translated by Brett Larner
At the final domestic selection race for the 2011 World Championships women's marathon team, the Mar. 13 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, track ace Noriko Matsuoka (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) will take on her marathon debut. "I wouldn't exactly say that I have no chance [to make the World Championships team]," she says. Matsuoka has always kept the hope of making a strong marathon debut hidden away inside, and now at age 31 having risen above hardship and setbacks she is ready to take hold of the opportunity.
With no significant injuries since last summer Matsuoka completed the entire training menu she was given and is in a state of excellent preparation. But, she says, "I've practiced and practiced, but for some reason I just can't shake my self-doubt. 42.195 km is a long way. But, I think that when we get down to the day before the race I'll cut through all of that and be ready." Overcoming the fear of an unknown distance is the mark of a true veteran.
Since she was in her early teens Matsuoka has always had hopes and dreams for the future. Those around her also hoped to see her make an early debut at the marathon, but the chain slipped off the gears in 2001. Matsuoka was struck by a cyclist while running and was seriously injured, with broken bones all over her body. After recovering she fell into a long slump, suffering from chronic lower back trouble. "For a long time I was only able to deal with what was right in front of me, the here and now," she says. "But I've slowly been able to build things back up to the point where I'm ready for the marathon. I'm glad that I've kept with it for so long." Now ready to stand on the starting line, she faces the race with a mix of apprehension and happiness.
Matsuoka had a decisive victory at last November's Nagoya Half Marathon, winning in 1:11:13. She takes reassurance from knowing the Nagoya course. Even in the midst of a strong field she must be counted among the candidates for a place on the national team. "It's OK if I fail," she says. "I just want to take that first step. After that it's just a question of how far I can go. I know it'll be tough, but if there's even the slightest crack in the wall [of making the national team] then I want to go for it." Matsuoka's gentle demeanor and kind smile at these words mask the tiger hidden within waiting to spring.
Born May 2, 1979 in Fuji, Shizuoka
5000 m: 15:29.38 (Hiroshima '09)
10000 m: 31:31.45 (Niigata '08)
half marathon: 1:11:13 (Nagoya '10)