Athletics: Bike crash cannot halt Radcliffe's tilt at history

London Marathon: British world record holder recovers from accident to maintain hope of retaining her title

Steve Ovett almost ended his running career by colliding with a church railing. Steve Cram once injured himself while playing football with a Coke can. Carl Thackery, an outstanding British road runner during the 1980's, put himself out of action by running into a cactus while training at high altitude.

And Paula Radcliffe? Well, Britain's all-conquering athlete, who will defend her Flora London Marathon title on Sunday, clearly has a bit of a problem with bicycles.

Last year, shortly before she was due to run her debut marathon in London, Radcliffe was slightly hurt in training when she was crashed into by fellow runner Marian Sutton, who was accompanying her on a bike.

Yesterday the Bedford runner emerged into the full glare of pre-marathon publicity bearing the scars of a far more serious incident involving a bicycle which might have ended any aspirations she had of running in the capital on Sunday, or even of contesting the World Championships in Paris four months from now. It left her with extensive cuts, a damaged neck, a dislocated jaw and torn stomach muscles.

The accident took place at her Albuquerque training base on 8 March, 13 days after she had set a world 10-kilometre road race best in Puerto Rico. As she was completing the last of 23 miles on a concrete bike track, she overtook a girl of about 13 who was out riding with her parents.

"I crossed over to the other side of the path," Radcliffe recalled. "I thought I was clear of her. But I think she turned round to see where her parents were. She turned her handlebars as well and came right across the path and took my back foot away.

"I guess I must have been tired. My reactions weren't very good and I hit the concrete very hard. I cut up both shoulders and knees and dislocated my jaw. I also pulled some stomach muscles when I got locked around the bike tyres as I was trying to pull myself free.

"It was very worrying. I was in shock, because I was really scared that something stupid like that could have messed up everything.

"The girl didn't even come off her bike, but she was crying because I was covered in blood. I don't think they knew what they'd done really. I think they thought they'd just knocked over some Saturday runner."

Radcliffe missed two days of training, and her preparations were disrupted as she visited a chiropractor for her neck and received additional treatment from her masseur, Ger Hartmann.

The scars remain – as Radcliffe demonstrated by revealing a knee covered in a livid continent of bruising – but it takes a lot more to halt a woman who has carried all before her since retaining her world cross-country title in Dublin in March of last year.

In London, she will be seeking her third consecutive marathon win following her world record in Chicago last October, and her performance could have a crucial effect on how she approaches the Athens Olympics next summer, where she has the option of doing either the marathon or the 10,000 metres.

"Although I haven't fully decided which event I will do in Athens it's probably slightly in the marathon's favour right now so this would be my last one before then and it's important that it goes well for me," she said.

She is nevertheless scathing about the International Olympic Committee's recent decision to switch the time of the Athens marathon. "I very much prefer the morning, but the last I heard they had gone for a 6pm start, which I think is crazy. It was dictated by the IOC because they wanted to get the runners into the stadium at a good time for TV, and they were also concerned about the fact that the rowing is on the same day and the didn't want to close the roads in the morning.

"If you ask any of the runners, they would all say they prefer a 7am start. But it's the same for everyone."

Radcliffe's winning time in London last year, 2hr 18min 56sec, was the fastest-ever debut by a woman, and her chances of bettering it this year are likely to be improved by the fact that male pacemakers have been allocated to the women's race this weekend.

The decision was initially resisted by the International Association of Athletics Federations, whose secretary, Istvan Gyulai, suggested it was against the spirit of the sport. But the IAAF have subsequently accepted the position after undertakings that the male pacemakers will finish the race.

Dave Bedford, the London event's race director, has reassured officials that there will be no repeat of the events which helped Kenya's Tegla Loroupe to break the world record in Rotterdam and Berlin, where she was surrounded by up to nine men who effectively formed a windbreak for her as well as assisting her with the collection of drinks.

Radcliffe maintained yesterday that pacemakers could possibly become an irrelevance. "I honestly believe that in perfect conditions I can run as fast on my own as with anyone else," she said.

Her pioneering performances have put her into territory that could have awkward repercussions for British men's marathon running. In the absence of last year's top British finisher, Mark Steinle, and the Olympic fourth-placer, Jon Brown, Radcliffe could well take possession of the Jim Peters Trophy, traditionally awarded to the first British man home. That would also make her the first woman to win the AAA marathon title. "These," Bedford said diplomatically, "are some very interesting issues."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links