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London was a breakthrough, says Yamauchi

27 April 2009

Following a personal best for second place in Sunday’s Flora London Marathon, Britain’s Mara Yamauchi believes she has taken a major step towards a place at the highest level of world distance running.

After finishing second to Irina Mikitenko, as the German record holder retained the title, the Japan-based runner took stock of her achievement:

“So much in the marathon is mental. Perhaps up to now I’ve seen myself as a second tier marathon runner but maybe that will change. Mikitenko is the world number one right now and to be able to be alongside her for so long during the race is a big confidence boost.”

The sense of matching the eventual winner stride for stride for much of the race has clearly had a strong psychological impact:

“I definitely feel it was it was a big breakthrough. I didn’t freak out when I was running with Mikitenko. It confirmed that my training is what I should be doing.”

Just 24 hours after setting a personal best of 2:23:12, she was looking to the future, reviewing her career so far, and assessing how to strengthen her chances of a championship medal. An increase in training volume is on the agenda:

“I know I need to do more mileage. I average between 100 and 110 miles per week. I’m always trying to increase my mileage but it’s a fine line between that and breaking down. I know most of the top women are doing more. I also want to improve my race tactics.”

Mara met her husband Shige while working for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Japan. She paid tribute to his support in their partnership:

“He is a man of many talents. He cooks, carries my bags and helps with the training. He often cooks my pre-race meal for me. As for the morning of the race, I like to have Japanese rice cakes, boiled eggs and a few vegetables.”

Now on extended leave from the Foreign Office, Yamauchi sees living in Tokyo and the Japanese enthusiasm for distance running as an important factor in her own development over the past five years:

“It made me raise my game. They have so many athletes training for the marathon and I’ve been able to race against them, such as Mizuki Noguchi, the 2004 Olympic champion; Catherine Ndereba also races there and they have such good quality races.”

If Yamauchi and Paula Radcliffe are fit and ready to stand on the start line of the World Championships marathon in Berlin on August 23, Britain will have two medal contenders. Quick to acknowledge the world record holder’s achievements, Yamauchi will concentrate on her own efforts to improve on ninth place in the 2007 World Championships and sixth in the Olympics last year:

“I shall be aiming for a medal in Berlin. Maybe I should be saying I’m going to win but that would be building myself up too much. However, I’d love to get a medal.”

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