translated by Brett Larner
Having finished 4th at the Nagoya International Women's Marathon and missed out on her chance to make the Beijing Olympic team, Yumiko Hara (Team Kyocera) goes home to her parents' home in Tochigi prefecture to recuperate. She thinks about what races she should target next season. She holds coach Kunio Omori's year-long training schedule and with a steady hand begins to write in her goals.
"Last year I couldn't take a single step forward and it was a disappointment to a lot of people," says Hara. "I want to restore everyone's faith in me the only way I can, so I decided to run Osaka." A year ago Hara had signed up for Osaka as the defending champion to reserve her spot on the Beijing Olympic team. Feeling weak and drained, she withdrew shortly before the race and slid her target to Nagoya. Even that was too much.
The Osaka course was the site of Hara's wildest, fastest marathon yet, the 2007 Osaka International Women's Marathon. Hara, running only her third marathon, beat former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) to claim a spot on the 2007 Osaka World Championships team. Seven months later on the same course she was a disappointing 18th at the World Championships, her first time to not be the top Japanese finisher in a marathon. Only four months afterwards she cancelled her Osaka title defense. Having experienced both extremeties in Osaka, Hara comes to this year's race with no fears of a new humiliation weighing on her mind.
"The thing about Osaka," she explains, "is that when you're running up front it's so loud. There's so much cheering and support." All along the course, fevered voices urging the runners on almost push upon their backs. This was the image which entered deepest into Hara's memories of Osaka.
This year once again there has been a break in Hara's preparations. After a strong start to the year at her training camp in Kunming, China, Hara suffered food poisoning and was unable to run for a week. It would be normal to be discouraged by this kind of setback, but Hara remains optimistic. "I'm feeling good again. The time off just gave my legs the chance to recover." In the past she has had stress fractures four times in her right leg alone. Even though each time she was out of commission for extended periods, her motivation has always bounced back quickly. "The main thing for me right now is to be able to give 100%. If I can do that then I think I'll be able to hit my target."
Hara has won both of the World Championships selection races she has run so far in her career. If she is on Sunday's starting line in full command of her powers then a third victory and third team membership may be near at hand.
Born in Tochigi Prefecture. 27 years old. Graduated from Utsunomiya Bunrei Girls' High School. Runs for Team Kyocera. Marathon PB: 2:23:48. Height: 163 cm. Weight: 45 kg.