Former Headington Roadrunner Mara Yam-auchi stormed to victory in yesterday’s New York half marathon.

Yamauchi, using the event as a final preparation before the Virgin London Marathon in five weeks’ time – she was second in that race last year – claimed a sensational success in a course record time of 1hr 9mins 17 secs.

The 36-year-old, who was brought up in Oxford, but now lives in Japan, gradually being to pull in the lead of American Deena Kastor – who had at one stage built up a lead of more than 200 metres – with around two miles of the race remaining.

The Japan-based runner, who missed much of last season including the World Championships in August with a foot injury after finishing second in London, only returned to racing in February.

“I’m still not back at my very best, but I’m getting there,” said Yamauchi, who succeeds compatriot Paula Radcliffe as champion.

“When Deena went away, I thought if I could make the top three that would be okay.

“When she came back in sight I thought: ‘Wait a minute, this race isn’t over.’”

Kastor finished in 1hr 9min 43sec with Madai Perez of Mexico just two seconds behind the 2004 Olympic marathon bronze-medallist.

The American will return to her New Mexico base for a final few weeks high altitude training before competing in London.

Double Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie failed to finish the men’s race after suffering an asthma attack.

Peter Kamais of Kenya, 33, claimed victory in 59.52, ahead of countryman Moses Kigen-Kipkosgei who clocked 1.00.38 with Mohammed Trafeh of the United States third in 1.00.40.

The London Marathon takes place on Sunday, April 25.