Updated 24 July 2008
Reiko TOSA, Japan (Marathon)
Born: 11 June 1976, Ehime Prefecture
1.67m / 46kg
Lives and trains in Tokyo
Coach: Hideo SUZUKI
Team: Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance
The bronze medallist at the 2007 World Championships, Reiko Tosa, is one of the most consistent as well as persistent marathon runners in Japan. She started to participate in track and field in high school in her native Ehime prefecture, where she was coached by Hidetoshi Takemoto, who had a reputation for guiding junior athletes with the long term vision.
Although she won prefecture championships and participated in the national high school competitions, she was relatively unknown at the national level. After high school graduation, Tosa continued her track career in Matsuyama University. Although she ran in the national inter-collegiate championships, Tosa never contended for a medal.
A turning point of her career was in 1999 when she joined Mitsui Insurance (now Mitsui-Sumitomo insurance) track team. She joined Mitsui because Tosa’s high school coach Takemoto knew Hideo Suzuki, who coaches at Mitsui-Sumitomo Insurance track team, because they had attended the same university. Suzuki, a former high school track coach, had only begun coaching at the professional level a few years beforeago. Training in the group including Yoko Shibui, (who set the national 10,000m record in 2002) who had joined the team in, Tosa transformed herself into a different runner.
In July at the Sapporo International Half Marathon, Tosa finished sixth with 1:10:59, and was thus selected to represent Japan at the World Half Marathon Championships. In October of 1999, in her first international championships, Tosa was sixth with 1:09:36, behind gold medallist Tegla Loroupe and compatriot Mizuki Noguchi, who was to win the Olympic marathon gold medal five years later in in Athens,.
In March of 2000, Tosa ran the Nagoya International Women’s Marathon. Effectively, Nagoya was her marathon debut, for her real marathon debut, while she was a college student in Matsuyama University, was not a serious attempt as Tosa did not train before the Matsuyama Marathon. After Nagoya, Tosa started to attract media attention when she finished second to Naoko Takahashi, who had qualified for the Japanese Olympic marathon team for Sydney, with 2:24:35.
Tosa also started to excel in track, and in 2000, she personal best of 15:37.08 and 32:15.63 respectivey in the 5000m and 10,000m. Later on in the year, in November, Tosa was second in the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon with 2:24:47, for her second sub 2:25 marathon in a row. Having cleared the qualification criterion – first Japanese in the race with a sub-2:26 clocking – Tosa was thus selected to run in the 2001 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
In Edmonton, after a titanic battle with the Sydney Olympic silver medalist, Lidia Simon, Tosa finished second, five seconds behind the Romanian, winning a silver medal and establishing herself as a confirmed world class runner. Her team-mate Yoko Shibui finished fourth, two places behind Tosa. Tosa was on a roll., and in 2002, at the London Marathon, she finished fourth with a personal best of 2:22:46, which was also third fastest time (at the time) by Japanese women.
Unfortunately, for the next few years Tosa’s career were plagued with injury problems and she almost lost the race against time to qualify for the Olympic Games in Athens. Tosa barely made it to the start line of the 2004 Nagoya International Women’s Marathon, the last qualifying race for Athens Game, in March of 2004. Although it was her first marathon in two years, and she was short ot training, Tosa pushed the pace from the outset. Megumi Tanaka (2004 Olympian at 10,000m, currently Megumi Oshima) broke away from Tosa after the mid-race, but Tosa came back to reclaim the lead in the final stage of the race and won with 2:23:57, thus making the Olympic marathon team. With only five months of preparation under her belt, Tosa ran well in Athens. Although she could not stay with Noguchi when her compatriot surged away from the pack, Tosa finished a respectable fifth.
After the Olympics, in December of 2004, Tosa married former distance runner Kei-ichi Murai, whom she knew since her Matsuyama University days. (Although her new last name is Murai, she continued to run as Reiko Tosa). Kei-ichi, who works at Matsuyama University, the couple’s alma mater, continued to live in Ehime prefecture, while Reiko continued to live and train in Tokyo, an arrangement that is expected to continue while Tosa is running at an elite level. In 2005, Tosa set a personal best of 32:07.66 at 10,000m, and in 2006 she finished third in the Boston Marathon.
In order to qualify for the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Tosa decided to run the 2006 Tokyo International Women’s Marathon. The race attracted lots of attention, for Naoko Takahashi, Sydney Olympic gold medalist, also attempted to qualify for Osaka. Despite cold rain and wind, Tosa pushed the pace from the outset and eventually ran away from Naoko Takahashi, a very popular runner in Japan. Tosa won the race in 2:26:15, and in March of 2007, she was selected for the marathon team for the World Championships.
Unfortunately a disaster struck Tosa in July 2007, only a month before the race. While training in Kunming, China, Tosa fell and injured her left knee. Although for a while it was not certain if Tosa would be able to start in the World Championships, she did make it to the start line in the end.
In the women’s marathon, which was held on the final day of competition, Tosa was running as far back as fifth place in the late stages of the race. However, she came back with a vengeance and passed two runners after k. Her bronze medal was the only medal in Osaka for the host nation, and also earned Tosa, automatic selection for the Olympic marathon team for the second Olympics in a row.
Although her marathon personal best is fa ar cry from those of Naoko Takahashi or Mizuki Noguchi, both Olympic champions, Tosa’s consistency as well as her ability to excel in the important races are highly regarded. Tosa is well liked, as well as well respected, especially among younger generation of women distance runners.
As a testament to Tosa’s statement, “I excel in the worst condition,” her mental strength is unparalleled.
1994-17:29.24/-/-/-; 1998--/-/-/2:54:47; 1999-15:47.40/-/1:09:36/-; 2000-15:37.08/32:15.63/-/2:24:36; 2001--/-/-/2:26:06; 2002-15:44.11/32:53.89/1:10:18/2:22:46; 2003-15:47.96/-/1:11:15/-; 2004--/-/-/2:23:57; 2005-15:43.42/32:07.66/1:12:44/-; 2006--/32:25.70/-/2:26:15; 2007--/-/-/2:30:55
Half Marathon: 1:09:36(1999)
Marathon: 2:22:46 (2002)
1999 6th World Half Marathon Championships
2000 2nd Nagoya International Women’s Marathon
2000 2nd Tokyo International Women’s Marathon
2001 2nd World Championships
2002 4th London Marathon
2004 1st Nagoya International Women’s Marathon
2004 5th Olympic Games
2006 3rd Boston Marathon
2006 1st Tokyo International Women’s Marathon
2007 3rd World Championships
Prepared by Ikumi Kodama for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2008.