Paula Radcliffe, the newly-installed BBC Sports Personality of the Year, confirmed yesterday that she would defend her title in next year's London Marathon.
The 28-year-old Bedford runner, who finished more than half a million votes ahead of Manchester United and England's David Beckham, can expect to earn almost half a million pounds for her efforts on 13 April, although she insisted the decision had been made purely for sporting reasons.
Radcliffe, who set a world best of 2hr 17min 18sec in winning the Chicago Marathon in October, wants to run only one marathon next year and felt the London date better suited her plan to contest the World Championship 10,000 metres in Paris in August.
"Initially the feeling was a little bit more towards an autumn marathon, thinking it would give me a little bit more time to recover," said Radcliffe, who plans to run the Olympic marathon in Athens in 2004. "But the time between the World Championships and the autumn marathons isn't that big. I will have 18 weeks between the London Marathon and Paris and that will give me plenty of time to recover."
Radcliffe felt it was crucial to get in at least one more marathon before Athens, saying: "I think it's possible to run faster in the future than I did in Chicago, but the important thing is to win the race."
After a poll victory that had been widely predicted – she was the hottest favourite in the award's 49-year history – Radcliffe took the chance to back a possible London bid for the 2012 Olympics as she reflected upon her experience of winning the Commonwealth 5,000m title in Manchester in July. "All the athletes felt that everything went very smoothly in Manchester. There is no reason why Britain cannot host an Olympic Games and do it very well."
Radcliffe's award came on a day of success, in Croatia, for Charlotte Dale, 18, who is shaping up to follow in her footsteps. The Kent runner became only the second British woman to win a European cross-country title, after Radcliffe's win in 1998, taking the junior title.