Paula Radcliffe took the women's marathon into new territory yesterday as she retained her Flora London title in a world best time of 2hr 15min 25sec, taking 1min 53sec off the mark she set in Chicago last October.
The 29-year-old Bedford runner led from the start, finishing four and a half minutes clear of Kenya's Catherine Ndereba, who was world record holder before Radcliffe. It was a performance that would have earnt the Briton every male Olympic title up to 1960, and would have placed her 15th in yesterday's men's race.
Radcliffe had feared she might not be able to take part after suffering extensive cuts and dislocating her jaw in a collision with a cyclist while training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, five weeks ago. But her wounds have been helped to heal with regular application of an oil obtained from the belly of the emu, the flightless Australian bird. This ancient Aboriginal remedy had been recommended to the former World and European champion Sonia O'Sullivan, who is also training in Albuquerque, by Australia's Aboriginal Olympic 400m champion, Cathy Freeman.
The defending champion was thus able to extend an extraordinary recent run of success which has seen her win European and Commonwealth titles.
After a day's work which earned her approximately £400,000, she also received the Jim Peters Trophy as first Britain home. The fastest British male recorded 2:17.57.
On a day when all 32,746 entrants observed a minute's silence in memory of the event's originator, Chris Brasher, the men's title went to Ethiopian World and Olympic champion Gezahegne Abera, who won by less than a second from Italy's Stefano Baldini. It was the closest finish in London since the first race in 1981 when Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen crossed the line hand-in-hand as joint winners.
* Tony Blair's communications chief, Alastair Campbell raised more than £250,000 for the Leukaemia Research Fund, including a $100 (£65) contribution from President George Bush, by completing the marathon in 3 hours 53 minutes and 6 seconds – well within his target.