Britain’s Mara Yamauchi finishes third at the Yokohama International Women’s Marathon behind Japan’s Ryoko Kizaki
Britain’s Mara Yamauchi made a strong return to marathon running after a difficult year of injuries with a third-place finish at the Yokohama International Women’s Marathon in Japan.
The race was one of the key selection opportunities for the Japanese Olympic marathon team, one of the most competitive selection battles in international athletics. But on a day of unseasonably high temperatures, Ryoko Kizaki’s winning time may not have been fast enough to guarantee a spot on the national team.
After 5km Kizaki was one of a lead group of six athletes with Yamauchi some 12 seconds behind. Five women were still in contention at half way, reached in 72:42, and the gap to Yamauchi had grown to 21 seconds.
But the Oxford athlete – competing in her first marathon since finishing a disappointing 13th in New York last year – worked hard over the following few kilometres and joined the leaders at 25km. 10km later it was just Yamauchi, Kizaki and 2009 world silver medallist Yoshimi Ozaki – the pre-race favourite – in the lead pack.
Yamauchi then faded slightly leaving the two Japanese athletes to battle it out for top honours. In the end it was Kizaki – competing in just her third ever marathon – who pressed on and opened up a lead, going on to win in 2:26:32, 17 seconds ahead of Ozaki.
Less than a minute behind the leader, Yamauchi crossed the line in 2:27:24 – more than four minutes slower than her lifetime best, but five seconds faster than the time she ran to finish sixth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
More importantly, however, it was the second fastest performance by a British woman so far within the Olympic qualification period, behind the 2:23:46 set by world record-holder Paula Radcliffe. Yamauchi is now the fifth British woman in possession of the 2:31 Olympic marathon qualifying time.
Fellow Briton Louise Damen started the race with high hopes, looking to improve on the 2:30 from her marathon debut in London earlier this year. But she dropped out shortly after going through the 10km split in 35:15, where she was more than a minute behind the leaders.