Travel troubles catch up with Yamauchi as Russian flies in first

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The Independent Online

She might have succeeded in her six-day, 6,500-mile marathon mission to get from the banks of the Rio Grande to the shores of the Thames, but when it came to the 26 miles 385 yards from Blackheath to The Mall yesterday Mara Yamauchi was unable to run her way into the frame for another top-three finish in the Virgin London Marathon.

For 12 miles, the big British hope was at the front of the leading pack in the elite women's race, looking bright and breezy, snapping at the heels of Aniko Kalovics, the Hungarian pacemaker. But then, when Russia's Liliya Shobukhova injected a burst of pace approaching Tower Bridge, all of those travel travails suddenly caught up with the Oxford woman who finished runner-up in London last time around.

It was not so much jet-lag as jet-and-propeller-plane-and-taxi-and-hire-car-lag: the cumulative effect of Yamauchi's arduous slog from Albuquerque to Denver to Newark, New Jersey to Lisbon to Madrid to Paris to Le Touquet to Shoreham and finally London. At the halfway mark yesterday the 36-year-old Foreign Office diplomat – on indefinite leave while she pursues her marathon ambitions – was 10 seconds down on the lead pack and fading out of the podium equation.

The thoroughbred Shobukhova, a major city marathon winner in Chicago last autumn and the European record holder at 5,000m on the track, proceeded to record the first victory by a Russian woman in London, pulling clear in the last mile-and-a-half to win by 19 seconds from her compatriot Inga Abitova in 2hr 22min 00 sec.

For Yamauchi, from halfway onwards it was a question of guts and character. Digging deep into her reserves, she managed to make the top 10, clocking 2:26:16, three minutes and four seconds down on the personal best she set last year when beating Shobukhova to second place. The winner 12 months ago, Irina Mikitenko of Germany, dropped out with a foot injury after 11 miles yesterday.

"There was a phase when I thought of dropping out," Yamauchi confessed, "but I decided to carry on. I don't want to make any excuses." When pressed, though, she did concede: "Maybe the journey to get here took more out of me than I thought it would. I just wasn't fast enough on the day. Coming 10th sounds pretty rubbish but the time I ran was okay."

Shobukhova, who, after her victory yesterday and in Chicago, now leads the world marathon majors rankings, said: "The rain was no problem – it was in and out which made it almost perfect conditions. I ran this course last year with no problems and that helped me this year. The pace was easy but I decided to push in the second half to break up the pack.

"It's my third marathon ever and my second win," she added.

Marathon roll of honour

Women's race

1 Liliya Shobukhova (Rus) 2:22:00

2 Inga Abitova (Rus) 2:22:19

Women's wheelchair race

1 Tsuchida Wakako (Japan) 1:52:33

2 Sandra Graf (Swit) 1:52:34