For Paula Radcliffe, the road to London 2012 will start in the city where she achieved a famous home victory in the last major Games held on British shores. It was announced yesterday that the marathon world record holder will be making her long-awaited return to racing action in the Great Manchester Run on Sunday 15 May. It was in Manchester that she won her first major championship track title, with a stunning run in the 5,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games in 2002.
Nine years on, the 37-year-old mother-of-two will be laying the foundations for an Olympic marathon challenge on home soil when she lines up in an international class 10km road race that snakes past Old Trafford – across town from the scene of her Commonwealth triumph in the City of Manchester Stadium.
It will be Radcliffe's first race since the birth of her second child, Raphael, in September last year. Indeed, she has not raced since limping across the line a tearful, injured fourth in the New York City Marathon in November 2009.
"It will be great to get back to racing after such a lengthy period away," Radcliffe said yesterday, speaking from Albuquerque in the United States, where she has been preparing for her comeback since mid-January. "I'm excited, particularly as it is happening on home soil. I'm sure it will be a testing comeback for me.
"Of course I have fond memories of Manchester, where I won the Commonwealth 5,000m gold medal. At the time it was a British record and I will never forget the buzz from the crowd in the stadium. It was a marvellous day. It will be great to return.
"I deliberately returned slowly to training after Raphael was born and everything has gone pretty well – apart from being bitten by a dog while out training in Monaco at the beginning of the year. Starting my comeback with a 10km race is ideal as I build up later in the year to achieving the Olympic marathon standard, and I'm confident of what I have to achieve in the build-up to London 2012."
The elite women's field for the Manchester race includes another 37-year-old British star: Helen Clitheroe, winner of the 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships in Paris a fortnight ago.
The race to stage the 2017 World Championships, meanwhile, will include Budapest and an unnamed Spanish city, as well as London and Doha.Reuse content