Yamauchi goes the extra miles for marathon test

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The Independent Online

It was not the kind of preparation that the late, great Cliff Temple listed in the pages of Challenge of the Marathon – alongside carbohydrate loading and race week tapering. Mara Yamauchi was still finding her feet yesterday following her six-day, 6,500-mile marathon trek to get to England for the mere 26.2 miles of the London Marathon on Sunday. The afternoon after making it to the race headquarters in the shadow of Tower Bridge, the Oxford woman had every reason to feel more like Steve Martin in the midst of his Planes, Trains and Automobiles ordeal than the lean, mean, fully revved-up marathon racing machine ranked second in the world in 2009.

It took Yamauchi and her Japanese husband Shige from Thursday last week until late on Wednesday afternoon to get from Albuquerque to London – via New Jersey, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Le Touquet and Shoreham on a journey that involved two scheduled planes, two taxis, one hire car, a hired propeller plane and a chauffeur-driven car. "I'm just trying to switch my brain from transport logistics to getting ready for Sunday's race," Yamauchi said, still looking somewhat befuddled following her first full night's sleep in a week.

"Physically, the whole thing was pretty exhausting. We were on the move pretty much the whole of the time. We didn't have much time to sleep and we could hardly eat; we were just grabbing sandwiches. I couldn't do any proper training; I only managed three half-hour jogs. The low point was being in the Gare du Nord in Paris, trying [without success] to get a train out. I kept asking people what was happening and they kept shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'I don't know'. Shige said, 'It's just because you're English; they're being very helpful to me'.

"When we got in a taxi to go from Lisbon to Madrid the driver was absolutely overjoyed. He said, 'I love my job. I'm so glad you came in my taxi tonight. I'm going to earn a week's wages in one night'. The taxi driver who drove us from Paris to Le Touquet was a 60-year-old Cambodian. He'd lost all his family – his wife and his children. It puts life's ups and downs into perspective."

For Dave Bedford, the London Marathon race director, trying to put the elite fields in place for Sunday's race has come at an extra cost of £150,000 to beat the travel travails of the past week and a bit – £110,000 of it for a private jet to ferry the leading African runners. The propeller plane for the Yamauchis accounted for £1,400 and the six-hour taxi ride from Lisbon to Madrid, €650 (£566).

Not that the bills left Bedford short of admiration for the woman who has emerged from Paula Radcliffe's shadow as a major British player in the global marathon game, with her sixth in the Beijing Olympics and her brilliant second behind Irina Mikitenko in London 12 months ago. "Mara has been incredibly resourceful," Bedford said. "Anyone who's done Albuquerque-Denver-New Jersey-Lisbon and all the rest of it must think they've got a very good chance of winning."

Last year the 36-year-old Briton matched the German for 20 miles and sliced nearly two minutes off her personal best with a time of 2hr 23min 12sec. "I ran this morning, just to get my muscles moving again, and I felt OK" Yamauchi said. "I've just got to forget all about what's happened and focus on the race. In a way, I'm in a good position because if I feel terrible there will be a good reason. But hopefully that won't happen. If I do feel terrible, just grinding on and getting to the finish when you don't feel good is what you have to do in a marathon. Even when you're on form, it's really hard."