After a two year absence from marathon running, Naoko Takahashi won
the Tokyo Women's Marathon today with a 2:24:39 performance. On this
course wo years ago, Takahashi was overhauled by Elfenesh Alemu at 39
kilometres. This time, it was Takahashi who surged away from Alemu in
the 35th kilometre. Thus what many considered to be a race of
redemption for the 2000 Olympic champion became a great comeback story,
particularly since she carried injuries into the race.
The key to her win was the five kilometre stretch between 35 and 40.
Despite it's uphill climb and strong headwind, Takahashi churned out
the stretch in 17:09 to run away from her final two challengers: Zivile
Balciunaite of Lithuania and Alemu. The question of whether she is
still one of the top marathon runners in the world was answered
affirmatively, not because of her final time, 2:24:39, but rather
because she showed her ability to change her pace at the end of the
Takahashi: "I never gave up the idea of winning"
"I did not know what to expect from this race," she said, referring
to a recent injury, "but I never gave up on the idea of winning this
race." It was the third fastest performance on this course and for
Takahashi, her first marathon after she parted ways from long time
coach Yoshio Koide and formed "Team Q." She showed that she can succeed
as a self coached athlete.