BBC Sport: Athletics
Monday, 1 October, 2001, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK

Japan’s Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi ran the fastest ever women’s marathon on Sunday as she broke the 2 hours 20 minutes barrier to win in Berlin.

The 29-year-old’s winning time of 2hr 19mins 46secs was the first time a woman has dipped below 2hrs 20mins, a mark some have compared to the first four-minute mile.

She took 57 seconds off Tegla Loroupe’s previous best and earned a £680,000 bonus for her record-breaking feat.
Takahashi thanked the male runners who protected her in a crowded first half of the race, the first she has run since her gold medal in Sydney a year ago.

“Until now I’ve been happy just to compete against rivals,” said Takahashi. “This was the first time I have run against the clock.
“I can’t compare this to the Olympics. I’ve always had two aims – to win the Olympic title and set a world best, but they are both the same for me.”

Takahashi, who took her own chef, masseur and an entourage of 12 to Berlin, struck out alone from the start.
She was on world record pace throughout the race, as her rivals fell further behind and even rain at the halfway stage failed to deter her.

Punishing training schedule
Her success has been put down to a punishing training schedule which has seen her run two marathons a day at altitude in her base in Boulder, California.

Takahashi has also been known to drink the stomach juices of giant killer hornets before races to improve her stamina.
The hornets, which measure up to 7.6cm, fly the equivalent of two marathons in a day at 32kmph looking for food for their young.

Japanese researchers believe the hornets’ stomach juices can have a beneficial effect on human endurance.