Exemplifying the spirit of ‘sound mind, sound body’, British long distance runner Mara Yamauchi has managed an impressive balance between academic achievement and sporting prowess. Reaching first place in Osaka in 2008 and second place in the 2009 Flora London Marathon, the Oxford graduate has set the second fastest time ever for a British woman in a marathon.
Out of Africa
Mara Yamauchi (née Myers) was born in Oxford but spent the first eight years of her life living in Nairobi, Kenya. After returning to England in her youth, she earned herself a place at Oxford University and began her drive for all-round perfectionism. The first of her academic achievements, Yamauchi completed a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at St. Anne’s College before going on to do a Masters at the London School of Economics. For someone who was yet to realize her career as an athlete, this was to turn into a most ambitious back-up plan. Indeed, she eventually took up a post at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but left on unpaid leave to let her legs – rather than her head – drive her career. She currently lives in Japan with her husband and trainer Shigetoshi.
Late starter, early finisher
When Yamauchi started running in college, she initially did so only to keep fit. However, this soon led to her becoming the English cross-country champion, a title she held onto as she began her work as a Foreign Office diplomat in Tokyo. It wasn’t until she returned to Britain five years later, at the age of 30, that she took up running seriously.
Her first ever marathon wasn’t until 2004 in London where she came in seventeenth. The following year, she ran her second marathon (2:31:52) again in London, which was followed by her selection for the 2005 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. But it was in 2006 that she really cracked the London Marathon and began to emerge as the second lady of British distance running, behind her compatriot Paula Radcliffe. Coming in sixth, she clocked a time of 2:25:13 – officially the second fastest British woman ever. A definite case of ‘better late than never’, the Englishwoman now ranks among the world’s top ten female long distance runners.
Putting the 'Mara' in 'Marathon'
As though her age is of no significance, Mara Yamauchi now seems set on world domination in long distance running. She had a very successful 2008, recording a victory in the Osaka Marathon in a time of 2:25:10 and then going on to earn sixth place at the Beijing Olympics with a time of 2:27:29 – not bad for a 36-year old part-timer.
Although she missed out on the World Championships in Berlin this summer, 2009 was by no means a bad year for the athlete either. She not only set a half marathon PB when winning in Marugame (68:29), but once again went on to finish second in the Flora London Marathon in April. This time in an amazing 2:23:12 – also a new PB. Could it be that she’s just beginning to show what she’s made of?