translated by Brett Larner
On Oct. 24 Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (32, Team Sysmex) made a comeback from injury troubles that have plagued her since her withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics, running her first race in 2 years and 5 months at the 6-stage, 42.195 km West Japan Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden in Fukuoka prefecture. Noguchi placed 5th on the 10.5 km Third Stage, running a credible time of 34:15.
Her team Sysmex placed 3rd overall to qualify for the Dec. 19 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships in Gifu prefecture. Team Daihatsu won the West Japan ekiden for the second-straight year, running 2:17:53.
Noguchi ran like a bouncing rubber ball, looking as strong and resilient as she used to be. "Before I ran I was half nervous and half looking forward to it," she told reporters. "But once I started running I forgot everything about the long blank spot in my life."
Noguchi covered the first kilometer in a very quick 3:05, going through 3 km in 9:30. Although she slowed significantly in the second half of the stage, she finished 5th out of 16 runners on the second-longest stage of the ekiden. "The most important thing today is that I am back to racing," Noguchi said with a smile. "I was 5th amongst a lot of much younger runners. I think that I can still go on from here."
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics Noguchi suffered a seemingly endless series of injuries. "I thought many times of retiring," she admitted, but her race today showed that she has pulled herself back up from the bottom. She still has issues with a lack of stamina, but her coach Hisakazu Hirose gave her passing marks, saying simply, "She did well."
Noguchi is now looking at running a half marathon. Looking toward the London Olympics Noguchi says, "I have never given up on the next Olympics. This was a good start. I'll keep running until my legs break down permanently."
Translator's note: Hard not to feel a little teary-eyed about this one.