Running Through Nanatani Valley — Old Trains, Hills, and Serenity

Just did a little over a half marathon through the hills close to where I live. Have been struggling with sleeping, started the “SoberOctober” challenge, and figured I better get my ass out of bed and bust it, or a regular sleep pattern may never come. In other words, there is no more option for a whisky highball to help calm the nerves before bed this month. Not that alcohol helps the quality of sleep. It almost always makes it worse.

Finally hitting the downhill, heading into Gosen City.

So, after a short 3.5-hour half-dream haze of semi-sleep, I got up, got ready, and set out. It felt fucking bad. Legs tired, whole body fatigued, and mind weak. But, somehow I just kept going. Once I entered the little mountain range I had to cross, I ran out of water. Climbing and climbing, I thought: “I’m maybe gonna turn around.” I had hit the 5-mile mark (not a bad run), had some weird gas issue in my chest that got me paranoid about my heart, and was sweating a lot, as it was pretty hot outside. Saw a little mountain restaurant coming up and said to myself: If they have a vending machine, you are gonna get to the goal. If they don’t, let’s call it a day.

Well, lo and behold, there were two vending machines there. I got some water and continued powering up the hill. It’s not like the other road I know further up the range. This one isn’t just a short blast of two big hills and down. It’s a looooong, more gradual, but still tough, incline before the descent. It was painful. I stopped now and then. Caught my breath, and kept chug-a-lugging along up the mountain.

Finally across the range, after what seemed like an endless incline, and an interminable journey down, I popped out in the small town on the other side of the mountains, grabbed an energy drink from another vending machine by a pet store where the dogs were all losing their shit when they saw me, and turned off into where the valley begins, to head toward the spot I wanted to visit, tucked away in the middle. A garden park with a big, rolling hill where kids and beginners ski and sled in the winter. There are also old, decommissioned trains there, and a neat Bavarian-looking-lodge-type building, so I thought I’d check it out.

Walked on and off for a while after mile ten. Struggling. Sleep deprivation makes running twice as hard. Collected some chestnuts from the roadside on the way, and when I was under a mile out, started running again solid with no stops. Put on the Offspring’s “Smash” for some last-push adrenaline fuel, and made it. A satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I was able to chill out on the grass at the park, check out a really neat train that began running in 1924, and look out across the hills from the top of the ski park.

View from the top of the hill.
This train began running in 1924, and didn’t stop until 2001.

After that, I’d walk another six miles back into a nearby town for the train. It was a peaceful, scenic walk through Nanatani Valley in Niigata. I hope you enjoy the pics. 20 miles on foot in a day, and I still had a bit of a battle falling asleep, but the point is: I did sleep! And am very grateful! Went back to the same park with my family today by car and we really enjoyed ourselves.

Post-run Coca-Cola with snapping turtle buddy (gift from my son) I brought along for the ride.
Some very beautiful sights on the walk home.
Greeted by Yebisu at the finish of a 20-mile journey.

Thanks for reading. Wishing you a beautiful autumn season.

By Voluntary Japan

Living life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s