As promised yesterday, I will write short bio on Naoko Takahashi, perhaps the fastest women's marathon runner at the present time. What I wrote is not very well organized, but I presume it is not totally incoherent.
Naoko Takahashi was born on May 6, 1972 in Gifu prefecture, used to run for Recruit, now runs for Sekisui Chemical, coached by Yoshio Koide who also coached Yuko Arimori to Olympic Silver medal (1992) and Olympic Bronze medal (1996), and Hiromi Suzuki to the World Championships gold (1997). Graduated from Osaka Gakuin University. While at university most running 800m and 1500m but never won the national college championships. She was not recruited by Recruit; rather she wanted to be coached by Koide and so she went to Koide and asked to be coached. You can see the parallel in her case and Yuko Arimori's case who also was not recruited by Recruit but rather, she asked to be coached by Koide.
She was only mediore runner in 1995 with best of 16:13.12 in the 5000m, she improve dramatically in 1996 with best of 15:37.51 in the 5000m and 31:48.23 in the 10000m. She made her marathon debut in Osaka in 1997 (reason for not so impressive debut in the marathon probably attributed to the fact that when she went to high altitude training at Albuquerque, she could not do much long run due to very cold weather and injury; so she could not prepare herself properly for her debut marathon). Was 13th at the 5000m in the World Championships in Athens. Her second marathon was in Nagoya marathon (near her home town; Gifu is north of Nagoya) last march. In this race she set the NR of 2:25:48 after running 16:06 for 30Km to 35Km and 16:21 from 35Km to 40Km (only 1:46:11 at 30Km). For her third she went out hard from the start and won the Asian Games convincingly by running 5th fastest marathon (2:21:47) of all time under oppressive condition of temperature above 30C for later part of the race.
In her interview (in Track & Field Magazine of Japan), she talks about various things. Among them she confess that her favorite pastime is eating. She would eat 40 pieces of Sushi at all you can eat sushi bar. She one time ate 2Kg steak, and own 50 books on subject of restaurant guides. She also love to go cycling around Sakura, Chiba where she now lives. In general she like to tour around places which she started to do while she was a college student in Osaka (she would go and run in new places around Osaka). While growing up, big 3 games for her was the Olympic games, the World Championships and the Asian Games (now that she won the Asian Games, one down two to go), so she did not want to pass up the chance to run in the Asian Games, although possibility of running at Tokyo Ladies marathon was there for while.
She started running in Junior High school; she started as an 800m runner, was 2nd best in the Gifu prefecture when she was 8th grade. When she was 9th grade she was running mostly 200m but was very slow. In high school, she returned to running 800m. She recall that she was not running that much when she was in high school, about 4Km a day. Even with such a light training, she was able to make a high school championships but did not qualify for the final. In college, she was mostly running 1500m, and 3000m. After graduating from college, some Corporate team try to recruit her, but since her high school coach recommend that if she want to be the best, she should be coached by Yoshio Koide. By the time of her graduation, she was ambitious enough, so she asked coach Koide to coach her. He initially said "NO." But she was not about to give up; she asked be trained together with the Recruit team on her own expense and he would say "OK" He would later arranged for the reimbursement of expense and permited her to join the team.
She is known among her friends as "Q-chan." The origin of her nick-name is little hard to explain to non-Japanese. The name was derived from Japanese cartoon character friendly ghost "Q-taro." The legend has it that at the welcome party for new team-mate at Recruit track team, all new team member was asked to perform some trick (sounds like some soririty thing isn't it?). What she did was cover her self with "Q-taro" friendly ghost costume and danced around. I have heard that some of her friends will tease her by bringing up this incident from time to time. She would get embarrased even now.
One of the interesting question is how much faster would she have run if the temperature was more conductive to marathon running say 15C or so. I have seen the table that at 25C time would decline by 2.5-7%, at 27C the time is expected to decline 3.5-8.0%, and at 30C the time is expected to decline 6-11%. So taking the best case senario (which probably isn't the case because of high humidity), I guess she lost at least 5 minutes.
Complete Marathon record
2:21:47 1st Asian Games Bangkok 6 Dec 98 Asian Record
2:25:48 1st Nagoya 8 March 98 Japanese NR
2:31:32 7th Osaka 26 Jan 97 (debut)
31:48.23 5th NC Osaka 9 June 96
31:55.95 2nd Mito 5 May 98
31:57.99 2nd race 2 Jpn Corp Ch Naruto 12 June 98
32:34.50 7 Mito 5 May 97
32:48.01 2h1 NC (heat) Osaka 6 June 96
32:50.9 1st Narashino 7 Apr 96
15:21.15 1st Osaka 9 May 98
15:23.64 5th Osaka 10 May 97
15:28.25 3r2 Jpn Corp Ch Naruto 13 June 98
15:28.31 1st Oda Hiroshima 29 Apr 98
15:29.11 1st Nambu Sapporo 13 July 97
15:32.25 5h2 WC (heat) Athinai 7 Aug 97
15:32.83 13th WC Athinai 9 Aug 97
15.34.04 3rd Oda Hiroshima 29 Apr 97
15:35.42 7th NC Tokyo 3 Oct 97
15:37.15 6th Toto Super Tokyo 16 Sept 96
15:39.22 5th Kokutai Osaka 29 Oct 97
15:43.17 6h1 NC Tokyo 2 Oct 97
5000m 10000m Half Marathon Marathon
1994 16:16.1 34:02.02
1995 16:13.12 1:15:40
1996 15:37.15 31:48.23 1:12:54
1997 15:23.64 32:34.50 1:10:35 2:31:32
1998 15:21.15 31:55.95 2:21.47