Yamauchi ends London marathon

It took six days, eight stages, a couple of costly taxi rides, and the hiring of a private propeller plane, but Mara Yamauchi finally crossed the finish line yesterday afternoon at the end of an epic journey to get from the slopes of the Rio Grande to the banks of the River Thames in time to lead the British challenge in the 2010 Virgin London Marathon on Sunday.

The 26 miles, 385 yards from Blackheath to The Mall on Sunday ought to seem like a relative sprint – assuming that the Oxford athlete, runner-up to Irina Mikitenko in the women's section last year, has not been drained by her marathon ordeal.

It started last Thursday when Yamauchi and her Japanese husband Shigetoshi left Albuquerque in the south west of the United States, where she had been training for Sunday's race, and flew to Denver in the expectation of catching a flight to London.

When the Icelandic volcano intervened, they flew to New Jersey in the hope of making a connection to Shannon in Ireland, but without success.

Instead, the Yamauchis flew to Lisbon and took a six-hour taxi ride to Madrid, where they discovered there were no seats available on ferries from Spain to Portsmouth. So they rented a car, drove for two days to Paris, and took a taxi to Le Touquet, where a private piston plane hired by the London Marathon organisers flew them to Shoreham in west Sussex. From there, a car whisked them to London.

"It's been an interesting journey to say the least and hardly the best way to prepare for the race," Yamauchi said. "I am tired but most of all just happy to be here. Now at least I have time to relax and begin to focus my mind on the race. I am confident I will be fully recovered and ready to run by Sunday morning."