Mara Yamauchi has mixed with some big names in her time. In her days as a Foreign Office diplomat attached to the British Embassy in Tokyo, she acted as an interpreter for Baroness Thatcher and more recently, as a marathon runner, she has shared the roads with Paula Radcliffe. Her mission on the streets of London on Sunday is to make a name for herself in her native land.
In the absence of the injured Radcliffe, Yamauchi – who lives in Tokyo with her Japanese husband – is the sole British hope for a place on the podium in the Flora London Marathon. In Beijing last August she finished sixth in the Olympic marathon – 17 places ahead of the less-than-fully-fit Radcliffe – but failed to make an impression back home. "I did kind of equal the best ever British performance in an Olympic women's marathon and it was ignored," the 35-year-old noted yesterday. "An alien coming to the UK would think women don't do sport here."
Yamauchi's aim on Sunday is to make the top three. It will be no mean achievement. The elite women's field includes the first three finishers from the Olympic marathon – Constantina Dita of Romania, Kenyan Catherine Ndereba and Chunxiu Zhou of China – plus last year's London winner, Irina Mikitenko of Germany.