Athletics: Radcliffe still confident loss will not hurt in the long run

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The Independent Online

The 31-year-old Bedford runner, who finished ninth after leading for more than half of a race that was transformed by a last-lap sprint from the three leading Ethiopians, insisted that her performance represented a mission accomplished - up to a point.

"It was," she said, "although I would have liked to have run faster and I would have liked to have finished higher.

"But I think it fitted well into my preparations. If I'd run faster it would have given me even more confidence, but it's not as if something is wrong. I had a really good run-out."

She insisted that it would not be her last global 10,000m championship, and denied that the defeat would provide encouragement for her marathon rivals.

"The marathon is about going in and knowing that you are strong," she said. "You've done the build-up. You've done the training. You know what's in the bank. It's not about what anybody else does or doesn't do in the build-up. Besides, I don't think there are many girls in the marathon that could have gone out and run faster."

Nevertheless, Radcliffe's stated intention of using the World Championship 10,000m final as an exercise to complete her marathon preparations divided opinion within athletics, and figures such as Seb Coe and Dave Bedford, the former world 10,000m record holder, were left baffled by Saturday's result.

Radcliffe's choice of footwear said much about her ambivalent attitude to a race that eventually went to the favourite, 19-year-old Tirunesh Dibaba, who will now seek to retain her world 5,000m title.

The Briton's decision to wear flat-soled shoes with modified spikes, rather than proper racing spikes, was prompted by a concern not to provoke too much wear and tear on what was a hard Mondo track.

"It gave a bit more of an advantage to my rivals, but I wanted to save my legs for Sunday," she said. "I'd be lying if I said that wasn't at the back of my mind. But I still wanted to give it my best shot.

"I don't know how much [better] I could have gone in spikes. But if I had been specifically running for the 10k I would have been sharper anyway. And I certainly wouldn't have done what I did last Saturday, which was run 20 miles."

She added that the decision to run in flats had been prompted by her physical therapist, Gerard Hartmann, whom she saw before arriving in Helsinki and who will fly out to join her at the British camp in Turku on Thursday. "He was happy for me to do it, but he wanted to be sure I went into it healthy and came out of it healthy," she said.

Radcliffe compared her time of 30min 42.75sec - almost 20 seconds adrift of the winner - to what she had run in the New Orleans road race shortly before winning a third London marathon title in April.

She admitted that she had been expecting the Ethiopian challenge, but she said she was surprised to see so many other runners in the final leading pack.

Despite wearing a titanium collar designed to encourage relaxation, Radcliffe - who toured the marathon course yesterday - had to work desperately hard even to stay in touch with that group in the closing stages. She has never run a race so close to a marathon before. The wisdom of that choice will be revealed on Sunday.