Skip to main content

Japan's Marathon Women Can Still Aim for the Win

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/running/kataru/20140723-OYT8T50026.html

translated by Brett Larner

Part of a series, an interview with former women's marathon world record holder and Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi, the first woman to ever break 2:20 for the marathon.

With regard to the Japanese athletics world, ever since Mizuki Noguchi won the medal at the Athens Olympics women's long distance has taken a downturn.

Yes, it has fallen a bit, hasn't it?

Are there any athletes in particular that you're paying special attention to?

Personally speaking, I'm watching Natsuki Omori from Ritsumeikan University. She never made the National High School Championships, but now that she's in her second year of university she has just exploded and is developing quickly. She's aggressive and has really nice form, so if she can keep going like this for four years without getting injured then I want to see her go to the marathon. She's somebody I'm really excited about.

Omori is 20 this year, so when the Tokyo Olympics happen she'll be 26.

The perfect age.  When I ran Sydney I was 28.  Right now as a university student she hasn't run even one marathon, but I think there's plenty of chance that we'll see her there at the 2020 Olympics.

What do you think needs to be done to improve the current situation?

I don't think our women are in a position right now where medals are out of reach.  If you ask why, well, look at the men's world record, low 2:03.  The Japanese men's national record is 2:06:16.  Toshinari Takaoka ran that in 2002 at the Chicago Marathon, but in all the time since then nobody has broken it.  However, in today's world there are loads of athletes, Africans included, running 2:06.  Japanese men still have to break through that.

The women's world record is Paula Radcliffe's 2:15:25 from 2003, but the next-fastest is 2:18.  If you can run 2:19 you've got a shot at winning races around the world.  Japan has three women who've run 2:19, Noguchi, Yoko Shibui and me.  We proved that Japanese people can break 2:20, and of course the knowhow of how to make that happen is still there.  I think this should be a major boost.  Our women should be going into any race in the world seriously targeting the win.  That's the way I did it, but having doubts about whether something is really possible because you're going where nobody has gone before and following the road that others have already opened up are completely different situations.  I want to see all of our women have more confidence and really believe that they can do it too.

Children today are taller and have longer legs than when I was a kid.  They're blessed with talent.  All they need is to blossom.  There's no reason that can't happen.

Naoko Takahashi - Sportscaster, marathon commentator, JAAF executive member, JOC executive member, professor at Osaka Gakuin University.  Born May 6, 1972 in Gifu.  Began running in junior high school, joining the corporate leagues after graduating from Gifu Shogyo H.S. and Osaka Gakuin University.  Made her marathon debut in January, 1997 at the Osaka International Women's Marathon. Won the Nagoya International Women's Marathon in March, 1998.  In December the same year she set a then-Asian record 2:21:47 to win the Asian Games. In September, 2000 she won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, leading to her selection for the People's Honor Award.  In September, 2001 at the Berlin Marathon she became the first woman to break 2:20, winning in a world record 2:19:46.  In May, 2005 she left her longtime coach Yoshio Koide.  In November that year she ran her first marathon in two years, winning the Tokyo International Women's Marathon in 2:24:39.  She announced her retirement in October, 2008.

Comments

Anna Novick said…
"That's the way I did it, but having doubts about whether something is really possible because you're going where nobody has gone before and following the road that others have already opened up are completely different situations."

No truer words were said.

Most-Read This Week

2018 Japanese Distance Rankings - Updated 11/11/18

JRN's 2018 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Click any image to enlarge.


Past years:
2017 ・ 2016 ・2015 ・ 2014 ・ 2013 ・ 2012 ・ 2011

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

18-Year-Old Waithaka Runs 10000 m World Leading Time at Nittai - Weekend Roundup

photo by @tsutsugo55225

For the second time in the last three weeks, a Japan-based Kenyan ran the fastest time in the world this year for 10000 m at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series. On October 20th it was 2015 World U18 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), 20, with a 27:14.70  that surpassed Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei's world-leading mark by almost five seconds. This time it was 2018 World U20 Championships 5000 m silver medalist Stanley Waithaka (Yakult), 18, taking almost two minutes off his PB to break Kimunyan's mark with a 27:13.01 win.

Both winners received support from 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who ran season bests for 2nd place each time, 27:50.38 three weeks ago and 27:28.27 on Saturday. 2013 World U18 Championships 3000 m bronze medalist Alexander Mutiso (ND Software) was also under 28 minutes, running just off his PB at 27:42.16 for 3rd. Kazuma Taira (Kan…

Go Ahead and Call It a Comeback - Niiya Breaks Shibui's Course Record in Return to Road Racing

Ladies and gentlemen, Hitomi Niiya is back.

You might remember Hitomi Niiya from the 2013 Moscow World Championships 10000 m, where she led the entire way only to get destroyed over the last lap and finish 5th in 30:56.70. That made her the third-fastest Japanese woman ever over that distance, but not long after that race she quit the sport entirely, getting an office job as far away from athletics as she could and not running for almost five years.

But the pull of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is strong, and, now 30, early this year she made the decision to try to make a comeback. Under the eye of former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota she ran a 3000 m and two 5000 m time trials on the track between April and October before choosing the East Japan Women's Ekiden for her return to the roads and the longer distances.

The East Japan Women's Ekiden celebrated its 34th running Sunday, 9 stages totaling 42.195 km through the Fukushima countryside with teams from eac…