Athletics: Kastor regrets lost opportunity to race Radcliffe

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Deena Kastor, the Olympic bronze medallist, has been established as the bookies' favourite to take this year's Flora London Marathon title in the absence of the defending champion, Paula Radcliffe. But Kastor herself remains ambivalent about that distinction, maintaining that whoever wins on Sunday is in a "lose-lose situation" because their victory will be regarded as a relatively soft one.

"Paula was the pre-race favourite and when I heard she was not running I was pretty disappointed," said the 33-year-old whose effort in Athens two years ago made her the first American to take an Olympic marathon medal since Joan Benoit won the inaugural women's event in 1984.

"I chose the London Marathon because of the quality of the field and was excited to come and race against the best - with Paula out of the race it's changed the dynamic a bit. It will be a bit more tactical now." Kastor's main rivals now appear to be Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania, who also expressed regret yesterday at Radcliffe's absence with a foot injury.

"Paula always goes fast and I usually chase her" Tomescu-Dita said. "So it's good for me when she is here. Sunday will be different without her. It will change things."

Kastor, who narrowly beat Tomescu-Dita to the Chicago title last autumn, is hoping to become one of the select group of women to break 2hr 20min for the event, something she failed to do by five seconds in her last marathon after setting off too fast.

Despite her disappointment at Radcliffe's non-appearance, Kastor will go back home with at least one happy memory, having spent the last fortnight training in Teddingtonat, a place now clearly close to her heart. "I wanted to stay there forever," she said.