Long-distance runner Hitomi Niiya, who recently won the Houston Marathon with the second-fastest time on record for a Japanese woman, pledged Monday to focus on trying to break Mizuki Noguchi’s national record.
Niiya told reporters in Tokyo that she will try to break the record at the Berlin Marathon this September, while reiterating she will not take part in any event at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
In Houston, Texas, on Jan. 15, the Japanese 10,000-meter and half-marathon record holder won the women’s marathon title in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 24 seconds — 12 seconds outside Noguchi’s national record set in Berlin in 2005.
“My legs reached the limit,” Niiya said, looking back at her fifth career full marathon. “I clearly found my missing pieces, so I believe I can shave at least 12 seconds off that time.”
Niiya’s coach, Masato Yokota, is also confident that she will break Noguchi’s record, saying he was surprised to see her time on a very hot day in Houston.
“With that, cutting more than one minute, like finishing under 2 hours and 18 minutes, is now realistic,” said Yokota, a former national record holder in the men’s 800 meters.
A year after winning the Olympic women’s marathon gold in Sydney, Naoko Takahashi won the 2001 Berlin Marathon in a then world record 2:19:46.
Meanwhile, Niiya competed in the 10,000 meters at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, when people were divided on whether to host the games amid the continued spread of coronavirus infections in Japan.
“The Tokyo games made me consider as an athlete if the Olympics are truly needed by citizens no matter what. To represent Japan and to take part in the Olympics are not everything,” Niiya said.