Tearful Radcliffe finds herself in a Viennese whirl

"Queen of distance" admits she is long way off Olympic quality as Gebrselassie triumphs easily in catch-me-if-you-can event

Vienna

First the good news. Paula Radcliffe was not trampled by a herd of Lipizzaner horses on the streets of the Austrian capital yesterday. She did not disappear down a manhole into the Viennese sewers where Harry Lime was gunned down in The Third Man.

Still, it was not the best of days for the Englishwoman who has been fêted here as "the queen of distance running". When it came to the finish line in the Vienna City Half Marathon – in Heldenplatz, Heroes' Square, directly in front of the Berghaus, where Adolf Hitler stood on the balcony in March 1938 and proclaimed that his homeland had become part of the Third Reich – Radcliffe was in a far from regal state.

She dropped to her haunches in some distress, receiving a consoling embrace from Haile Gebrselassie. Then she shed a few fleeting tears when race director Wolfgang Konrad wrapped her in his arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," the 38-year-old pride of Bedford and County Athletics Club said.

The fastest female marathon runner of all time, Radcliffe arrived in Vienna on Thursday in far from first-class condition, still on a course of antibiotics following a bout of bronchitis. Nonetheless, she expected to put up a considerably better showing in her "catch-me-if-you-can" race against Gebrselassie, the former men's marathon world record holder and double Olympic gold medallist.

Setting off with a head start of 7min 52sec, Radcliffe was no match for the Ethiopian known as "the Little Emperor". That was no great surprise, given the illness that has afflicted her over the past fortnight. It came as a shock to the Briton, though, that she was caught and passed with four miles of the 13.1-mile course still remaining – and that she reached the finish line in 72min 03sec.

Her time was good enough to win in the women's race, and indeed to break the women's course record, but it was Radcliffe's first ever failure to break 70 minutes in a half-marathon. Three months out from what will surely be her final shot at Olympic glory, that was not greatly encouraging. Radcliffe knows she will need to be in sub-2hr 20min shape to have any hope of finishing in the medal frame when it comes to the women's marathon at London 2012. She will have to be capable of running back-to-back half-marathons of less than 70 minutes.

"It is really concerning," Radcliffe confessed. "I knew I wasn't coming into the race in personal best shape, but I didn't expect it to feel that bad. I was three minutes down on the time I was hoping for. There are reasons for it, but even so I couldn't have expected it to make that much difference.

"The first six or seven kilometres were OK but then my legs started to feel really heavy. I didn't have breathing problems until the end. My legs just felt empty. Haile caught me a lot sooner than I would have hoped."

Gebrselassie himself was not happy with his finishing time, 60:52. "I wanted to run faster," he said. The 38-year-old runs in England next month, in the Bupa Great Manchester 10km, but is out of contention for a place in the Ethiopian team for the Olympic men's marathon. "I knew Paula must be ill when I saw she was going so slowly," he added. "It was not what I expected."

Radcliffe was never going to be anything like her best yesterday (her fastest half-marathon time, set back in 2003, is 65:40) but she was disinclined to withdraw from the race because the organisers and the City of Vienna had gone to such great lengths to make a fuss of her: on Friday night she was at the Town Hall, receiving the Goldener Rathausmann award, an honour previously bestowed upon such stellar luminaries as Pelé, Gregory Peck and Billy Joel; on Saturday she had an audience with Austrian president Heinz Fischer.

"I need to recover properly and get back to being fully healthy again before I start my marathon training," she said, looking ahead to her looming date with Olympic destiny. She must have felt like paraphrasing Midge Ure. Sadly, for Radcliffe yesterday, it was definitely a case of "Aaargh, Vienna!"

72.03

Radcliffe's finishing time in Austria – it was her first ever failure to break 70 minutes in a half-marathon

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, say DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin