Skip to main content

Noguchi Talks Confidently in One-on-One Interview Ahead of National Ekiden

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/track/news/20101218k0000m050008000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

The 30th anniversary National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden takes place Dec. 19 in Gifu. In its first-ever appearance in the national championships, Team Sysmex features one prominent member on its entry list: 2004 Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist and marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (32). It has been more than 2 years since Noguchi "fell from grace," an injury causing her to withdraw just before the Beijing Olympics. Not even appearing at the press conference to announce her withdrawal, it has been a long and dark road back, but on the eve of her return to the national stage Noguchi spoke to the Mainichi Newspaper about her joy at overcoming her setbacks and her still-burning drive for the 2012 London Olympics.

After the West Japan Jitsugyodan Ekiden you said, "I want to keep running until my legs break down for good."

Those were the same words I used when I had my first interview to join a jitsugyodan team. I hated saying the same crap everybody else says about wanting to be an Olympian or winning an Olympic medal, so I said something that would have more impact. It's true though, because I'm the kind of person who follows through all the way when I'm going after something I want.

What's the status of your left leg that was injured for so long?

I don't know how many times I went through rehabilitation, got to the point where I could run a little again, and then got re-injured. It was really hard to deal with. It never got to the point, though, were the doctors said I wouldn't be able to run again, so I was always hopeful of being completely resurrected. So, when I was able to face racing again at West Japan so much joy welled up in me that I don't even know what I could say about it. I had a lot of different, complex feelings happening inside me. Tears and joy.

What's going to be different now that you're coming back?

I think my stride might be shorter, but I'm fine with just running the way I do naturally. I haven't really gotten to the point of thinking about it too carefully yet, but I feel like I'll probably spend some time making small adjustments one at a time to my form and balance.

What was the hardest part of the Beijing Olympics for you?

It was pretty hard to take, but I watched the race on TV. At that time I felt a lot of guilt about letting down the unbelievable number of people who had supported me. As a result, I want to focus on what's coming next. I'm the kind of person who doesn't run in a way that's going to leave me with any regrets. Even more than before, that's the most important thing now. To be honest I'd say I like racing a lot more than training, so I'm training now in a way that helps me cultivate that feeling.

What lies ahead on the road to London?

It's not crystal-clear like it used to be. It's more like a path through thorny bushes, but I'm excited about it. When I ran my first marathon I said I didn't really plan on becoming a marathoner, but I fought with it internally and followed through. A disadvantage can be turned into something good. I think the next step in my comeback being a marathon or a half would be good, but it's really important that I let my body come back the way it wants to. The ekiden this weekend will be a great start towards London.

It has been a long and twisted path over the 9 years since you ran the National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden with Team Globally in 2001.

I ran the Third Stage (10 km) that time. The strong headwind was really tough, and (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's Yoko) Shibui passed me. That's still a bitter memory. This time I'd like to move us up in the field or at least run a defensive race. Thanks to my teammates at West Japan I feel like I'm part of the team again. I want to borrow some of their strength when I run.

Mizuki Noguchi -- Born in Ise, Mie prefecture. Attended Uji Yamada H.S. before joining the Wacoal jitsugyodan team. Afterwards transferred to Team Globally and made her marathon debut at the 2002 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, where she won. Won the silver medal at the 2003 World Championships marathon and the next year the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics marathon. At the 2005 Berlin Marathon she set the current Japanese national record of 2:19:12 to become the all-time third-fastest woman in the world. In 2005 she changed teams again, moving to Sysmex. She appeared to be on track for a defense of her Olympic gold medal in Beijing but withdrew shortly before the race with an injury to her left leg. Her run at October's West Japan nationals qualifier was her first race in 2 years, 5 months and helped Sysmex to make the national championships for the first time.

Translator's note: Hell yeah. Watch TBS' broadcast of the National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships live online beginning at 11:50 a.m. Japan time on Dec. 19 by clicking here.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …