Athletics: Radcliffe outlines road to Olympic marathon

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The Independent Online

With the aches and pains of her previous day's exertions eased by two iced baths – one on Sunday night, one at 8am yesterday morning – Paula Radcliffe felt able to take a long cool look at her immediate career opportunities less than 24 hours after the triumphant defence of her London Marathon title.

On a day when her world best performance of 2hr 15min 25sec was being hailed by the London race director, Dave Bedford, and the athletics historian and statistician, Peter Matthews, as the greatest achievement in the history of running, the 29-year-old Bedford runner might have been forgiven a few flights of fancy. But her attitude remained as determinedly down-to-the-ground as, well, an emu.

She acknowledged that, after finishing four and a half minutes clear of the second-fastest woman marathon runner of all time, Kenya's Catherine Ndereba, she was more likely to choose the marathon rather than the 10,000 metres at next year's Athens Olympics, even though she is wary of the shift in schedule that will mean the race is in the heat and humidity of the evening.

But looking to the nearer future, Radcliffe is not ruling out attempting a double at this summer's World Championships in Paris, where the 10,000 metres, her main target, comes before the 5,000m. "I'll wait and see how I feel after the 10,000 and then I'll decide whether to go for the 5,000 as well," she said.

Nor is Radcliffe ruling out the possibility of setting world records at both the track distances to match the one she holds over 26 miles 385 yards. She lowered her 5,000m best to 14min 31.42sec in winning the Commonwealth title, just over three seconds away from the world record of 14:28.09 set by Jiang Bo of China.

Her 10,000m best of 30min 01.09sec, set in winning the European title, is still half a minute adrift of Wang Junxia's timing of 29:31.78, although Radcliffe's physical therapist, Ger Hartmann, insisted after Sunday's race that she would have been capable of running at least 29min 45sec if she had been doing a 10,000m, and that she was getting faster.

"It's definitely possible to get close to the records," said Radcliffe, "although I think the 5,000 is more realistic. I would like to try and do it at some point, but it doesn't have to be before the World Championships."

Between now and Athens, Radcliffe has a few other possible targets lined up, including the World Half Marathon Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal, in October, the European Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh in December and the World Cross Country Championships in Brussels next March.

What seems certain is that she will not compete in next year's Flora London event, as it is too close to the Olympic Games. The organisers will probably find it in their hearts to forgive her after what she has done for their event in the space of the last 12 months.