2000 Olympic Marathon champion Naoko Takahashi of Japan won the 2005 Tokyo International Women’s Marathon with a time of 2:24:39. This was the first marathon in two years for the former World Record holder.

She was followed by Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania – runner up at the City of Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year – who crossed the finish line in 2:25:15. Third place went to Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia – runner up at both the Rock ‘n’ Roll and Boston Marathon’s this year – with her time of 2:26:50.

Takahashi teaches us to hold on to our dreams

“We are all given 24 hours a day. I want everybody to have a dream and make the most of each day.”

These words were spoken by Naoko Takahashi in an interview after her spectacular comeback and victory in the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon Sunday. I found the speech very persuasive.

In the first part of the interview, Takahashi said: “There were times when I thought about ending my career as an athlete.

Although I almost gave up my dream at one time, I realized that if I could get a good result I would be able to show people who have lost hope or are facing hardships that if they hold on to their dream, one day they will be able to see light.

“I ran, telling myself that I am carrying that message to them.”

The real world is harsh. When we speak about our dreams, they tend to sound like lofty ideas.

But the word “dream” comes to have a strong, realistic ring when it is spoken by someone who has worked hard and struggled to find a ray of light in the darkness.

After failing to qualify for the Athens Olympics, which had been her major goal, Takahashi set out on her own, groping in the darkness, and formed a new support team to help her train.

Just before the Tokyo marathon, she pulled a leg muscle.

If she had hurt herself in the race and caused damage that could affect her running in the future, she and her team would have been exposed to harsh criticism.

A marathon, with its long, rough course and its many ups and downs, is like life itself. Runners, who leave the stadium in one large group, gradually split into smaller groups. They, too, break up and form a single file, and in the end, the runners return to the stadium one by one.

Takahashi also said: “The bonds of the team made me win.”

Her dream–to find a ray of hope in the darkness–was answered.

The Asahi Shimbun, 23 Nov. 2005