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Marathoner Yoko Shibui (30, Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) returned to Japan from her high-altitude training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona on Aug. 10 ahead of her run at the Berlin World Championships on Aug. 23. With regard to the left thigh injury she suffered in April Shibui said, "It more or less doesn't hurt. My balance is back to normal and I can run like I did before again. I'm not going to think bad thoughts any more. I'm ready to run."
Last month before leaving for Flagstaff Shibui ran dismally at the Sapporo International Half Marathon, finishing 23rd and clocking her worst-ever mark for the distance. "At the time I thought, 'There's no way I can run [the World Championships] now," she said, her first public admission that she had considered dropping out of this year's Championships. Once arriving in Arizona, however, she began to feel good in training. "I started clawing my way up out of the hole," Shibui said of the camp.
In Flagstaff Shibui completed only one 30 km run, but as part of her training in the U.S. she ran the San Francisco marathon on July 26, winning in 2:46:34. "I was really irritated by how many hills there were," she laughed. "I've never run such a hard course before." Her coach Takao Watanabe commented, "After San Francisco she was a different person."
While training in Flagstaff Shibui was avidly following online the plight of actress Noriko Sakai who was arrested this week on charges of amphetamine usage. "I can understand how someone would want to escape reality when things start going wrong," Shibui said of Sakai. With regard to her own troubles this spring, though, Shibui said, "My determination is set. It's not going to break. I hope that I can use all the hardship I've been having to help me deal with the hard parts of the race."
Shibui leaves for Berlin on Aug. 16, one week before the big race. Coach Watanabe said, "The most important thing now is to keep her condition from slipping. Her peak is still to come." In the 2001 Edmonton World Championships marathon Shibui was 4th. This time, she says, "I'm going to improve on what I did eight years ago."