Niiya Hitomi: The runner who doesn't like to run

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 11:  Hitomi Niiya of Japan reacts after her win in the Women's 10,000m final during Day Two of the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 at Luzhniki Stadium on August 11, 2013 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - AUGUST 11: Hitomi Niiya of Japan reacts after her win in the Women's 10,000m final during Day Two of the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 at Luzhniki Stadium on August 11, 2013 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

From athlete to office worker and back again. London 2012 Olympian NIIYA Hitomi couldn't shake her need to run, and the Japanese athlete is aiming for a return to the track in her home country at the biggest event of them all — the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

At London 2012, Niiya ran the 5,000m and 10,000m, before retiring in 2014 to go back to work. But in 2018, she decided to give it another shot, to have a chance to be part of the Olympic Games.

Hitomi Niiya targeting Olympic return for Japan in Tokyo
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Earlier this year she broke the Japanese half-marathon record. “I still totally hate running”, she said at the end of the race, despite breaking a 13-year-old record in a time of 1:06:38. “I wasn’t paying any attention at all to anybody else. I came here to run my own race and focus on my time, and that’s what I did.” It was that simple…

But why come back if she doesn't like to run? “The reason I came out of retirement is to me, running is work, and it’s what I’m best at. And I felt I still have work to do”, she explained in a very simple way. The return was not without pain though, as she still carries a plantar fasciitis in her right foot. But not enough pain to stop her.

Will the woman who won the Tokyo Marathon at only 19, be able to fulfil her goal to be part of Tokyo 2020 at age 32?