Paula Radcliffe aims to finish the London Marathon with a smile. The 41 year-old attempted to downplay expectations ahead of the race where she will start on the championship start line with the masses. After a recent Achilles injury, she admits preparation hasn’t been ideal but is pleased to be lining up to race this race competitively for what is likely to be the last time.
“I have huge gratitude to get the chance to run this year – I know I’m not going to be competitive with the elite women but to get the chance to run this race one more time is really special.” said Radcliffe, who will receive the inaugural John Disley lifetime achievement award tomorrow.
I do want to enjoy it but I also want to feel like I have run the London Marathon hard and given it as good a shot as I can.
I want to finish with a smile on my face and I will definitely be savouring the atmosphere.”
The 2005 marathon world champion reminisced about the world record breaking race in 2003 when she was paced by two Kenyan men to go down in British sporting history.
“It was important that day for me to keep running as hard as I could so the record would stand as long as possible. At the end I was actually annoyed that Christopher (Kandie, one of the pacemakers) beat me at the end by a second.”
Radcliffe spoke about how the London Marathon event inspired her to compete over the marathon distance when she was a young athlete.
“The London Marathon itself inspired me to do the marathon when I was younger. I have good memories of past races from coming down to watch with the smell of deep heat in the air to the theme music - they all get you thinking about the marathon.
“Seeing Ingrid Kristiansen [who set a world record in the 1985 race] come by, in a mixed race, not far behind the elite men, broke down barriers and made me feel as though I could go out there and be competitive.”
The three-time World Cross Country champion revealed that 21 years ago she was told she may never run again which left the young athlete devastated but she admits it made her mentally stronger.
“In 1994 I had a stress fracture and was told I’d never run again. I remember coming home in tears and my Dad said: ‘What’s the big deal? Loads of people go through life and don’t run.’ I said: ‘But I’m not loads of people, I have a lot of things I want to do.’”
This determination combined with hard work, saw her bounce back and she enjoyed an illustrious career, reaching the pinnacle of her sport. Nevertheless, the world record holder believes this mark will be beaten one day.
“It will be beaten at some point, that’s the nature of the sport. I don’t believe I have any more talent than anyone else. Even when I had the race won, I wanted to see how fast I could run.”
More immediately, Radcliffe believes her women’s only record of 2:17.42 could be under serious threat this weekend.
“The weather is important, but it’s a very strong field and hard to pick a winner. I’m sure Mary Keitany is in great shape. Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo and Florence Kiplagat could also make it a really strong race.
They could work together to get a fast time, or maybe they will be looking around to see who is mentally strong. It could be very tactical, or someone might get out in front and find out that nobody else can keep up.”
The reigning London Marathon champion Edna Kiplagat also spoke yesterday about how Radcliffe inspired her: “Paula has been a great athlete and a great inspiration to female marathon runners. We look up to what Paula has done, especially her solo world record, and that is what we are trying to go for on Sunday.”
On a final note, Radcliffe has a special message for the thousands of athletes who will be tackling the 26.2 mile course through the capital this Sunday.
“Those who cross the finish line this weekend should be feeling very proud of themselves for achieving this. It is a challenge which brings people together and this makes it special.”