It is nine years and one month since Paula Radcliffe last raced on German soil.
Then, in the 10,000m final at the 2002 European Championships, she gave the finest performance of her track-running career, obliterating the opposition on the rain-soaked Olympiastadion track in Munich en route to a European record of 30min 01.09sec. Within eight months, she had twice broken the world marathon record.
Now, at 37, after three years of illness, injury and declining form, Radcliffe is looking for another launch pad in Germany. Tomorrow's Berlin Marathon will be her first race at the classic 26.2 mile distance since she limped home fourth in New York in November 2009. Her world record remains out of sight at 2hr 15 min 25sec (or 2:17:42, if you take her best time in a women-only race, which the International Association of Athletics Federations intend to adopt from 1 January, 2012) but she has not won a marathon since New York in 2008.
Victory tomorrow would do as much to restore her confidence as her reputation, her comeback race in the London 10km in May having been undermined by yet another physical problem, a leaking spinal disc. It will all depend on how much fitness she has gained since recovering from that setback and a subsequent thyroid condition, and also on the form of her rivals: the Kazakh-born German Irina Mikitenko, herself injury-hit since winning her second successive London Marathon in 2009, and Kenya's Florence Kiplagat, a debutante at this distance but world champion at the half-marathon.
There is also the need for her to achieve the British Olympic qualifying standard: 2hr 31min. "I am not going out with the time in mind," she said. "The goal is to go out, run well and win the race."
The goal will be different for Haile Gebrselassie in the men's section. "The time is the most important thing," said the 38-year-old Ethiopian, who set his world record of 2:03:59 in Berlin in 2008. "This is because I have to qualify for the Olympics. With all the good youngsters we have back home, if I don't run a good time in Berlin then I won't be able to run in London next year."Reuse content