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Ninja Runner Yuka Ando Leads Japanese Women's Marathon Team in London: "I Want to Go For It"

Her form has been dubbed "ninja running." Both arms held straight down with almost no movement. That idiosyncratic style carried Yuka Ando, 23, to the fastest-ever marathon debut by a Japanese woman, 2:21:36, at March's Nagoya Women's Marathon to land at #4 on the all-time Japanese lists. All at once Ando found herself catapulted to the top level of women's marathoning, a candidate for Japan's next great marathoner.

When she was younger Ando ran moving her arms like other runners, but she had a bad habit of moving robotically, her upper body and lower body not working in sync. The turning point came in 2014 when she joined Suzuki Hamamatsu AC. Working there with coach Masayuki Satouchi to eliminate the faults in her form, the pair arrived at the ninja running style that let her run relaxed. "Other people keep asking me, "Isn't it hard to run like that?" but for me it's comfortable," she said. The efficient form helped her maintain her stamina and run head to head with Rio Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) over the second half of the race.

Inspired by her fellow Gifu native Naoko Takahashi's gold medal run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics Ando began running in junior high school. At Aichi's Toyokawa H.S. she led the team to two National High School Ekiden titles. Last year she was named to the Japanese national team for the World Half Marathon Championships. The 3rd placer in Nagoya, Mao Kiyota, 23, is her teammate at both Suzuki Hamamatsu and on the World Championships women's marathon squad. "Having a strong training partner around helps give me confidence," Ando said.

London will be Ando's second marathon. If she makes the top eight her place in the fall, 2019 qualifying race for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team will be guaranteed. "In Nagoya I felt that if I went with the leaders then everything would work out," she said. "If I can run like I did in Nagoya then I really want to go for it." The three women ahead of her on the all-time list, Mizuki Noguchi, Yoko Shibui and Naoko Takahashi, all hailed from the same era. Hopes are high that this 23-year-old can help Japanese women's marathoning break free from treading water. The London World Championships women's marathon starts at 22:00 Japan time on Sunday, August 6.

source article: https://mainichi.jp/articles/20170731/mog/00m/050/004000c
translated by Brett Larner

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