translated by Brett Larner
Having recently announced her retirement, 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (26, Team Toyota Jidoshokki) finished with a smile at her final race on Feb. 1 at the local Hyogo Prefecture Ekiden. Running the 5 km anchor stage for her hometown Ono-shi, Kobayashi brought the team home in 3rd overall. "I'm really grateful to all the people who cheered for me and called out, 'Thank you!' as I ran," she said. "It almost made me cry. I'm a very happy person."
Kobayashi ran the 1500 m national record while at Hyogo's Suma Gakuen H.S., going on to run against the best in the world in the 5000 m at world-level events like the Beijing Olympics. It was a sign of how much of an inspiration she is to junior high school and high school runners that Kobayashi was surrounded by people asking for autographs and pictures together. After retiring Kobayashi said that she hopes to give back to the athletics world through lecturing and guest appearances at amateur races.