translated by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner
The golden singlet Mizuki Noguchi wears is fading into the sunset in the mountains of Kunming, China. A 40 km run at the end of October. Her training is almost at completion.
At last April`s London Marathon, race organizers presented defending Olympic gold medalists Stefano Baldini of Italy and Mizuki Noguchi of Japan with golden singlets. Baldini wore his singlet during the race but Noguchi was not able to compete due to an injury to her left Achilles tendon which she suffered in January. She missed the opportunity to display this gift in a race and it became part of her training wear.
Noguchi was also unable to run Berlin last year because of an unrelated injury to her left leg. This weekend`s Tokyo International Women`s Marathon will be her first marathon in 2 years, her first since setting the Japanese national record of 2:19:12 at the `05 Berlin. "I was shocked because I have never been injured twice in such a short period. But after getting over those injuries I found that I truly love running."
Since her debut marathon at Nagoya in `02, Noguchi has won 4 of her 5 marathons. She was 2nd at the `03 Paris World Championships, won the `04 Athens Olympics, then set the Japanese national record, climbing up a tall ladder in a short time. Where is this 29 year-old woman going after her long absence from competition?
"The applause I received at Panathinaiko Stadium in the Athens Olympics is the most precious moment in my life and my treasure." Looking for another taste of the `forbidden fruit,` Noguchi started running again.
Hisakazu Hirose, who has been part of Noguchi`s coaching staff since she joined Team Wacoal in `97 said, "We don`t think that the gold medal in Athens is the peak. We can go for a better time, and there`s no guarantee of getting into the Beijing Olympics so Noguchi must keep working. No matter whether the race is big or small, we want her to achieve her goals one by one."
The issue facing Noguchi is to build up a body that never gets injured. Noguchi`s body tends to lean to the left, causing more stress and fatigue in her left leg. This summer she did serious weight training on her left leg and spent weeks trail running in St. Moritz, Switerland and the consensus now is that she has become much more well-balanced.
Most importantly, Noguchi has spent more time talking to her body. Her masseuse Miho Takahashi, who has been taking care of Noguchi`s body since the `03 World Championships, says, "Noguchi used to often fell asleep while she was getting a massage, but recently she has been talking to me during our massage sessions, saying things like, `My muscle strain is better than yesterday.` She tries to feel the condition of her body by herself."
"I don`t want to be beaten by anybody," says Noguchi, "and of course, I cannot let myself lose to Shibui." She mentions that there are only two tickets left for Beijing. "I almost predicted this situation and it makes me more excited for the race." To make sure of her place as an Olympic representative, she is looking not only at winning but also at the Eri Yamaguchi (Team Tenmaya) course record of 2:22:12.
"It`s like a fine vintage; the flavor of the marathon gets better with age." As if she is enjoying the taste of well-aged wine, Noguchi is looking forward to her 6th marathon.
Translator`s note: Noguchi began her jitsugyodan career with Team Wacoal, then ran as an independent followed by a long period with Team Globary which included the Athens Olympics. She now runs for Team Sysmex.
Co-translator Mika Tokairin is also running Tokyo. がんばって！