OXFORD’S Mara Yamauchi pledged to keep on running after announcing her retirement from elite athletics.

The 39-year-old marathon runner, who is Britain’s second fastest lady over the 26.2-mile distance, will now return to work at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Yamauchi, a former member of Headington RoadRunners and Radley Ladies, had not raced since dropping out of the London 2012 Olympic marathon with a foot injury.

And having weighed up her options, she has called time on a career whose highlights include finishing sixth in Beijing 2008 and second in the 2009 London Marathon.

“I have achieved my childhood dream of becoming an Olympian, and enjoyed many years training and competing as an elite athlete,” said the ex-Oxford High School pupil.

“To be able to do what you love as your job is a rare and special privilege, and I am very grateful to all those 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.”

Yamauchi, nee Myers, enjoyed some success as a school and university runner, but it was only after she moved out to Japan that her athletics career took off.

Coached by her husband Shige Yamauchi, she put her career on hold and ran her first marathon in 2004.

Yamauchi improved steadily, culminating with a sixth-place Olympic finish in 2008 and a London Marathon runners-up spot in 2009.

The last two years saw Yamauchi struggle with injuries, although she clocked 2hrs 27mins 24secs for third place at the Yokohama Women’s Marathon to qualify for London 2012.

However, she was unable to shrug off a pre-race foot problem and dropped out just before the 10km mark.

Yamauchi now hopes to pass on her experience.

She said: “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.

“Now that building a legacy from the 2012 London Olympics is fresh in our minds, it’s more important than ever to embrace sport and the valuable contribution it makes to our lives.

“The most memorable moments of my career were finishing sixth in the Beijing Olympics, and winning the 2008 Osaka Marathon.

“But the most enjoyable thing was just going out training with friends.”

Former London Marathon race director Dave Bedford, who witnessed Yamauchi’s personal best of 2.23.12 to finish second in 2009, was among those paying tribute.

“Mara has been a great asset to British marathon running,” he said.

“Her second place in 2009 was an outstanding performance. And she’s a thoroughly good egg.”

Yamauchi added: “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.

“Although I will return to work, I hope to stay involved in the running world as much as I can.”