possible if we have only one or two volunteers. Also, because the course is divided into 10.5km sections, we can offer a 10K and half-marathon, too, if there’s interest.
8. The route is reasonably flat. Running upstream is a slight incline, approximately 30m over 10.5K, but the next 10.5K would obviously be running back downstream. There may be one noticeable hill, but it’s quite tame, perhaps only elevated an additional 30m itself.
9. The course is about 45 minutes drive from both Gifu City and Kani City. There is also a train from Minokamo and Seki, but it doesn’t run very frequently. By car, you can simply drive up Route 156 and turn off before the first tunnel. That turn off is our starting point.
10. I wouldn’t expect many of us to take part so changing the weekend because of bad weather, sickness, injury, or whatever shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Let me know your thoughts. If you would like to push ahead with this idea we can organize a time to go and check the course out.