Yukiko Akaba

Athlete Profile

    Japan Japan
    18 OCT 1979
Yukiko Akaba takes the Japanese 10,000m title in Hiroshima (Kishimoto Nobutake Yoneoka)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
5000 Metres 15:11.17 Yokohama 27 NOV 2005
10,000 Metres 31:15.34 Kawasaki 27 JUN 2008
10 Kilometres 31:58 Yamaguchi 16 MAR 2008
15 Kilometres 48:05 Yamaguchi 16 MAR 2008
20 Kilometres 1:04:42 Yamaguchi 16 MAR 2008
Half Marathon 1:08:11 Yamaguchi 16 MAR 2008
25 Kilometres 1:23:59 Osaka 31 JAN 2010
30 Kilometres 1:41:09 London 25 APR 2010
Marathon 2:24:09 London 17 APR 2011

Progression - Outdoor

5000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2010 15:41.96 Marugame 06 JUN
2009 15:35.05 Hiroshima 27 JUN
2008 15:13.96 Kawasaki 29 JUN
2007 15:22.73 Akita 05 OCT
2006 15:51.01 Yokohama 23 DEC
2005 15:11.17 Yokohama 27 NOV
2004 15:35.60 Kobe 16 OCT
2003 15:59.64 Hiroshima 29 APR
2002 15:41.20 Hachioji 27 NOV
2001 15:35.13 Sapporo 08 JUL
2000 15:44.7 17 DEC
1999 15:27.89 Kumamoto 27 OCT

10,000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2013 33:17.13 Hässelby 18 MAY
2012 33:08.59 Abashiri 07 JUL
2010 32:26.25 Niigata 24 SEP
2009 31:57.44 Hiroshima 25 JUN
2008 31:15.34 Kawasaki 27 JUN
2007 31:23.27 Yokohama 23 DEC
2002 32:59.16 Fukushima 28 SEP
2001 32:57.35 Beijing 28 AUG
1999 32:54.14 Yokohama 14 MAY

10 Kilometres

Performance Place Date
2011 32:45 Okayama 23 DEC
2009 32:35 Sendai 10 MAY
2008 31:58 Yamaguchi 16 MAR
2007 32:20 Karatsu 11 FEB

15 Kilometres

Performance Place Date
2013 49:14 Okayama 23 DEC
2012 49:47 Okayama 23 DEC
2011 48:56 Okayama 23 DEC
2009 48:49 Sendai 10 MAY
2008 48:05 Yamaguchi 16 MAR

20 Kilometres

Performance Place Date
2014 1:07:49 Osaka 26 JAN
2013 1:05:29 Yamaguchi 17 MAR
2012 1:06:18 Okayama 23 DEC
2011 1:05:35 Okayama 23 DEC
2010 1:07:01 Osaka 31 JAN
2009 1:05:19 Sendai 10 MAY
2008 1:04:42 Yamaguchi 16 MAR

Half Marathon

Performance Place Date
2014 1:11:31 Osaka 26 JAN
2013 1:08:59 Yamaguchi 17 MAR
2012 1:09:56 Okayama 23 DEC
2011 1:09:16 Okayama 23 DEC
2010 1:10:45 Osaka 31 JAN
2009 1:08:50 Sendai 10 MAY
2008 1:08:11 Yamaguchi 16 MAR
2002 1:13:04 Sendai 10 MAR
2001 1:11:23 Sendai 11 MAR

25 Kilometres

Performance Place Date
2014 1:25:00 Osaka 26 JAN
2013 1:24:50 Chicago, IL 13 OCT
2012 1:24:57 Nagoya 11 MAR
2011 1:25:44 Osaka 30 JAN
2010 1:23:59 Osaka 31 JAN

30 Kilometres

Performance Place Date
2014 1:42:34 Osaka 26 JAN
2013 1:42:08 London 21 APR
2012 1:42:31 Nagoya 11 MAR
2011 1:41:36 London 17 APR
2010 1:41:09 London 25 APR
2009 1:43:56 Osaka 25 JAN


Performance Place Date
2014 2:26:00 Osaka 26 JAN
2013 2:24:43 London 21 APR
2012 2:26:08 Nagoya 11 MAR
2011 2:24:09 London 17 APR
2010 2:24:55 London 25 APR
2009 2:25:40 Osaka 25 JAN

Honours - 5000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXIX Olympic Games 12h2 15:38.30 Beijing (National Stadium) 19 AUG 2008

Honours - 10,000 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXIX Olympic Games 19 32:00.37 Beijing (National Stadium) 15 AUG 2008

Honours - Half Marathon

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF/EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships 2009 25 1:12:20 Birmingham 11 OCT 2009
IAAF / Caixa World Half Marathon Championships 10 1:11:39 Rio de Janeiro 12 OCT 2008

Honours - Marathon

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 5 2:29:35 Daegu (DS) 27 AUG 2011
12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 30 2:37:43 Berlin 23 AUG 2009

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Updated 5 October 2009

Yukiko Akaba, Japan (Marathon)

Born: 18 October 1979, Tochigi Prefecture
1.58m / 41kg
Coach: Shuhei Akaba (husband)
Team: Hokuren

Yukiko Akaba, the only world class runner in Japan who is also raising a child, started to participate in athletics in junior high school, winning the 3000m in the High School Prefectural Championships while in Mooka High School. However, she never contested a medal at national level until she entered Josai University.

Akaba excelled on both track and road in college. Her college career was decorated with national titles and international medals. In her first year, Akaba was seventh at 5000m in the National Inter-Collegiate Championships, but her real breakthrough came in the fall, when she recorded a stage best (24:23 for 7.5Km fourth stage) in the women’s National Collegiate Ekiden Championship. Her team won the championships and, from then on, Akaba was considered to be a big gun in her team.

In her sophomore year, Akaba won the 5000m in the 1999 National Inter-Collegiate Championships, which was her first title at national level. Then in the summer of 1999, Akaba won the Half Marathon silver medal in the World University Games, in Palma de Mallorca. In 2000, Akaba recorded the fastest time in the first stage of the women’s National Collegiate Ekiden Championship, helping her team to victory. Finally, in her senior year, 2001, Akaba again competed at the World University Games, this time on the track in Beijing. She won a bronze medal at 10,000m and finished eighth at 5000m.

After graduating from Josai University in March 2002, Akaba joined Hokuren track team. Her career, unfortunately, was plagued with injury problems for the next few years, however, and she even contemplated leaving the sport from time to time. What saved Akaba’s career was her marriage to Shuhei Asari in March 2005. Shuhei was a teammate of Akaba’s in Josai University track team and, soon after their marriage (Shusei took Yukiko’s last name, Akaba) he started coaching her. Soon Akaba’s career started to move forward. First, in November, she recorded 15:11.17 for 5000m, the fourth fastest time in history, at that point, by a Japanese. 

After daughter Yuuna was born in August 2006, instead of concentrating in motherhood Akaba returned to training in the fall. Her goal was to make the team for the 2007 World Championships, in Osaka. Unfortunately, she was only 15th in the 2007 National Championships, a qualifying meeting for the Worlds, and thus failed to make the team. Undaunted, Akaba trained hard through the summer and finished third (first Japanese) in the All Japan Corporate team track and field championships in September.

A month later, in the National Sports Festival, running alone from 1000m, Akaba won the 5000m convincingly with 15:22.73. She was on a roll. In the East Japan Corporate team women’s Ekiden Championship, Akaba broke the stage best for the 11.6km stage five, the record held by Naoko Takahashi, the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Marathon champion.  Then, in December, Akaba recorded an Olympic “A” standard when she recorded 31:23.27 for 10,000m. It was also the fastest 10,000m by Japanese in 2007.  She continued to excel in 2008. In March, Akaba won the All JPN Corporate track team Half Marathon Championship with 1:08:11. The time was the third fastest in history by a Japanese woman behind those of Kayoko Fukushi (1:07.26) and Mizuki Noguchi (1:07.43). 

The women’s 10,000m may have been the most competitive event in the 2008 National Championships, for five runners in the race had achieved an Olympic “A” standard beforehand. Because Akaba was among those with the standard, victory would clinch an Olympic team berth. However, she had to battle with Yoko Shibui, the National 10,000m record holder, and Fukushi, the Asian record holder at the Half Marathon as well as National record holder at 3000m and 5000m.

In the final lap Akaba surged to take a lead, but she was overhauled by Shibui in the final 100m, and finish second. She did, however, set a personal best, 31:15.34. Two days later, at 5000m, Akaba finished second to Yuriko Kobayashi (1500m National record holder) ahead of Shibui and Fukushi. 
Following the results of the National Championships, the JAAF Olympic team selection committee picked Akaba to run the 10,000m in the Olympics. However, because she had achieved an Olympic “A” standard at 5000m, when she recorded 15:06.27 on 13 July, she will be running both events in Beijing. 

Although the number of women who continue to compete at elite level after marriage is increasing, in Japan it is still rare for women to do so after childbirth. In fact Akaba is the first Japanese Olympian who also enjoys motherhood. Because Akaba’s family story was the subject of TV programme, she has been at the centre of attention recently.

“Because I lack experience in racing at the highest level, I doubt I would be competitive with Fukushi if she is at the top of her game,” Akaba said.. “However, I feel stronger both physically and mentally after childbirth. In fact, while doing the same workout, my breathing is easier now.” Her husband, on the other hand, said, “She might have been pushing herself a little too hard immediately after childbirth, but I think she is now rounding into shape nicely. Perhaps Yukiko wants to show her daughter how good a runner she is.” Akaba agrees. “I can try harder because of my daughter,” she said. 

While most of the Olympic-bound athletes trained oversea for the Games, Akaba chose a domestic setting. In fact, Akaba’s daughter accompanied her to the training camp. The road to the Olympics was, indeed,  a family affair. 

However, Akaba was not able to fulfill her potential in Beijing.  She finished a distant 20th with 32:00.37 (more than 45 seconds slower than her personal best) at 10000m and failed to advance to the 5000m Final as she was only twelfth in her heat with 15:38.30 (more than 30 seconds slower than her best).

“The reason, I think, is because both Yukiko and I lacked proper experience for the big Games.  Everything, such as planning a training schedule before the Games, living in the Olympic Village including meals provided in the facility, and running with the world best in the most prestigious race of all, were all new to us. We did not know how to handle the situation,” explains Shuhei who coaches Yukiko.  “It was an important learning experience for stepping up to the next level,” concluded Shuhei. 

Naturally, they want to redeem themselves, but both Yukiko and Shuhei agree that failure at the Olympic Games can be redeemed only at the next Olympics.  Thus, after the Olympics, they said that with moving up to the Marathon as one of the options, Yukiko will be targeting the 2012 London Olympic Games. 

She resumed her training two weeks after the Beijing Olympics. Her first big race was the World Half Marathon Championships in Rio in October, where Akaba finished 10th with 1:11:39.  She was the highest placed Japanese in the race.

Their next goal was making a Marathon debut at the Osaka Ladies Marathon in January 2009.  Since neither Yukiko nor Shuhei was familiar with the marathon training, for Shuhei was a middle distance runner and Yukiko was making a marathon debut, they were not sure of their training method and thus naturally they had to rely on trial and error to some extent.  Although Akaba came down with a foot injury in November and had to curtail her training, in mid-December Akaba recorded the fastest time in the 11.6Km stage 5 at  All Japan Corporate team Ekiden Championships. The race gave Akaba confidence that she had good speed, so she started to work on endurance after mid-December. 

“I was bit concerned about the possibility of a fast pace,” said Shuhei.  However, because even Yoko Shibui, the 10,000m national record holder, who was running second marathon in two and half month, decided to stay with the pack, the pace actually turned out to be ideal for Akaba.  Although Akaba could not keep up with Shibui when she made her move at 30Km, Akaba still finished second in 2:25:40. Her second half of the race was 22 seconds faster than the first half.  Furthermore, her pace was very stable, for, excluding the 5Km segment from 30 to 35Km, where the pace had increased dramatically, all 5Km lap times were within 26 seconds of each other.  Thus her race was highly regarded by marathon experts. Because she did not win the race, Akaba was not automatically selected to the team immediately after the race, but in May, when the final team members were announced, Akaba was on the Marathon team for Berlin. 

Three days after Akaba made the team, she ran the Sendai International Half Marathon.  Although it was just a part of the training, Akaba won with 1:08:50,he her second fastest Half Marathon time of her career.  Following the race, Akaba started her training for the World Championships.  She trained for a month at high altitude in Sugadaira, in Nagano prefecture, and then at the end of June, she ran 5000m and 10000m at the national championships. “It was part of the speed training, but since it is a race, I still wanted to win it,” said Akaba. She must have felt so because she had failed to win the national championships last year.  At 10,000m, Akaba took the lead at 4200m and stayed in the front till 7000m. Although Akaba gave up the lead after 7000m, she stayed close to the leaders until 9800m where she started her sprint, and won with 31:57.44.  Two days later, Akaba finished sixth at 5000m. “These two races were great confidence builders.  It was evident that she has not lost any speed even after a month of marathon training,” analyzes Shuhei. 

Although Akaba improved with every race in the recent years, the second marathon of her career, at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, was quite a humbling experience. 

In Berlin, Akaba started the race with the goal of finishing in a top eight place in mind. Two days before the competition, at the pre-event press conference, Akaba even discussed where she might make her move during the race. Although Akaba was among the leaders in the early stages, disliking the constant shift of pace at each drink station, she moved to the rear of the lead pack.

Unfortunately, recalls Akaba, “my leg felt heavy after 20Km and soon I was unable to stay with the pace.” Having lost contact with the lead pack at 25Km, she hit the wall after 30Km and although she finished the race, Akaba was a disappointing 31st in 2:37:43. 

“Dehydration caused her to slow down after 20Km. I thought we were well prepared for the summer marathon, but in reality we were not and the final result showed it,” explained Shuhei after the race. “I learned the frightening truth about the marathon such as how hard the marathon race can be. It was a disappointing performance, and I hope to redeem myself in the next race,” said Akaba. 

“We hit the rock bottom in Berlin, but I believe the hallmark of great athletes is in their ability to come back strongly from a disappointing race. This is not the end of the story for Akaba,” said Shuhei. Akaba will renew her quest for excellence in the upcoming IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham. 

Personal Bests
5000m: 15:06.07 (2008)
10,000m: 31:15.45 (2008)
Half Marathon: 1:08:11 (2008)
Marathon: 2:25:40 (2009)

Yearly Progression

5000m/10,000m/Half Marathon: 1995-17:36.36/-/-; 1996-16:42.2/-/-; 1997-16:46.1/-/-; 1998-16:22.9/ 34:16.5/-; 1999-15:27.89/ 32:54.14/ 1:13:19; 2000-15:44.7/-/-; 2001-15:35.13/ 32:57.35/ 1:11:23; 2002-15:41.20/32:59.16/ 1:13:04; 2003-15:59.64/-/-; 2004-15:35.60/-/-; 2005-15:11.17/-/-; 2006-15:51.01/-/-; 2007- 15:22.73/31:23.27/ -; 2008-15:06.07/ 31:15.34/ 1:08:11; 2009- 15.35.05/31.57.44/1:08.50/2:25.40

Career Highlights
1999    2nd    World University Games (Half Marathon)
2001    3rd    World University Games (10,000m)
2001    8th    World University Games (5000m)
2008    h/20    Olympic Games (5000m/10,000m)
2008    10th     World Half Marathon Championships
2009    31st     World Championships (Marathon)

Prepared by Ikumi Kodama for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2008-2009.