THE dust has settled from the Icelandic volcano crisis, as former Headington Roadrunner Mara Yamauchi carries the nations hopes at this weekend’s Virgin London Marathon.

And the 36-year-old, who lives in Japan with her husband Shige, but hails from Oxford, believes she could not be in any better shape ahead of one the world’s blue-riband races.

Like many others, Yamauchi was caught up in the travel disruption caused by last week’s eruption, but arrived in the UK, via France, on specially chartered plane on Wednesday.

Just eight months ago, she suffered the heartbreak of missing out on the World Championships in Berlin due to a foot injury, but she has battled back from that, and is in superb shape.

Last month, Yamauchi’s comeback was complete as she posted a course record time of 1hr 9mins 25secs in the New York City Half Marathon – beating home favourite Deena Kastor to the title.

But for Yamauchi, nothing beats the feeling of running in her home country, and she hopes to go one better than last year’s London Marathon, where she finished runner-up to Germany’s Irina Mititenko.

Yamauchi said: “I’m just really happy to be running and training consistently.

“It was really tough being injured, and I’m just glad to be back.

“Winning in New York was a massive bonus, because Deena is a very strong athlete.

“The way that turned out, I just ran a really well-paced race and caught her near the finish.”

Despite her success in New York, Yamauchi is taking nothing for granted for London.

She has left no stone unturned in her bid to become the first Briton to win the ladies’ race since Paula Radcliffe in 2005.

“Obviously the half marathon is a totally different event to what I’m doing this weekend,” she added.

“With the injury I’ve had, it’s taken a long time to feel right.

“It seems to be fine, but even as close as February it felt a bit strange.

“I think it takes a while for your brain to switch off that you’ve no longer got the injury, but I am now running without thinking about it.”

Yamauchi remains in bullish mood, and believes she has the ability to challenge for victory.

“I was second last year, and I’ve run London so many times, of course I would love to win it,” she said.

“The field for London is always strong, and this year is no different.

“On paper, I’m the 12th fastest with my personal best, but there probably won’t be 12 athletes in better shape than me.

“I just have to focus on producing the best performance that I can.

“If I can make the top three that would be fantastic, and I wouldn’t rule out winning it.

“This is one of the best marathons in the world, if the THE best. The field in London is better than New York.”

Yamauchi has spent the last month warm-weather and altitude training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is unfazed about the unpredictable English weather.

“If it’s a hot race, that would be quite good for me,” she said.

“I’ve been training in very warm weather, and I tend to do better in those conditions.

“But I also trained back in Japan in the winter, so I am pretty adaptable,” she said.

Of her main challengers, Mititenko is the one the others have to catch.

The German is bidding for a hat-trick of titles, although she pulled out of a 10km run in Germany earlier this month as a precaution against injury.

Yamauchi said: “Irina is definitely the one to beat.

“She’s won it twice in a row, and is in really good shape.

“The three medalists from the world championships last year are also there.

There are also a handful of talented Ethiopians and Russians. Any one of them could spring a surprise.

“But it’s pointless worrying about others – I just have to focus on my own race and the rest will come.

“In a way, this is my World Championship after missing out in Berlin, and I’m looking forward to running in front of a home crowd.

“Spectators in London are fantastic, they always have been.

“They get behind the Brits, and I’m the only British runner in the Elite field, so I will be giving it my best shot.”