translated and edited by Brett Larner
Having pulled out of the Dec. 18 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships, marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi cheered for her Sysmex teammates at the Third Stage handoff point and at the stadium finish. After nearly winning their regional qualifier, without Noguchi at the National Championships Sysmex finished only 15th.
Following the ekiden Noguchi announced that she will run the Dec. 23 Sanyo Women's Road Race half-marathon as a tune-up for the Jan. 29 Osaka International Women's Marathon. It will be Noguchi's first individual race since the 2008 Sendai International Half Marathon, but, she says, "I'm not going to set a time goal. I'm just going to run based on my condition that day."
Half-marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) also announced after the ekiden that she will run Osaka International. Noguchi's coach Hisakazu Hirose commented, "No matter who shows up, what we do is not going to change. I think it's going to be pretty interesting for all the spectators."
Translator's note: This article incorrectly says Sanyo will be Noguchi's first individual race since Sendai '08. Last month she ran the Seven Hills Loop 15 km in the Netherlands, running well below expectations after experiencing leg problems.
Hirose's comment about spectators shows considerable chutpah considering Noguchi's last-minute withdrawal from the National Championships ekiden. Although Noguchi was strangely cagey about her intentions pre-race, she was listed at the top of a list of five featured athletes on the ekiden's website and attended the opening ceremonies in uniform with the rest of the Sysmex team. Unusually, start lists were not published until late the evening before the race, with Noguchi's name missing, and no mention was made during the race broadcast that Noguchi was not running. All together it certainly looks like an intentional bait-and-switch, a very shoddy abuse of fans' goodwill toward Noguchi and her comeback to get people to watch the ekiden broadcast. Someone left an anonymous comment on JRN before the ekiden saying that Noguchi was planning to run a half on Dec. 23, the date on which she last week indicated she would be leaving Japan to return for training in Boulder, so this quick post-ekiden confirmation that she will run Sanyo makes the pre-Nationals misrepresentation of her appearance at the ekiden something bordering on fraud.