|Japanese Cyclocross Champion 2012 Yu Takenouchi pretending to be tired, with Masaki and his boss|
The Yata hills are small and easy but very pleasant for a gentle jog or some speedwork. I was introduced to them last October by Masaki-san, a trail runner and mountain biker whose local running patch they are (he has asked me to point out that they are often too crowded for MTB riding to be safe). He kindly arranged a run and family picnic and invited some friends along. As well as his boss, there was Yu Takenouchi, whose puppyish demeanour belied world-class racing ambitions on the European Pro Cyclocross and road scene. Since then he has won the Japanese national cyclocross championships in January 2012 and finished 33rd in a cyclocross world cup race - no mean feat. As I write he is preparing for the World Championships in Belgium this weekend. The boy is only 23 and he is going places. Fortunately he had come 3rd in a national MTB bike race the day before, and had never been trail running before, so me and Masaki were able to whup his ass! Probably the last time that will happen. Ever.
|Yu and me (see what I did there?) and bossman. Yes I was hot.|
|View from the Yata hills east across Nara city|
A run in the Yata hills can be nicely combined with a family or group day out, as there is a pleasant park area with a big grassy area for picnics and for the children to play in - marked on some maps as the Yata Prefectural Park, but by signs on the hills as the Children's Forest Play Park. There is also Hiyoru-ji temple at the southern end, a world heritage site, and Yamatokoriyama castle on the eastern flank, which has some impressive stone walls and moats. there are small stations all round, so access is easy. (see map below).
|A run followed by a nice homemade picnic - now yer talkin'|
|OK, OK, another run, OK....|
|Looking south to Ni-jo yama and the Kongo-san range from the Yata hills|
|Yu Takenouchi texting his coach about why he had just risked his season on the turn of an ankle|
Click for map of Yata hills