translated and edited by Brett Larner
Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) returned from training in Kunming, China on Jan. 8 ahead of her first appearance at the National Women's Ekiden in 5 years. Her run on the 13th will hold a special significance for her. Because her sponsor will move its office away from Kyoto in April, Noguchi will be making her first and final appearance as a member of the Kyoto team. "After 16 years in Kyoto I'll run in the Kyoto singlet for the first time, and it will be my last chance to repay the kindness and support I've received," she said. Interviewed on her arrival at Kansai Airport, Noguchi commented, "I feel like it's just around the corner now."
Noguchi has been training in Kunming, China since late December in preparation for the Jan. 27 Osaka International Women's Marathon. In the midst of fluctuating weather conditions she did base mileage including 30 km training runs. "The cold I had at the National Corporate Women's Ekiden in December is gone, and there aren't any lingering effects from it. Right now I'm feeling normal," she said.
Noguchi has run the National Women's Ekiden seven times for her native Mie Prefecture team. Her first time running, as a sophomore at Uji Yamada Shogyo H.S., she was 16th on the Fifth Stage. Improving dramatically after joining the Kyoto-based Wacoal team in April, 1997, at the 16th National Women's Ekiden in 1998 she ran the anchor stage for the first time and passed eleven competitors. In her first appearance after winning Olympic gold, she won the anchor stage at the 2008 ekiden. "So many people came out to cheer in front of Shakai Hoken Kyoto Hospital that it was like running through a tunnel," she recalled. "I was completely amazed and so happy."
Looking toward her debut with the Kyoto team she said, "It feels fresh and new, but there is some pressure." Named team captain and anchor, her responsibilities are deep. Asked for her impression of the 10 km anchor stage course she laughed as she answered, "It's downhill so it should be pretty easy to run. I often ride my bike on the Nishi Oji Road section, so it should be easy pickings."
The team plans to convene on the 11th. "I'll do my best to repay the people of Kyoto for everything they've done for me over the years," she said, promising to give a show of her best running.