Skip to main content

Showing Women a New Way: Yukiko Akaba's Challenge

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2009081100808

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.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …