Determination takes Radcliffe in search of crowning glory

Wherever Paula Radcliffe finishes in tomorrow morning's Olympic marathon – always assuming she manages to do so given that only three months ago doctors were advising her she had no chance of competing because of a stress fracture to her left thigh – it will not, repeat not, define her career.

In the welter of uncertainty surrounding her prodigious, pig-headed efforts to prove the medics wrong, the 34-year-old world record holder was sure of this at least.

"No. No. No. No," she insisted. "It is something that is just very important to me. It is important to any athlete. It is important for me to go out there and run well but I do not think it is the defining moment of my career. There have been other things in my career which will define it afterwards and, hopefully, there are other things that I am going on to achieve."

Radcliffe, who has already returned from three Olympics empty-handed, admitted that the fierce criticism she received in the wake of her failure to finish either the marathon or the 10,000m four years ago in Athens hurt her deeply, particularly the suggestion that she was a "quitter".

Anybody less like a quitter is hard to imagine: most athletes in her unhappy position would have given up trying to reach these Olympics months ago. But the drive that has seen Radcliffe revivify her standing from gallant loser to awesome winner has propelled her to the brink of an awesome (or could that be awful?) challenge.

"My leg has held up well and I have been able to get a good amount of training in," she said. "But obviously I could have done with more time when your biggest week of actual running is two weeks before the race. It is not an ideal preparation and it is not what you would risk going into any other race. But the Olympic Games is not a race which I ever want to watch on television and think, 'What I could have done in there?' You get in there and give it your best shot."

Radcliffe will not want to pull out of another marathon following her traumatic Olympic experience in Athens when she sank to the pavement in tears just over four miles from the end. But if she feels pain from her leg, she will simply have to halt or risk crippling herself.

She was reticent before the Athens Games, an attitude which eventually told against her as expectations remained high. This time she has been more open about the fact that she might well not succeed in her quest. "I am just looking forward now to getting in the race and getting on with it," she said. "I know it is going to be tough and I am going to fight harder than I have ever fought out there, but I am looking forward to it."

One figure she will not have to fight against is Japan's Mizuki Noguchi, whose surging efforts on the long, uphill section of the Athens course eventually broke her.

Should Radcliffe finish the race and claim her first Olympic medal, she would have achieved Mission Impossible; although she maintains this challenge will not define her career, it would surely provide a crowning achievement.

Four years down the line in London still looks a more likely opportunity for her to do that. In the meantime her fellow Briton, Mara Yamauchi, married to a Japanese man and living in Tokyo, may be quietly fancying her chances, given that she won this year's Osaka Marathon in a personal best time. She could figure prominently in what is likely to be a slow, gruelling race.

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

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

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence