translated by Brett Larner
"I'm kind of in a slump right now, you know. I haven't been feeling very good and I've been a bit mean to my husband," joked marathoner Reiko Tosa (32, Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) in early March. To help put her in the right state of mind as she gets ready to race the Tokyo Marathon Tosa is training in her hometown of Matsuyama, but it's not going the way she expected. She just can't seem to get back into good shape. At the end of February she ran as a guest runner in a 30 km race in Chiba, but her time was more than 8 minutes slower than her best.
At the start of her preparations for the Tokyo Marathon, Tosa's husband Keiichi Murai (35) told her, "Remember how you felt in the good times, and let's try to go after that feeling." For Tosa herself, however, in her heart all she can feel is the difference between her current condition and when she was competing at the international level. It brings her down.
It's been 10 years since Tosa entered the jitsugyodan professional running scene, her vision focused on 'The World.' Before a marathon she always trained in high-altitude locations such as Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A., and Kunming, China. Whenever she felt stressed a trainer was there to help soothe her tired muscles.
Things are different now. The one organizing her training these days is her husband, himself a former jitsugyodan long-distance runner, and his number one goal is to get her safely to the start line. He has been careful not to lay any thoughtless stress or suprise workouts on Tosa. "I'm only running about 70% the volume I used to," she reveals. When she goes running now she spends most of the time thinking about what's on the menu for dinner.
Murai only has time to watch Tosa's workouts on weekends, but during the week her mother Hinako (60) helps out by taking splits and handing Tosa her drink bottle. When Tosa needs a massage she asks Murai. "This is really a homemade marathon," says Murai.
There is talk about failure. Last month, Tosa and Murai went for a test run of the Tokyo Marathon course. With 7 km to go they somehow went off course, something they had never considered beforehand could happen. Rather than let the mishap get to her, Tosa laughs it off.
In Tokyo Tosa will leave the road of her life thus far as a professional athlete, but she is not calling it her 'Last Run.' She's already thinking about a future comeback as a 'mama-san' runner. "When I see other people who have had a baby and come back," she says, "it makes me think I could too." She is grateful to Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's management for promising to give her a new contract if she chooses to return.
Tosa's hometown of Matsuyama was where she ran her first marathon in her third year of university. It's where she is most comfortable and an environment which helps her to figure out what she's capable of doing in Tokyo. "It goes without saying that I want to win," she admits, "but I don't know if I can break 2:30. I'm way fatter than usual....."
Regardless of her words, when race day comes around Tosa will no doubt show the persistence and sheer toughness for which she is famous. It's in her blood, and it's who she is.