translated by Brett Larner
Akane Taira (25, Team Panasonic) is a runner with plans to be in Beijing this summer. She will be running her debut marathon on March 9 at the Nagoya International Women's Marathon against world-class athletes such as Naoko Takahashi (Team Phiten) and Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), a race which will be her chance to join the world stage. "The marathon is something I can't imagine. I have no idea what kind of time I am capable of," says Taira. To help get an idea of her potential she has chosen the Ome Marathon 30 km road race as a step toward her marathon debut.
Taira's first glimpse of 'the world' came four years ago, the same year as the Athens Olympics. In April of that year she ran on the Japanese national team at the Beijing International Women's Ekiden, her first overseas race. Taira ran 33:47 for the 10 km 3rd stage, beating the Chinese team's runner by 1 second to earn the stage best title. The Chinese runner went on that August to win the gold medal in the women's 10000 m at the Athens Olympics. "I won the ekiden by only 1 second, but I still won. She got to go to the Olympics, though, and I didn't. I felt like I had to work harder." With conflicting feelings of confidence, regret, motivation and more, Taira got to work on visualizing herself at the world level.
Runners from northern areas have the reputation for having the patience necessary to succeed in long distance running, but Okinawa and other southern areas have the image of producing few great distance athletes. "When my concentration breaks my pace immediately drops," Taira says. This instability in her mental focus is her greatest liability. Running Ome, she hopes, will help give her the experience to succeed in the full marathon. "The most essential thing in long distance running is one's concentration and mental focus." When Taira has this focus she is capable of beating Olympic gold medalists. The uniquely rhythmic pitch of Taira's running will carry her out into the world.
Akane Taira: b. 11/3/82, Nanjo, Okinawa. 161 cm, 47 kg. Ran track at Toshimi Jonan High School. Joined Team Oki Denki in 2001. Changed to Team Panasonic last year. 2nd place in 2007 All-Japan Jitsugyodan Half Marathon; 12th place in World Road Running Championships in Udine, Italy, having run a half marathon PB of 1:09:17.