translated and edited by Brett Larner
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) may have dropped out of Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon, but she remains positive about her aggressive performance and values the experience. Akaba led the front pack right from the start, taking them through 25 km in 1:23:59. This was only 18 seconds off national record holder Mizuki Noguchi's split in her 2003 course and Japanese soil record. Rikuren Women's Marathoning director Yutaka Taketomi said her early stages were a welcome turn of events, commenting, "If Akaba can deliver on that kind of strong, assertive race it will elevate the whole level of Japanese running."
Akaba injured her left knee in mid-January and was unable to keep up the charge after 25 km. She probably had a contingency plan to drop out if her knee began bothering her during the race, but if she made any mistake it was to follow her runner's instinct to keep going. Her coach and husband Shuhei wanted her to stop early, but although he intercepted her twice at 35 km and 37 km she evaded him until he physically pulled her from the course at 38.6 km.
Akaba said, "I wanted to run my way, so I went hard from the start. I don't have any regrets, just some lingering knee pain that needs some recovery time." Shuhei commented, "I think the important thing is that she had something she wanted to do and went for it." Looking toward April's London Marathon, neither coach nor athlete feels any pessimism.
In February Akaba will be part of Rikuren's national marathon training camp in New Zealand. Shuhei will also attend the camp, meaning the couple will be separated from their 3 year old daughter Yuna for 3 weeks. Akaba plans to run the Mar. 21 Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon as a tuneup for the April 25 London Marathon. Her third marathon may have ended with her sitting on the roadside for the first time, but for Yukiko Akaba the experience was another opportunity for growth on the road to the 2012 London Olympics.