Mara in mood to run after rollercoaster ride to London
It may have taken six days, and involved virtually every mode of modern transport bar the bicycle, but Mara Yamauchi was at last looking forward to Sunday's Virgin London Marathon this afternoon less than 24 hours after completing her "roller coaster" ride from New Mexico to London.
"There were times when I thought I wouldn't make it," the 36-year-old Briton admitted, as she described the ups and downs of the marathon journey she and husband Shige made from Alberquerque to Britain - via Denver, Newark, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Le Touquet and Shoreham in Sussex.
"There were also times when I thought I'd be the only person to make it and then I would win the race by 10 minutes," she added. "It's been such a mental roller coaster. If I run well on Sunday it will be the icing on the cake. Now I am just relieved to be here and to be able to switch my brain from transport logistics to running fast."
Yamauchi's odyssey began last Thursday at her high altitude training base in the United States and involved cars, planes and trains, not to mention mammoth taxi trips and private propeller-driven jets. Not surprisingly, it was "both physically and mentally exhausting", she said, although it did have its positive sides.
"I've been on flights and cars pretty much continuously since we left. I didn't have much time to sleep and hardly did any training because there wasn't time while we kept figuring out what to do next. We didn't have much time to eat either; we just kept grabbing sandwiches."
It's hardly the best way to prepare for the world's top marathon, especially when she's carrying her country's hopes against the double London and World Marathon Majors champion, Irina Mikitenko, with whom she battled so hard last year.
"It was mentally pretty tiring, as well," she said. "But on the positive side I didn't have time to think or worry about the race. It was also fantastic weather and I saw some fabulous scenery.
"If it hadn't been for this trip I would never have seen some of these places. I'd never have travelled from Lisbon to Madrid by road, or seen the country between there and Paris, or flown in that amazing plane the London Marathon arranged to get us to Shoreham. And we stayed in a lovely hotel in France."
What's more, the driver the Yamauchis hired to take them from Lisbon to Madrid was overjoyed to earn a week's wages in one trip and take the chance to visit his uncle in the Spanish capital. "I think he was going to have a great night," laughed Yamauchi.
On the other hand, a taxi driver in France put it all into perspective when he told them he'd lost all his family in Cambodia in the 1970s.
As for her performance on Sunday, Yamauchi remains confident she can run well, even getting close to her best of 2:23:12 which she ran last year.
"Obviously, I've never prepared like this before so I just have to optimise my preparations between now and Sunday," she said. "I need to rest as much as possible, catch up on sleep and do a bit of running to get my muscles moving again.
"I think taking a big chunk from my PB is unlikely, but if the weather is favourable - if it's not too hit and the wind is good - I think I can perform well."
The tribulations of the last few days apart, the omens for Yamauchi are good. After missing much of last year with a foot injury that kept her out to the Berlin World Championships, she returned to competition in January before winning a 30km race in Oume, Japan, in February, and then scored a major victory over 2006 London champion Deena Kastor in New York, winning the city's half marathon on 21 March in a course record 69:25.
"The injury was a signal, a warning sign that I was overdoing it," she said. "In that way it was useful and I've made some changes to my training since."
"New York was a great confidence boost," she added. "Deena went off very quickly and for the first 12 miles I thought, ‘I'm getting thrashed her. This is not very good.' But in the end I pulled her back and was pleased with my performance."
A similar result on Sunday would mark the perfect end to a particularly long and winding road for this resourceful and determined athlete.