Q. How are you feeling?
A. My training's been going well, although I did get sick just before the Great North Run. I haven't had any major setbacks since then. Travelling to the NYC Marathon was uneventful compared to the journey I had getting to London for the Marathon in April when the ash cloud descended. I have had a couple of niggles when I've had to cross train for a few days, but that's quite normal. It's rare that I'll manage every single run I had planned. I think it's unlikely I'll run a PB because it's a tough course but I'd like to try to get close to my PB.
Q. Where have you been preparing for the race?
A. I arrived in NYC on Tuesday. Before that I was in New Jersey training at sea level and before that I spent a month in Albequerque, New Mexico. I ran the Great North Run in October and before that I was training in Switzerland. I haven't been home to Japan since July so I'm looking forward to that after this race next week.
Q. Why haven't you run the NYCM before?
A. I've entered twice before and had to withdraw through injury, so I really wanted to make sure that I made the start line this time.
Q. How much training have you been doing?
A. I've been doing about 100 miles a week in training. The longest I've run is a hilly 23 miles so I count that as 26. I did two 23-milers and two 20-miles - one quite fast and quite a few slightly shorter than that. My husband made me start the long runs uphill to replicate running over the bridges in NYC. I've driven some of the course. I've tried to run lots of hills in training. I've run in Central Park a lot too. I've studied the map and memorised the course.
Q. What's your goal for the race?
A. The field is really strong, so it's difficult to predict what will happen. I'm going for a good position rather than basing my plan on time because the course is tough here and there are no pacemakers. Mary Keitany and Shalane Flanagan are also making their NYCM debut so the competition should be good. They're fast over shorter distances. Sometimes that translates to the marathon and sometimes it doesn't so I'm trying not to think about the competition too much but focus on my own race, relax and enjoy it.
I have a race plan. If I can run away from the field at half way and never look back, like Paula Radcliffe did when she won here, that would be fabulous. You can learn from other athletes but if you try to copy them it can be detrimental. You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses. You have to remember who you are and run the best race for you.
Q. What are your race plans in 2011?
A. This will be my last race of 2010. I'll have a short break after the race then start training for races next year. I'm hoping to run the World Championships next year and qualify for the Olympics. I've already qualified for the World Championships with my 2010 London Marathon time. Those are my two main goals for next year.
Q. What are ideal racing conditions for you?
A. I'm told the weather's going to be cold and sunny on race day so that will be ideal for marathon running. You can't control the weather, you just have to make the best of it.
Q. What difference will New York's famous crowds make?
A. My husband has been known to dash right into the middle of the road during a race and yell "come on, Mara" and I've completely ignored him but think I'll notice the crowds here. They do make a big difference: you realise that this is a race and not training. But crowds can make you get carried away too. I've heard from about 10 different people that the noise the crowds make when you come off the Queensboro Bridge and onto First Avenue is unbelievable and you can get carried away by that. It does help you but you have to remember what your race plan is and not go too fast too early.
Q. What's your race routine?
A. I usually eat about three hours before the start so I'll get up at about 5am and eat at around 6am. I eat six rice cakes. They're rice pounded down into a little cubes and are easy to digest but are the equivalent of having three big bowls of rice. I have that with a boiled egg, vegetables and a glass of orange juice. I have sports drink and coffee before the start. The night before I have noodles because they're easy to digest and I go to bed as early as I can. For the few days before the race I try to eat loads of carbs and relax. During the race I use sports drinks. It's going to be cold on Sunday so sports drinks are much more important that water. I'm going to try using gels this time too as an experiment. After the race I'll eat lots of anything.
Recovery is really important. You want to just let your hair down and relax but you have to look after yourself or you'll pay for it later. What you do after the race is the one thing it's so easy to neglect with the marathon. You should have a plan: bring warm clothes to put on, know what you're going to eat and drink, how you'll get back to your hotel.
Q. Two years ago you said you goal was to win the London Olympic Marathon in 2012. Is that still feasible?
Anything is possible. There's so much luck involved with running a good marathon. For shorter distances you can go all out and if you're in good shape you should run well, but the marathon is more unpredictable. If you have a bad day it's amplified because the race is longer. Equally if you're feeling good you can sometimes knock minutes off a PB. If I'm lucky, I think a medal in London is possible. Winning would be out of this world. Who would have tipped Constantina Dita to win the Beijing Olympic Marathon? She's an exceptional athlete but going into that race she wasn't the favourite. There's great depth in women's marathon running in Africa so the competition will be fierce. A year from now there could be loads more really fast Africans coming through. One thing's for sure: it will be very competitive.