Lightly laughing, Mizuki Noguchi insisted that aging isn’t necessarily so bad.
The injury-prone runner said so because she thinks she is in her best physical condition in years.
It’s not that she’s fortunate or anything, but she now can distinguish what kind of status her body is.
“I’ve had numerous injuries after Beijing (Olympics) in 2008,” the gold medalist of the women’s marathon in the 2004 Athens Games said during an interview session at Tokyo’s National Training Center on Tuesday.
“And I’ve become more aware of my body and when I feel something wrong with it, I can tell if it’s a serious one or a light one.”
Always banged up, Noguchi never competed in a full marathon after the 2007 Tokyo International Women’s Marathon until the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in March 2012. (And she was once told to consider hanging up her shoes by her coach Nobuyuki Fujita.).
Before Beijing, she said that she didn’t have that ability.
“I was ignoring the warnings from inside of my body,” she said.
Now Noguchi, 34, and seven other Japanese marathoners will get to work on their intensive training nearly three months before the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
Noguchi, who was to take off for Boulder, Colorado, for a high-altitude training camp on Wednesday, said that she also knows how to prepare herself better than she used to, taking advantage of her past experiences.
“Earlier in the camp, I’m going to enter a bit more slowly,” said Noguchi, who was chosen for Team Japan for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but pulled out of the race several days before due to a pulled muscle in her left leg.
“For Beijing, I think I just kept pushing myself too much,” she said. “Both me and my coach did. I had too much stuff in my training.”
Noguchi recalled that she’d run a total of 1,350 km before the Athens Games. The overall distance for this time would be decrease to some 1,000 km for Moscow, she added.
But once the race day comes, the small-built 150-cm champion will not run too differently from her past races. Despite the rise of African athletes in the sport, Noguchi promised that she would show off aggressive race tactics and try to lead the pack, in Russia in August.
“It’s just my nature, but I don’t think I want to run behind a group, because I’d lose my rhythm,” said Noguchi, the current Japan national record holder (2 hours, 19 minutes, 12 seconds). “And it’s not so much fun to run behind it, is it?”
While her body will be tuned up from hard training from now on, her motivation level is already high. Noguchi said after a half marathon in Sendai earlier this month that she wants to “leave a legacy.”
“I want to prove that even if you get older, even if you’ve battled with series of injuries, you can still make a comeback and have resurgence. I know it’s a little vague, though,” she said with a smile.
The women’s marathon will be held on Day 1 of the world championships, on August 10.