Even as she acknowledged the cheers that greeted her second New York Marathon victory on Sunday – with Lord Coe among those watching – Paula Radcliffe's thoughts were already turning to the Olympic gold medal that would complete her athletics career.
Nine months before she seeks the marathon title in Beijing that eluded her at the Athens Games of 2004, the 33-year-old world record holder is already planning her attack with the traumatic experiences of her previous Olympic quest firmly in mind.
"I think it's a good first step back," said Radcliffe after outsprinting her longstanding rival Gete Wami of Ethiopia to win in 2hr 23min 09sec – one second faster than her winning time in New York in her first race after her Athens meltdown. "I'm happy enough with that and I'll go away and take my break and get back into training and see if I come out of this before I make any decisions about what I'll do between now and Beijing.
"Even though I've got just over 10 weeks of running training behind me, I'm pleased with how things came together. I'll see how my legs have recovered after my break and decide whether I need another marathon before Beijing."
Should she decide she needs another 26.2 miles to make up her mind, the odds are she would choose to seek a fourth London title in April next year. But she is more likely to pursue the policy she adopted before the last Olympics, avoiding a spring marathon in preference to runs on the road and cross-country.
After recovering from the injury that kept her out of the 2003 World Championships, Radcliffe won the Great North Run half marathon in a world best time of 65min 40sec at the end of September, then secured her third world half marathon title in Vilamoura before taking the European Cross-Country title in Edinburgh before Christmas.
Radcliffe elected to seek a third world cross-country title five months before the Athens Games, but had to withdraw with an injury later diagnosed as a hernia. She may go for the same title in Edinburgh next March, but injury and illness will prove crucial for her Olympic quest.
Lord Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, said: "Paula has transcended track and field. She is one of the biggest names in British sport of all time." He noted that she aims to run next Olympic marathon but one, adding: "She's talking about it. I wouldn't bet against her."Reuse content