Paula Radcliffe, the world’s fastest ever female marathon runner spoke exclusively to the IAAF internet this morning by telephone from her home in England, to discuss her bid for a third World Half Marathon title in Vilamoura on 4 October. She also gave us her thoughts about her injury problems and subsequent decision to cancel her entire track season, as well as her remarkable comeback on the roads.
Radcliffe on the need to race:
It must have been mentally frustrating being out of competition for so long?
“Yes, but I think I am fine now. I just needed to come out and race, as that is the only way to get over disappointments like missing out on Paris (World Championships). I needed to put it behind me, and move on and do what I love the most which is to race.”
“Being away from competition is not quite as hard as being injured but it is a pretty hard ordeal to face. Being injured is obviously worse because of the inactivity, sitting there not being able to do anything but the frustrations of both are just as bad.”
Paris – “the training sessions weren’t what they should have been”
After three brilliant runs on the roads, can you answer those critics and fans who wondered why you did not contest the World title in Paris, or in fact any track races this year?
”I made the decision not to go to Paris because the training sessions just weren’t what they should have been. I know from the sessions of the previous year before Munich what shape I wanted to be in. I also knew what the race (in Paris) would be like because my opponents had all seen how I had run in Munich, and because I knew the Paris track was fast. Quite simply I just wasn’t in the right shape.”
”I had only had four weeks training and so I made the decision that I didn’t want to go. It wasn’t an easy decision as I dearly wanted to be there. I decided to give myself a few more weeks training until I was in shape to do something… those extra weeks allowed me to do some track sessions, do some sharpening up, and it really brought me on.”
“I am naturally more confident as a road runner”
“But I felt it was only possible to do a road race. Racing on the road is not the same as track racing in many respects. You run it differently, and in terms of how I feel as a runner I am naturally more confident as a road runner…I am more dominant on the road.”
“Paris had been the whole point of the season”
“Paris was what the whole summer season had been about for me, and with not going, there seemed little point in me trying to start a track campaign at all, especially as there were only a few meetings left and 3000m or 5000m for me to run.”
”My opening 10km on the road (07/09 - 30:51) was very much just ‘a feeler’ and it was only after running the 5km (14/09 – 14:51) that I felt I was coming into good shape. Had there been track races a little later I would certainly have considered running them instead but with the timing of the last few track meets, a road campaign was much more suited to where I was at (the time physically). Remember I wasn’t able to do any training at all for five weeks, and had bronchitis.”
Did your Half Marathon win in Newcastle last weekend in front of such an illustrious line up of star runners give you a much needed confidence boost?
”Yes, my win in Newcastle (21/09 Great North Run Half 65:40) gave me confidence, but just because I had been laid off doesn’t mean I had suddenly lost my belief or thought I had become a bad runner. I just needed to come out and race, and I don’t want to keep going back to Paris, I wasn’t there and that’s it, and it was just important for me to get back to racing.”
Newcastle run will help rather than hinder Vilamoura preparations
Isn’t running two Half Marathons back to back endangering your chances at the Vilamoura World Half Marathon?
“I would not have made the decision to have run the Great North Run if I had thought that it would compromise the World Half Marathon in any way. My view is that the race last weekend will help to bring me on rather than hinder my preparations for the World title, especially as there is plenty of time to recover between now and then.”
“Vilamoura is going to be a tough race. Everyone wants to win a World title and Susan (Chepkemei) is in good shape and I am sure she will have come on (in form) from her run in Newcastle too, and the Japanese are very strong as well.”
World Half Marathon - The title means a lot to me
You have won the World Half Marathon twice, what does this event mean to you?
“The race means a lot to me. It is the World Championships of the road, and is special to me because when I won the title in Veracruz (2000) it was my first World title apart from my junior one. Also a World title is a world title and I want to finish this year on a positive note.”
“I hope there are some British team hopes. We have a team in which everybody would need to run really well but we need to get everyone there and build on it from there. It will be interesting to see what Kathy Butler runs, as it will be her first Half Marathon and I am sure she can run a good one.”
My plans don’t as yet go beyond Vilamoura
And what are your racing plans after 4 October?
“As to my plans after Vilamoura they really don’t go much past it. I am just looking for a good performance there and to take it on from that point. It will probably be (the last competition of this year) but I really am not totally sure because my main plans for this year were forced to be shelved, and I have had to make different ones and move on from there.”
Olympics and track ambitions
“I haven’t decided what my next Marathon will be. Also in terms of the Olympics I am just going to play it totally to how I feel during my training in the build up to Athens and make my selection off the back of that.”
“Yes, I need my track ambitions to be fulfilled in my career but hopefully we are talking about many more championships to come and many opportunities.”
Radcliffe has twice won the IAAF World Half Marathon title, in Veracruz, Mexico in 2000 and in Bristol in 2001, where she set a European record of 66:47, and she heads a strong Norwich Union GB Women's Team for the Championships that will be hoping to achieve its best ever team placing at the World Half Marathon.
She is joined by experienced track international Kathy Butler (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) who will be making her debut at the half marathon distance having run the fifth fastest time ever by a GB woman (53:16) for 10 Miles in Michigan, USA on 13 August.
Also in the Norwich Union GB Team are Bev Jenkins (Salford Harriers & AC) who ran 73:08 in Wilmslow on 23 March, Debbie Robinson (Tipton Harriers) who ran 71:57 to head this year's UK rankings in Bath on 16 March and Mara Yamauchi (Harrow AC) who ran 72:33 in Bristol on 7 September.