Running along the outer rim of Hakone

We went to the outer rim of Hakone to test a new product, DRY WOOL TANK.

  • Photograph:HERENESS

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Hakone"? If you are a runner, the excitement of the Hakone Ekiden (relay race) will probably come to mind. And if you are a trail runner, it must be the Hakone Outer Rim Round the Mountain Trail.

The high-quality hot springs and the white smoke from Owakudani Valley are proof that Hakone is a volcano. The steep outer rim of Hakone is the rim of a concave caldera formed by repeated eruptions. A topographic map clearly shows the enormous size of the mountain, which stretches 8 km from east to west and 12 km from north to south. A round trip around the outer rim is about 50 km, with a cumulative elevation gain of 3,000 m. What do you think? It looks like a challenging course for trail runners, doesn't it? Some of you may have felt a sense of accomplishment as you looked at the GPS track that encircled Hakone where you had run.

This time, we went to Hakone's outer rim to test HERENESS' new product, the DRY WOOL TANK. The person who actually wore the tank and ran with us was Tomoya Yazaki, a frequent model for HERENESS. He enjoys trail running at his own pace while working at OVERVIEW COFFEE, which offers regenerative coffee and shares the same ambitions as HERENESS. While maintaining an exquisite sport-life-work balance, he is a proven competitor, and in the 2022 OSJ KOUMI 100, he came in an impressive second place.

“I haven't been to Hakone since I first started trail running with my friends. At that time, I finished the race halfway through due to exhaustion, but I have gained strength and a good sense of distance, so I think I will be able to complete the race this time with ease.”

The feeling of the course differs depending on whether one chooses to start from Hakone-Yumoto and go clockwise or counterclockwise. Many people seem to agree that the counterclockwise course is easier to tackle, as the ups and downs of Myojigatake, Myojingatake, and Mt. The standard course time is 23 hours. It takes 10 hours to be considered a full-fledged trail runner, so it is common to start with headlights on in the morning in the dark.

However, the sun was already high in the sky by 10:00 a.m. when we gathered at Hakone, as Mr. Yazaki is an athletic and fast runner. We asked him to put on a DRY WOOL TANK by HERENESSS and started from Hakone-Yumoto station.

Running along an endless ridge line

From Yumoto Station, the trail starts on a steep uphill road, but Mr. Yazaki makes his way along without hesitation. After passing through the gate of Amida Temple, the trail finally begins. For a while, the trail climbs up to the ridge line on a winding singletrack. Once on the road, the trail continues to climb for more than 1,000 meters until it crosses Myojo-gatake (Mt. Myojo-gatake) at about the 11 km mark. It is too hot in July to attempt the Hakone Outer Rim, so this is a situation that will make you sweat profusely. However, the DRY WOOL TANK keeps your skin dry to the touch by moderately releasing moisture from the regenerated polyester blended with the sweat absorbed from your body by the moisture absorbing effect of the wool. Nevertheless, Mr. Yazaki's log shows that his heart rate is as stable as possible. It almost never exceeds 150 bpm despite the climb.

“Time passed quickly as I ran, thinking about the fun memories I had when I first started trail running, the upcoming races, and checking in with my body to see how it was changing with each day's running. I also listened to music for a change.

I usually like to feel the same way I do on the road, on mountain passes, and in the mountains as I do on a daily basis. It is best when I am not conscious of breathing, and only my body is moving and progressing on its own. It would be great if I feel as if I am running in the mountains but walking to the nearest station, or reading a book at home, or if I am not conscious of my body moving.

This was exactly how I felt on this day's round-the-ring trip around the outer rim of Hakone, and I was able to move comfortably all the way to the end. When I want to run as an extension of my daily life without being self-conscious, HERENESS clothes are the best choice. There are many positive aspects, such as empathy with the concept, materials, and comfort, but I feel best when I wear what I want to wear, and that's all that matters.”

As the trail begins to descend beyond Meiseigatake, we can see Mt. Fuji. It is a view typical of the Hakone Outer Rim Mountains.

Hakone Outer Rim, but the area around Mount Kintoki is different. Kintoki, which is friendly to beginners, is crowded with climbers, including many with children. We proceeded with caution, taking care to give each other the benefit of the doubt. After crossing Mt. Kintoki, you will enter the mountain range surrounding the north side of Lake Ashi. Although the trail here is gentle and easy to run, the minor ups and downs are surprisingly challenging to the body. It is around this point that fatigue begins to set in. Once you pass this point, you will be on a downhill trail, so this is a good place to push on.

At the 25km mark, right in the middle of the course, Yazaki rendezvoused at Lake Ashinoko Observation Park with a big smile on his face, showing no signs of fatigue. In fact, he had just competed in "The 4100D," a 65-km race in Nozawa Onsen two days earlier. The Hakone Outer Rim Round-the-Mountain Race this time is what is called "back-to-back" training, in which the athlete trains at a high intensity while fatigued. Nevertheless, we reached this point after 2:00 pm. The first half of the uphill section was completed in about four hours, an astonishingly fast pace.

From the lakeside oasis to the finish line

The next place we met Mr. Yazaki was at a convenience store by Lake Ashi. It was an oasis for the runners who had run 40 km through the mountains up to this point.

Mr. Yazaki finally took a big break here. Up to this point, he has been conscious of using his body fat and has been running with a minimum amount of food. He was able to do this because he always kept his average heart rate below 150 bpm. When I looked at Mr. Yazaki's final log, I was surprised to see that his heart rate remained stable between 120 and 150 bpm both on the climbs and descents. At the convenience store aid, he ate a solid meal and drank some water, and then he took off into the beautiful western sunlight for the final downhill section.

He appeared at the finish line in Hakone-Yumoto just in time to turn on the lights. In the end, Mr. Yazaki started at 10:00 a.m. and reached the goal without using the lights even once.

“I think it went well as post-race training, I think I did a good job." he said, his face full of satisfaction after completing a lap around the outer rim of Hakone.

Finally, I asked him again what he thought of the DRY WOOL TANK.

“Actually, this was the first time I ran in a tank top because of my restlessness about not having sleeves. It felt more comfortable on my body than I had imagined and I have used it a lot since that day. I didn't realize how cool it was to be sleeveless.

I once wore a 100% wool T-shirt to a race, and while it was comfortable, it absorbed water and became heavy. However, I don't sweat much, so I don't mind it, but with this material, which is a cross-twisted wool and recycled polyester, I don't mind it even more. The material is also stronger and can be worn with confidence during hard activities. I'm also happy that I don't have to worry about abrasion around my sack anymore, even when I carry a lot of gear, such as when climbing or fast hiking.”