Paula Radcliffe will return to Marathon running in Berlin on 25 September, organisers of the BMW Berlin Marathon – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race – announced today.
The appearance by the World record holder (2:15:25, London 2003) will be her first since a fourth place in New York in 2009 and most likely her only race over the distance before the Olympic Games in London next year.
After giving birth to her second child Raphael in September 2010, the 37-year-old Briton came back in a 10Km race in London in May. But suffering from a back problem and running in pain she could only manage a third place finish.
However, in an exclusive interview, Radcliffe said she feels much better now and made the final decision to enter the Berlin Marathon some days ago, marking her first race through the streets of the German capital.
“We are very happy to be able to confirm her participation. It had been my goal to sign Paula for a very long time,” said Berlin’s Race Director Mark Milde. “She is the runner really missing in our collection of great Marathon runners who have run our race.”
“I was thinking of running Berlin since I was pregnant with Raphael because I did not want to wait too long before returning to the marathon” Radcliffe said during a phone interview on Friday. “I have a wish list of marathons I want to run and Berlin has always been on that list. So I am really looking forward to running it.
Radcliffe added that she has no plans to end her career after the Olympics. “No, not at all. I plan to continue running after London 2012.”
She revealed that she had spoken about the Berlin race with Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrselassie who both set World records in the German capital.
Asked about her current training and the back problem Radcliffe said, “At the time of the London 10 K race I had already received treatment on the disc for twelve days. I had been told that it could get worse during the first part of the treatment, and looking back I have to say that it was a mistake to run in London. But they also told me that it would get better afterwards. I am relieved that they found the problem and that treatment went well.”
Meanwhile Radcliffe has resumed training on the roads without any problems. “What I can’t do is speed work on the track. That is because of the bends, which would put too much stress on the hips. But for a Marathon I am of course able to do fast sessions on the road instead.”
“I have always liked racing in Germany, where I participated on the track and in cross country. So I am looking forward to a fast race and to finally racing against Irina Mikitenko on the road.”
Radcliffe last competed in Germany nine years ago. That was when she produced one of her greatest races, the 10,000m final the 2002 European Championships in Munich. Running through driving rain Radcliffe smashed the European record with a 30:01.09 run. Under normal conditions she would have been at least ten seconds faster.
Asked about her goals in Berlin Radcliffe replied: “It is always my aim to win. But it is too early now to speak about time goals. We will set these before the race, when we know how all the training went. The main thing for me is to stay healthy and run this Marathon without problems.”
But Radcliffe appeared to be able to name the correct time of the Berlin course record. “I think it is 2:19:12 by Mizuki Noguchi,” she answered, producing a smile on the face of Race Director Milde. But he does not really expect the record to be broken this year.
“As things stand now I would guess that the winning time could be between 2:20 and 2:22,” Milde said.
Radcliffe said that she will most likely run one more race before Berlin, “Either a Half Marathon or a 10 mile or a 10 K.”
Meanwhile Mikitenko, Germany’s record holder with 2:19:19 from her Berlin win in 2008, is also looking forward to the challenge.
“I am very happy that Paula will come to Berlin,” Mikitenko said. “It had always been my aim to run against her in a Marathon and I am looking forward to it. The whole event is lifted if a superstar like Paula participates in it.”
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF