Paula Radcliffe announced yesterday that she will seek a third Flora London Marathon title this spring rather than running in Boston. The London event is believed to have offered Radcliffe close to £500,000 - more than it has ever paid any other runner - to take part on 17 April.
The 30-year-old world record holder will thus take the lions' share of the annual £2m sponsors' budget. The race director, Dave Bedford, has already marked the event's 25th anniversary by assembling its strongest-ever men's field, which includes the past five winners as well as the world and Olympic champions, and the world record holder. Having earned victories in London (twice), Chicago and New York, Radcliffe had an option to complete the unofficial "grand slam'' by running in the US race on 18 April, but she has elected to return to the course where she broke the women's-only world record in 2002, and set the current all-time best of 2hr 15min 25sec a year later in a mixed race.
"Boston is definitely a race that I want to do at some point, but London is very special to me,'' Radcliffe said in a statement. "I don't pick races thinking about things like pressure. I pick the ones that in my heart I really want to do. I love the atmosphere, crowds and course and know it will always be a great quality race. It is also the 25th anniversary this year which adds to the occasion.''
Radcliffe will be back in a women's-only race this year and can earn a world record bonus of $125,000 (£67,000) from the organisers if she beats her 2002 time of 2hr 18min 56sec. Her chances of doing so have been improved by changes to the course involving cutting out the cobbled section near Tower Bridge which are estimated to be worth an extra minute to élite runners.
Bettering her 2003 time is not something she considers out of the question. "In perfect condition I think I can run as fast on my own as with others,'' she said. "I was definitely interested to see the changes that have been made to the course - I thought it was always a great course, but the changes may make it quicker. I always love racing in London and get amazing support from the British people when I run there."
Radcliffe, who is training in Ireland with her physical therapist Gerrard Hartmann - rumours of their split after her traumatic failure at the Olympics were false - is still considering taking part in the World Cross Country Championships at St Etienne in France four weeks before the London race.
"The World Cross is also very special to me and is a definite possibility,'' she said.Reuse content