Age is yet to catch up with Drre ready to rest on her laurels

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International athletes tend to be obsessive individuals, and it takes a special kind of confidence for them to rest voluntarily. To someone like Liz McColgan, for instance, the idea of taking three months off after her next race and training only on a bicycle or in a pool would be anathema.

But Katrin Drre, drawing perhaps on the special kind of confidence which three successive London marathon victories has engendered, intends to do just that. It was a system she was obliged to use in 1987 when she was injured, and it worked so well that she has adapted it for her general programme.

"I think it is a very good thing for me now that I am an old woman," said the German runner with a smile. Now aged 33, she is at her peak as a marathon runner, after a career which has brought her 18 victories in 31 races. And once the Berlin Wall came down, the landscape was dramatically altered for this product of the former East German system.

"After the Olympic Games in 1988, it was going to be my finish time. I was going to have a baby and study," she said. "But after the revolution it was possible for me to go to training camps with my family, and so I made a new beginning."

For many years, the only information she received about races in Europe was the results which were printed in the newspapers. But she soon became aware of the commercial possibilities. "We could make money from races - that was not possible in the GDR [the former East Germany]. And so I tested myself again."

Drre's testing programme has been singularly successful - last year at the Berlin marathon she broke her own seven-year-old personal best by winning in 2hr 21min 15sec.

She attributes at least part of that success to the physiological change in her body when she had her daughter, Katharina, now aged five. And she emphasises that her achievements stem from a balanced training regime.

"I am not a machine," she said. "I take many holidays after races. And I do not always try to make training `run, run, run'. It is important to be free in the head. The most important thing in my life is not the sport, it is my family."

In the absence of Lisa Ondieki, who pulled out injured on Wednesday, Drre is looking forward to a fast pace in company with McColgan, although she sounds a note of warning on the subject, recalling the 1993 race where the British runner finished third after she and Ondieki were overhauled by Drre in the latter part of the race.

"Two years before, Liz was also a strong front-runner, but I think the speed was too high. She was running for a time of 2:18 or 2:19, which was crazy. This time when we run at the front, I hope we can make a good time together."

To that end, Drre would prefer to be running with the men, although she accepts that the separate starts give television viewers a better sense of how the women's race is progressing.

But after the frustration of having her planned race in Osaka cancelled three months ago, and coming off five weeks altitude training in Mexico, she is more than happy with her preparation for the race.

One more London victory would put her equal with Ingrid Kristiansen - and even the great Norwegian runner did not manage four wins on the trot.