One of Japan's best long distance women is back on track. 5th in the women's 10000 m at the 2013 Moscow World Championships before declaring her retirement in January, 2014, Hitomi Niiya (30, Nike Tokyo TC) ran her first race in almost five years in the 3000 m at the June 9 Nittai University Time Trials meet. Post-race she said, "Yeah, it's been a while. Feels like I'm on my way back."
Describing herself as, "an athlete whose history is only in the past," Niiya ran 9:20.74 for 2nd in the 3000 m A-heat at Nittai. "That's a really half-assed time, huh," she said afterwards. Her bib number was 30, the same as her age now. "That pissed me off," she laughed. "I'm not happy about it." Sounding just like her old self there was no doubt that her sharp tongue, at least, hasn't lost its edge.
After running in the 2012 London Olympics, in November that year at the age of 25 Niiya was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in her right foot. Even now it's still not completely healed. "I don't know whether the pain is going to come back," she said. Despite that, last fall she accepted an offer of support from Nike and starting running again with an eye toward making a comeback. Serious training only began this year.
Niiya has no plans to run a marathon, focusing in the short term on running the 5000 m at July's Hokuren Distance Challenge. "I still totally hate running," she said, the weight of five years pent up in her words. "but unfortunately it seems like this is where I belong. I hope I can produce results."
translated by Brett Larner