translated by Brett Larner
At the 43rd Ome Marathon on Feb. 15, Tomoe Yokoyama (32, Team Toto) won the women's 30 km race in 1:47:01 six years after her previous Ome victory in 2003. Now completely recovered from a right leg injury which sidelined her career for years, Yokoyama is enthusiastically looking forward to running the marathon in the 2012 London Olympics.
Running under a picture-perfect blue sky, Yokoyama left her competitors far behind as she broke the goal tape, exhibiting in her comeback Ome victory the kind of running not seen since her long-ago first win in 2003. "I'm really grateful to everyone who's helped me up 'til now," she commented afterwards. "And my confidence to race is back." Wearing the laurel wreath for the first time in six years as she stood upon the highest point of the podium, Yokoyama's smile transmitted her joy to all.
The period between her wins has been one of nonstop hardship. Soon after Ome 2003 she injured her right heel in training, after which running anything longer than a half marathon became extremely painful. In the midst of this time of trouble, her sponsor Seiko Instruments disbanded its running team in March 2005. She moved to Team Phiten alongside Naoko Takahashi, but after only a year moved again to Team Toto. These six years were, "unbelievably tough," she recalls quietly.
Yokoyama's older brother Kei, 34, a former runner for Team Fujitsu, is now head coach of Team Toto, and together the pair of siblings is working toward a common goal. She receives acupuncture and other medical treatments for her heel, and to improve her core strength has incorporated a six-hour mountain-climbing course in the mountains around Kita-Kyushu into her training. To cut down on the stress on her brother, this time Yokoyama entered Ome's general division. In the first half of the race she ran in the 2nd pack, but after rounding the turnaround point she accelerated rapidly and opened a gap of 28 seconds over 2nd place.
"Ome this year was the first step toward the marathon," Yokoyama says confidently. "I'm planning to run Boston in April, then next season I'll do one of the three big women's marathons (Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya)." She intends to dedicate herself completely to her running over the next three years, even holding off on getting married until after the London Olympics. "I want to be an athlete like (Naoko) Takahashi," she concludes. From Ome's streets a runner's dreams of the world stage have been born again.
Tomoe Yokoyama - born Aug. 9, 1976 in Tokyo. 152 cm, 41 kg. Lives with her parents and two brothers. Began running in junior high school and training in Yoshio Koide's Sakura AC while in high school. Ran for Team Seiko Instruments and Team Phiten before moving to Team Toto in 2006. PBs: 10000 m - 32:55.83 / marathon: 2:34:37
Translator's note: Although it seems unlikely, under Rikuren's new selection procedures a strong performance in Boston would put Yokoyama into consideration for the 2009 Berlin World Championships marathon team.