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Yamauchi returns to marathon action in Tokyo

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Mara Yamauchi

13th November 2008


Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi returns to action this weekend, racing in her adopted home city in Sunday’s Tokyo International Women’s Marathon.

Yamauchi, who in placing sixth in Beijing equaled Priscilla Welch in Los Angeles in 1984 as the best ever finish by a British female in an Olympic marathon, will be racing for the fourth time over the 26.2 mile distance this year.

In January she produced a career-best performance when winning the Osaka International Women’s Marathon in a PB of 2:25:10 and in April she finished 5th in the Beijing Marathon in 2:46:14, in what was more of a pre-Olympic fact-finding mission than a competitive race.

Yamauchi was over her Olympic exertions within a short time. She said: “Because the first half was quite slow and the weather conditions not as hot as I expected, I managed to recover quite quickly. I had one week completely off when we went on holiday in northern Japan (Hokkaido), and then one easy week before gradually getting back into my usual routine.”

“I’m very pleased with coming 6th in what was probably the best field ever assembled for a women’s marathon. But I was also hoping and aiming for a medal so there was a slight sense of disappointment that I didn’t reach that goal. I learned a lot from the experience though and am confident that it will serve me well in the future.”

This weekend’s event is the last ever running of a race with a fine tradition, including marathon luminaries such as Portugal’s Rosa Mota (1986), Kenya’s Joyce Chepchumba (2000), Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi (2007) and Britain’s Joyce Smith (1979, 1980) and Liz McColgan (1991) on its roster of previous winners.

Yamauchi is looking forward to a great atmosphere in front of possibly the world’s most passionate marathon spectators. She said: “The crowds at marathons in Japan are usually huge. This year is the final Tokyo women’s marathon so the crowds are likely to be even bigger than normal.

“It is also broadcast live on national TV and radio. Many Japanese people support me which I really appreciate. I think having a Japanese name and husband helps! Because marathon running is so popular, Japanese people really understand the hard work that goes into racing marathons.”

The course is reckoned to be fairly fast - 2004 Olympic champion Noguchi set the course record of 2:21:37 last year – and conditions are expected to be a dry and benign 15-20 degrees. “I really want to win and set a PB.” A confident sounding Yamauchi says of her hopes.

There is stiff opposition from Japan and further afield. Russia's Svetlana Zakharova is a former winner in Boston and Chicago and was 2nd in this year's London Marathon, meanwhile leading the home hopes is Yoki Shubui, a former winner in Berlin.

The race begins on Sunday at 3:10am UK time.