WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Four years since finishing sixth in the Olympic marathon in Beijing, Team GB hopeful Mara Yamauchi is confident she can reproduce the goods on the streets of London in her second Olympic appearance this August, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 38-year-old from Oxford qualified for the London Games courtesy of a 2:27.24 clocking when placing third in the Yokohama marathon in Japan last November and despite not having raced since, is positive of an impressive display on home turf this summer.
Guided by her husband and coach Shige, Yamauchi explained:
“I’m hoping to stand on the start-line in good shape, without any injuries and do myself justice.
“I’m not looking for a particular time - if I run my race and if I’m healthy, the position will come as well as a decent time.”
Joined by world record-holder Paula Radcliffe and newcomer Claire Hallisey, Yamauchi believes the Team GB outfit could make quite an impact:
“It’s a great team – Paula has a stellar CV and she will be pulling out all the stops to prepare as best she can and Claire has been improving massively with every race,” she revealed.
“Hopefully, we’ll all have a great race – I’ve got to watch my back – and hopefully we’ll all stay healthy and have a good race on the day to also have a good team result.”
Boasting a marathon lifetime best of 2:23.12 from her runner-up position in the 2009 London marathon, Yamauchi has done the opposite to what most elite British performers would in the countdown to the Games by moving into London.
Previously residing in Japan for several years, the British all-time number-two is relishing her new surroundings as well as being able to take advantage of the close proximity of the Olympic course:
“I enjoy the fantastic parks in London, having friends around to train with and being able to go and train on parts of the marathon course and being nearer to the support of UK Athletics,” she explained.
Named after the Mara River in Kenya where she lived as a youth, Yamauchi spent a month at altitude in South Africa in January and again in another four-week spell in Mammoth Lakes in California last month, after recovering from a bruised heel around the New Year.
“Because of the injury, I did a lot of cross-training but I’ve increased the running training now to around eighty-miles a week with a bit more of cross-training so although the speed will probably be lacking, the marathon in August is the priority,” she revealed.
Her first test of speed endurance will come on Sunday – in her first race for six months – at the Bupa Great Manchester Run, where she will face world 10,000m silver-medallist Linet Masai of Kenya and British duo Gemma Steel and Charlotte Purdue over 10km on the roads of the Northern city.
A Commonwealth silver-medallist in 2006 over the distance, Yamauchi explained her thoughts ahead of her initial competitive task of 2012:
“I’m not quite sure what to expect but training’s been going reasonably ok – I’m not expecting a personal best time but I hope to do a reasonable time and get my racing legs back and try to enjoy it.
“It will be a good race – Gemma and Charlotte are training for the 5,000m and 10,000m so if they’re ahead of me, I won’t be totally gutted but I just want to try to run my own race and do well.”
Following her Manchester appearance, Yamauchi will next compete in the British capital in the Bupa London 10km before tackling a half-marathon in Holland in June – all in preparation for what could possibly be her last Olympic marathon.
“My form’s probably quite similar to 2008,” she explained.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries since 2009 but by August, I hope to be in similar shape - I’m hoping that perhaps by doing less training but being more focused, I’ll be able to produce the same result.”