Yamauchi was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England to Dorothy and Norman Myers, but lived with her family until she was eight years old in Nairobi, Kenya. She was named after the Mara River which runs through Kenya where her parents lived for 25 years in total. Yamauchi started running with Oxford club Headington RoadRunners while still at school, but took up running seriously when she was an undergraduate at university, competing mainly in cross-country races. After graduating at St Anne's College, Oxford (Politics, Philosophy & Economics) she studied a one year Master’s degree at the London School of Economics. During this time she joined Parkside AC (now Harrow AC) and was coached by Bob Parker, who coached David Bedford, former 10,000m world record-holder and current director of the Virgin London marathon. After finishing her studies, Yamauchi joined the British Foreign Ministry, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), in 1996. In 1997 she earned her first GB vest, finishing 38th in the European Cross Country championships. In 1998 she won the English National Cross Country championships.
From 1998 to 2002 she took a break from athletics, focusing on her work at the British Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. In 2002 she married Shigetoshi Yamauchi, a Japanese national. After returning to live in the UK in 2002, she started running seriously again, under the FCO’s flexible working scheme which enabled her to job-share and then work part-time. She ran her first marathon in April 2004 at the London marathon, placing 17th in 2:39:16. She also earned selection for GB again, running in the China ekiden relay race in Japan in November 2004.
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