By Chris Lotsbom
(22-Jan) -- Earlier today, through a statement from UK Athletics, it was announced that two-time Olympian and 2:23:12 marathoner Mara Yamauchi is retiring from competitive athletics. Yamauchi, 39, finished sixth at the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing, and is the second fastest Briton ever at the marathon distance.
"I have achieved my childhood dream of becoming an Olympian, and enjoyed many years training and competing as an elite athlete," said Yamauchi, who dropped out of the London Olympic Marathon, in a statement. "To be able to do what you love as your job is a rare and special privilege, and I am very grateful to all the people who have enabled me to do that. I have now decided that it's time to leave elite competition behind, and instead I will run for enjoyment and to stay healthy."
Among Yamauchi's career highlights were victories at the 2008 Osaka Marathon and 2010 NYC Half, and her 2006 Commonwealth Games 10,000m bronze medal. The Oxford resident also competed in the Virgin London Marathon six times, finishing second in 2009 to Irina Mikitenko. There, she timed her career best of 2:23:12, making her Britain's second-fastest ever to Paula Radcliffe.
What Yamauchi is most grateful for are the lessons learned and friends made through the sport.
"Running teaches us many useful life skills -- you can achieve your dreams if you put your mind to it, that hard work reaps rewards, and that perseverance will get you through tough times. I hope I can share my experience of learning through running, with people from all walks of life," she said.
Yamauchi, who was coached by her husband, Shige, will continue to be active in the sport.
"I am looking forward to the next stage of my life, and to being able to do things which you can't do as an elite athlete," she said. "Although I will return to work, I hope to stay involved in the running world as much as I can."
PHOTO: Shige and Mara Yamauchi celebrate after her 2010 NYC Half victory (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)