London Marathon: Kastor ready to fill the Radcliffe void

World record holder's absence an opportunity for an American heroine of Athens

Deena Kastor has been this way before - via the tortuous road from Marathon to Athens. When Paula Radcliffe fell by that particular wayside, stricken by illness, injury and exhaustion in the 2004 Olympic marathon race, the woman from Mammoth Lakes, California, was grateful for the British support she picked up on her way through the wilting field of contenders en route to an astutely won bronze medal in the magnificent marbled Panathinaiko Stadium.

Twenty months on, Radcliffe is out of the reckoning before the start of the 2006 Flora London Marathon next Sunday, having fallen victim to a foot injury. Kastor, though, is over here, and looking to fill the void left by the absent world champion and world record holder with a United States record and a first-ever win by an American woman in London

"I'm ecstatic to be here," she said, taking a mid-morning rest in the Teddington apartment that has been her base since she lowered her US half-marathon record to 67min 34sec in Berlin two weeks ago. "The British people have been very kind to me over the years. They were very supportive of me during the Olympic Games, when they were obviously disappointed in Paula dropping out but immediately adopted me as someone to celebrate coming into the stadium in Athens."

It was a classic marathon run worthy of universal celebration. On a course with an arduous mid-race climb, and in stifling heat and humidity, Kastor judged her Olympic effort to perfection, holding herself in check until the latter stages. She was 28th after three miles, sixth at 22 miles, and hit a medal position with less than a mile of the 26.2 miles remaining. Covering the first half in 75min 40sec and the second half in 71:40, she took a brilliantly earned bronze medal, behind Mizuki Noguchi of Japan and Kenya's Catherine Ndereba.

"It's definitely the most efficient way for your body to run a marathon," Kastor reflected, "because you're not burning up all of your glycogen stores early. It was definitely not my style of running prior to the Olympic Games. We just used the tactic because of the conditions and since then we've been revolving my training and racing around that tactic a little more often."

For next Sunday's race, Kastor and her coach, Terrence Mahon, will be adopting a less restrained approach. The flat London course has yielded three of the five fastest women's marathon times, all courtesy of the trail-blazing Radcliffe (a world-record 2hr 15min 25sec in 2003; 2:17:42 in 2005; and 2:18:56 in 2002). Kastor herself has run her quickest time on it. As Deena Drossin - prior to marrying Andrew Kastor, her physical therapist - she broke Joan Benoit-Samuelson's 17-year-old US record with a 2:21:16 time for third place behind Radcliffe and Ndereba in the 2003 London race.

"This year I have two major goals," she said. "One is to run 2hr 19min or faster. The other is to win the race. I've got my work cut out for me but I feel the most prepared that I've ever been going into a marathon, so I'm pretty confident going into this race and excited for it to finally come round."

A member of the Asics club in the United States, the 33-year-old Kastor faces strong opposition in the shape of Constantina Tomescu-Dita, the Romanian veteran who finished runner-up to Radcliffe in London last year and took a World Championship marathon bronze medal behind the victorious Briton in Helsinki last summer, and also in Margaret Okayo, the Kenyan who won in the English capital in 2004. Still, having claimed a major marathon win with success in Chicago last October, Kastor will be the woman to beat when the élite female field line up for their 9am start a week today.

The 5ft 4in American readily acknowledges that a London victory would have been a considerably taller order for her had last year's winner been fit to return. Not that the enforced absence of Radcliffe is necessarily a bad thing for the Bedfordshire woman herself. Apart from anything else, it might cultivate a little more fondness in the hearts of those who continue to portray her Athens nightmare as a defining fault-line through her career, even though she has since won a World Championship and recorded the third fastest time in history.

"I definitely feel for Paula," Kastor said. "She has to be so on top of her game every time she goes out and races in order to get a pat on the back, because she's been so impressive over the years. If she does anything shy of breaking her own world record or completely dominating a field, some people are going to be disappointed. She's in a no-win situation.

"I can definitely attest to it being difficult for her to get out there and shine brighter than she has before. And I definitely agree with her not getting on the start line without being in peak condition. These injuries are the body's way of telling you that you need to back off. There's no doubt in my mind that she'll be back fiercer than ever after this."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living