Helsinki, FinlandA year after her double 'did not finish' performance at the Olympics, that the athletics world wouldn’t let her forget, Paula Radcliffe finally claimed an elusive World title at the Marathon, and the winner couldn’t have been more pleased.
“I’m just very happy and relieved to win, the Briton said after her comfortable 2:20:57 win, more than a minute ahead of defending champion Catherine Ndereba. “I came in good shape and knew I was very capable of winning. It’s a relief that things went well on the day.”
Faster than the Great Czech
Actually, ‘things’ went extremely well. Radcliffe led from start to finish en route to the fastest-ever performance at the World Championships, a clocking that was faster than Emil Zatopek’s win here at the 1952 Olympic Games.
“I think it’s definitely special winning here,” said Radcliffe, after adding one of the few trophies missing from her extensive collection. “It’s right up there with running the World record. It goes with it. I think it’s important that as World record holder that I can show that I can win major titles as well.”
Radcliffe, who twice lowered the World record in the event that now stands at 2:15:25, refused to make too many comparisons to her performances last summer.
“It’s totally different from last year because I came in good shape with no health worries, so it was about going out there and running well and enjoying it. It was important. I knew I was coming into it in good shape. So it was important to show that and for things to feel right and go right today.”
Her plan today was a simple one, and one she executed exceptionally well.
“I wanted to make sure that the pace was good and that I was comfortable. I knew it was a tough course so I wanted to make sure that I had enough left on the last lap. My plan was just to go out in a pace that was comfortable but decent that I could just maintain and keep, and stay strong and be able to surge in the second half of the race. Which is the way it worked out.”
No risk form 10,000m warm-up
Radcliffe was criticized in some circles for her double attempthere; last Monday, she finished a distant ninth in the 10,000m in 30:42.75, using the run primarily as a tune-up for a Marathon victory. With her victory, she proved her detractors wrong.
“The only risk was to make sure that I came out of it healthy, which is why I ran in my flats,” she said of the track race. “I knew I came out of it healthy and that I was happy to complete my taper and be stronger for the Marathon.”
She did say that she expected more from the 10,000. “I was disappointed with it. I felt I should have run better. I don’t really know why I didn’t. Maybe I just had too much Marathon preparation in my legs. Even so, I think I should have run better than that.”
Radcliffe has already built a solid resume in other World Championships, collecting titles in Cross Country and in the Half Marathon. Her victory here was the next logical step.
“I think the World Cross was very special to me as well,” she said, “It was kind of where I started out. And it was one of my big goals to try and win World Cross. And then after that the next build up was to win a World Championship title. I already had the Half Marathon and it’s important to have the Marathon to go with that.”
Hard to live up to
Radcliffe said she isolated herself from the media for the past couple weeks, not reading, listening to or watching anything related to her appearances here. After all, her own expectations were enough to try to live up to.
“The biggest pressure comes from myself because I knew that I worked hard this year and was coming in good shape. And it was up to me to show that and to prove that.”
With her two races in Helsinki now behind her, Radcliffe said she’s has given little thought to what will come next.
“I’m going to go away now, relax and have my break and then just make plans from there.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF