Japan's most famous running mother, Berlin World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba (29, Team Hokuren) told reporters visiting her high-altitude training camp in Sugaidaira, Nagano on June 3 that she plans to retire from professional running after the 2012 London Olympics. "I want to have a second baby, but first I'm going to keep working as hard as I can until London. After the London Olympics? Then I'm going to be an ordinary mom. Planning for that to be the end will keep me focused on being the best I can until then." Her coach and husband Shuhei followed up, saying, "To help the Hokuren company, the season right after London will be dedicated to her running the ekiden circuit with the team."
Working toward this final goal, Akaba is deep in her hardest training for the World Championships. Her inspiration now comes from watching the way a cheetah moves. With the image of a loose, supple spine and fluid motion as she runs in mind, Akaba says, "It's a feeling like an animal's. I want to run comfortably until 30 km, then suddenly change gears. I'm working on it but I'm not quite there yet." Coach Shuhei commented, "Animals can go from a complete standstill to top speed running. In the marathon too, during the race we want to be able to react quickly [to other athletes' actions] the way a cheetah does when it's hunting." Together with their daughter Yuna, 2, this family of three is working together in a unique way to support Yukiko Akaba's goals.