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Showing Women a New Way: Yukiko Akaba's Challenge

translated by Brett Larner

It's almost time for the World Championships marathon. Having experienced the pain of childbirth, the woman known as Japan's first 'Mama-san Runner' sends a strong message: "I'm running for a medal."

Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) ran her debut at the Osaka International Women's Marathon in January, finishing 2nd behind winner Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) in 2:25:40. After polishing her speed on the track Akaba is now prepared to face the best in the world in her new life as a marathoner. Coming at age 29, the change in direction has gone well.

Akaba married her university-era boyfriend Shuhei, a fellow member of the track and field team at Josai University. In August, 2006 she gave birth to a daughter, Yuna. "I ran up until two days before delivery, and then I made my comeback a month later," she laughs. Her coach as well as her husband, Shuhei says, "Before we got married, Yukiko was outrageous. When she had a day off she would start drinking at noon." Now living a full, satisfied life, she can't imagine having had that kind of a lifestyle.

In designing Akaba's richly successful training menu, Shuhei says, "We wanted to target the way a wild animal like a cheetah moves." The goal was to have Akaba ready to react to sudden gear changes during the race. Surrounded by the love and support of her family, Akaba enjoys her day to day life and can look at training as fun.

World-class athletes who continue to compete after giving birth are becoming more and more common. Planning to retire after the London Olympics to have a second baby, Akaba says, "More women have the desire to keep running after having a baby, and if they keep going then the Japanese track and field world will change. If it does it's a good thing." Carrying the pride of showing the way for the next generation of Japanese women, Yukiko Akaba is ready for Berlin.

Translator's note: Akaba has some interesting posts about her recent training on her blog. If I have time I will put translations up.


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