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Athletics: Radcliffe leaves the competition guessing

British runner keeps options open after powering to World Half Marathon title in the sunshine of Portugal

Paula Radcliffe's steadfast insistence after winning her third IAAF World Half Marathon title here that she did not have any clear plans about where she would race next was scarcely credible.

Radcliffe, after all, is probably the most minutely organised athlete ever to have competed in a British vest. Yet the 29-year-old Bedford runner, who has swept all before her in the course of the last 18 months, remains cagey about her commitments up to and including next summer's Olympics in Athens.

In the aftermath of Radcliffe's unrivalled victory on Saturday - her margin of 1min 27sec over the nearest challenger, Ethiopia's world 10,000 metres champion Berhane Adere, was greater than any other in the event's 11-year history - a desperate reporter turned to her mother, Pat, in search of illumination.

"Don't ask me what her plans are," she replied, "I only gave birth to her." So what might Mrs Radcliffe's model daughter do next? Her preferred Olympic option is to do twice the distance she covered in the noonday heat of Portugal. "It's no secret that the marathon is the event I would love to run in Athens next year," she said.

But it seems increasingly unlikely that she will do another marathon between now and the Olympic Games, despite attempts to persuade her otherwise from the organisers of next week's Chicago Marathon, where she set her first world-best for the event last year, and next month's New York marathon.

Radcliffe may travel out to Chicago, but only in order to fulfil a commitment to her sponsors, Nike. As for New York - one hugely experienced race director estimated after Radcliffe's latest victory that even an offer from the organisers in the region of $500,000 (£310,000) would fail to persuade her to sign up.

What Radcliffe is clear about, however, is that she will run again on the roads before the year is out, specifically mentioning the Ekiden road relay in Chiba, Japan, on 23 November.

In order to keep her options open to run the 10,000m in Athens should her marathon training not go according to schedule, she needs to run a qualifying time, and she may choose to do that either in Australia in December at the Zatopek Classic, or four months later at the annual European 10,000 Metres Challenge.

As so often in the past, Radcliffe's latest performance was witnessed by both her proud parents, Pat and Peter, as well as her paternal grandmother, Olive. It also occasioned much celebration in the cafes and bars of the central marina around which Saturday's course wound, packed as they were with British holidaymakers taking time out from playing golf in order to enjoy an unexpected lunchtime treat.

While Radcliffe delivered a home-from-home victory, the ruthlessness of her approach denied the race any lasting element of excitement. By the time she had begun the second of her six scheduled laps the competition was between her and the clock.

The heat and the twists and turns of the course precluded her from challenging either Elana Meyer's official 1999 world best of 66min 44sec, or the unofficial mark of 65min 40sec she had set herself in winning the Great North Run a fortnight earlier. She did enough, however, to show she could run effectively in the kind of conditions she will face in Athens.

The disappointment of missing the summer's World Championships because of injury still lingers for Radcliffe, but her Indian summer of achievement is helping her to put that behind her. "I have to stop going back to it and concentrate on getting things right for next year," she said. So far, so good.



1 M Lel (Ken) 1hr 49sec; 2 J Fabiano (Tan) 1:00.52; 3 M Sulle (Tan) 1:00.58; 4 J Korir (Ken) 1:01.02; 5 J Yuda (Tan) 1:01.13; 6 Y Songoka (Ken) 1:01.18; 7 Z Tadesse (Eritrea) 1:01.26; 8 J Koech (Ken) 1:01.28; 9 T Tola (Eth) 1:01.35; 10 R Harroufi (Mor) 1:02.46; 11 D Adere (Eth) 1:02:47; 12 A Goumri (Mor) 1:02:59.

Men's team: 1 Tanzania 3hr 3min 1sec (F Joseph 1:00.52, M Hhaway Sulle 1:00.56, J Yuda 1:01.13); 2 Kenya 3:03.09 (M Lel 1:00.49, J Cheruiyot Korir 1:01.02, Y Songoka 1:01.18, J Koech 1:01.28, P Kirui DNS); 3 Ethiopia 3:07.34 (T Tola 1:01.35, D Adere 1:02.47, M Hailu 1:03.12, T Jifar 1:03.23, S Tsige 1:04.19).


1 P Radcliffe (GB) 1:07.35; 2 B Adere (Eth) 1:09.02; 3 B Johnson (Aus) 1:09.26; 4 L Grigoryeva (Rus) 1:09.32; 5 C Tomescu (Rom) 1:10.05; 6 A Zhilyayeva (Rus) 1:10.13; 7 L Biktasheva (Rus) 1:10.31; 8 S Chepkemei (Ken) 1:10.35; 9 M Takanaka (Japan) 1:10.36; 10 A Ivanova (Russia) 1:10.59; 11 H Javornik (Slovakia) 1:11.17; 12 S Mosqueda (US) 1:11.22.

Women's team: 1 Russia 3:30.16 (L Grigoryeva 1:09.32, A Zhilyayeva 1:10.13, L Biktasheva 1:10.31, A Ivanova 1:10.59, G Bogomolova 1:12.12); 2 Japan 3:34.23 (M Takanaka 1:10.36, T Kotorida 1:11.37, R Hagiwara 1:12.10, Y Hara 1:12.21); 3 Romania 3:35.07 (C Tomescu 1:10.05, L Talpos 1:12.02, N Olaru 1:13.00, I Olteanu DNF, M Botezan DNF).