By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(10-Aug) -- Mara Yamauchi hopes that her second race in New York City this year goes as well as the first.

The 36 year-old Briton, who won the NYC Half-Marathon last March 21, announced today that she will compete in the 41st ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 7, for the first time.  Should she win the race, she would become the fourth British woman to do so, following in the footsteps of Priscilla Welch (1987), Liz McColgan (1991) and Paula Radcliffe (2004, '07-'08).

"We're so pleased that Mara will join us this year," said New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg on an international teleconference today.  "Mara comes into the race with the confidence with a major victory in the New York City Half this Spring, and will be seeking to be the first man or woman to win the New York City Half and New York City Marathon in the same year."  Wittenberg added: "We hope that Mara can ride the crest of good feelings about Paula and British runners in New York City."

Yamauchi, who finished sixth in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon and has a career best time of 2:23:12, had planned to run New York last year, but was forced to withdraw due to a foot injury.  She last ran a marathon in London last April after enduring a six-day journey from New Mexico to London because of the volcanic ash plume which snarled air travel throughout Europe.  She finished tenth in 2:26:16, saying her ordeal cost her about one or two minutes on the finish line.

"At least getting from New Mexico to New York will be more simple," Yamauchi said, joking with reporters.  "If a volcano goes up we'll be driving across the U.S."

Speaking from Britain, Yamauchi said that she planned to return soon to her high altitude training camp in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and that she would remain there until she competes in the Bupa Great North Run half-marathon in Newcastle, England, on September 19.  From there, she and husband Shige, who also serves as her coach and massage therapist, plan to travel to Albuquerque for more altitude training.  Yamauchi said she would come to the New York City area three weeks in advance of the marathon to complete her training at sea level.

Last March Yamauchi had an opportunity to tour the ING New York City Marathon course with a New York Road Runners official, and found it to be even more difficult than she had heard.

"I was quite surprised that it was even tougher than the legend says," Yamauchi explained.  "Lots of ups and downs, lots of corners.  I think it will be really challenging."  She continued: "I'm not a super-fast sub-2:20 runner, so this kind of course really works in my favor.  I'm really looking forward to it."

Yamauchi, who will turn 37 on Friday, said that she planned to focus on just two important marathons after New York: the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea, next August, and the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London a year after that.  However, she did not rule out a spring marathon next year and wanted to do shorter races in between for sharpening her fitness.

"I am planning to do the World Championships marathon next summer, and I may also do another marathon in the spring, the main purpose to qualify for the Olympics," she said.  "Depending on the outcome of that, I will run a spring marathon as well.  Then, [it is] probably unlikely I will race a marathon in 2012 before the Olympics."  She added: "In addition to that, I'm planning to run various shorter races, 10-K's and half-marathons.  That would be part of my marathon build-up, but I haven't decided which ones yet.  My main long-term aim is the Olympics, especially after my injury last year."

Yamauchi also had some foot trouble earlier this year, withdrawing from the Sapporo Half-Marathon last July.  She said there was no damage to her foot, just tightness, and she missed only about one week of training.

"It was a bit of an interruption," she said.  "I made sure it didn't get worse."

Born Mara Myers in Oxford, Oxfordshire, Yamauchi moved to Tokyo permanently after her marriage to Shige in 2002 (she had previously worked in the British diplomatic corps in Japan before becoming a full-time athlete).  A late bloomer, she didn't come into the consciousness of British fans until she won the bronze medal at 10,000m at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.  She finished sixth at the Flora London Marathon four weeks later in 2:25:13, and has been a remarkably consistent performer at the marathon distance ever since.  She won the 2008 Osaka Marathon, and was second at London in 2009 in a personal best 2:23:12.  Her sixth place finish at the Beijing Olympics was the best ever in an Olympic Games by a British woman.  She has broken 2:28 eight times.

In New York, Yamauchi will face American Olympic medallists Deena Kastor and Shalane Flanagan.  Like Yamauchi, Kastor --the American marathon record holder with a 2:19:36 career best-- also did not run her best in London last April, finishing 18th in 2:36:20.  But Yamauchi feels that the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medallist will be a factor in New York.

"I know she didn't have a great run in London, but I'm not one of those people who have written her off," Yamauchi said.  "I don't underestimate her at all.  All runners have bad patches; it doesn't mean your career is over.  I'm sure she will run brilliantly in New York."

The ING New York City Marathon is the final stop for the World Marathon Majors series this year.  The race offers an $800,000 prize money purse, including $130,000 for the winners.  The race reported 43,660 official finishers in 2009, making it the largest marathon in history.




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