Olympic dreams drive Radcliffe to marathon start line

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The Independent Online

Paula Radcliffe indicated yesterday that she will toe the line in Sunday's marathon more in hope than expectation given that she has yet to fully recover from injury.

Radcliffe admitted that were it not for the chance of winning her first Olympic medal she would have pulled out having discovered in May that she had a stress fracture of her thigh. But she insisted she felt better prepared at this stage than she did four years ago in Athens, when she dropped out of the race with four miles remaining.

Of course, I could do with a bit more time, but (I'll) just go in and give it a go,' she told the BBC from the British training camp in Macau. 'That's a hundred times better than watching on TV. If it was a big city marathon or even a World Championships (I'd say) do not push it, make sure I was well prepared. But I do not want to sit there watching it wondering what could have happened.

'The only reason I would not able to finish it would be if my leg could not handle it, but I have been encouraged as my leg has been coping with good amounts of running. That is the only thing that might stop me - I am not going to get Glycogen-depleted like I did in Athens. I'd rather go in like this than the shape I was in back in 2004 when I was not well.'

The 34-year-old world record holder's chances of success were done no harm by yesterday's news that Japan's defending Olympic champion, Mizuki Noguchi, has pulled out of the competition after suffering from 'severe fatigue.' The 30-year-old had planned to travel to Beijing from her favourite high altitude training base in St Moritz, but she left secretly for Japan on August 4 and underwent tests at Kyoto hospital.

Noguchi, who was hoping to secure a third consecutive Olympic title for Japan following Naoko Takahashi's win in the 2000 Sydney Games, was expected to be one of the main protagonists, but many formidable opponents remain for Radcliffe, even if the Briton's leg holds up.

Radcliffe admitted she might not have embarked on her race to get fit had she realised how serious the injury was at the time.

"It gives me a mental lift to have got this far because to be honest if they had told me the bleakest medical diagnosis, which came out in dribs and drabs in the end, I might have said: 'This is not going to happen'," she said.

"And there were times in the last 12 weeks when I thought 'How can this be happening, has someone put a jinx on me?'.

"But then I'd go to bed and think 'No this is the Olympics, I'm not going to give up'.

"And Gary (Lough, her husband and coach) said to me 'Someone is testing you to see how much you want it'."

The trauma of Athens, Radcliffe admitted, has left its mark.

"It certainly means I have a lot of unfinished business with the Olympics," she said. "But I also think the Olympics are something more special anyway. It was my dream as a little girl - you don't dream about World Championships, you dream about the Olympics.

"But regardless of what happened four years ago this still would have been something I fought for.

"I have not taken stupid risks with my leg - but at every point I have tested it and pushed it a bit further because you're taking a gamble.

"You have to ask yourself 'Are you prepared for the worst thing that can happen?' And for me the worst thing is not to be able to finish the race, and I have already faced that in Athens."