5th in the 10000 m at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, Hitomi Niiya (30, Nike Tokyo TC) left Japan Dec. 7 for her first 10000 m since returning from five years away from the sport, the Dec. 13 Zatopek:10 in Melbourne, Australia. The Zatopek:10 will be her fifth race in a year that saw her run a 31:08 course record on the anchor stage of November's East Japan Women's Ekiden. Her condition is even better than at the time of her come-from-behind East Japan victory.
"The result is important, but everything that I could do to be ready for it is done," she told reporters. "All that's left is to run hard for 30 minutes." Since starting her comeback Niiya has run mostly 5000 m, but now her focus has shifted to 10000 m. "If you consider when I was running before a 10, I'm at about 6 or 7 right now" she said. As a test of her fitness she is setting 31:30 as her target. That is more than 30 seconds off her best but would rank her #1 in Japan and #2 in the world this season.
With guidance from former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota, Niiya has been training alongside middle distance runners including National Sports Festival 1500 m winner Ran Urabe to build her speed. She has been doing intensive core training and has worked on improving her form. "If I can't do the kind of training I could do six years ago then I won't get strong enough," she said. "To make a clean break with who I was in Moscow I want to medal in Doha next year. The Zatopek:10 is the first step."
translated by Brett Larner