Mara made her international debut for Britain at the 1997 European CC Championships, but dropped out of athletics for a few years while she worked as a diplomat in Japan for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. She married Shige Yamauchi while in Japan, and returned to racing in England with great success in 2003. She worked part-time for the FCO in London but in 2006 returned to Japan with her husband and was granted special unpaid leave by her work to be a full-time athlete. She is now, behind Paula Radcliffe, Britain’s second fastest ever female at the marathon, and an impressive winner of the Osaka International Ladies marathon in 2008. Mara was named after the Mara river in Kenya – where she lived until the age of 8 – her parents lived there for 25 years.She was one of the first athletes selected for the Games, alongside Paula Radcliffe and Scott Overall, back in December 2011.