Athletics: Radcliffe blames emergency pit-stop on pre-race pasta and grilled salmon

Mike Rowbottom
Tuesday 19 April 2005 00:00
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The day after winning her third London Marathon title, Paula Radcliffe awoke to find her achievement had been overshadowed in some sections of the media by coverage of her unscheduled toilet break at the side of the course with five miles remaining.

The day after winning her third London Marathon title, Paula Radcliffe awoke to find her achievement had been overshadowed in some sections of the media by coverage of her unscheduled toilet break at the side of the course with five miles remaining. It was, she readily acknowledged, an "embarrassment", adding that it has happened to many elite marathon runners.

"All you are thinking about is getting to the line first and running as fast as you can," she said. "I had been trying to run through the problem for about four or five miles before I had to stop. I knew that if I could just go once it wasn't going to be a major problem so I was looking around to try and find a quieter spot.

"I don't think there was anything I would have changed in my preparations. I ate as plain food as possible beforehand - you can't get much plainer than pasta and grilled salmon. It's the first time it's happened to me in a race."

Radcliffe estimated that she had lost over a minute because of the problem, including the 15 seconds or so in which she stopped. "I reckon I was losing around 10 seconds a mile until I stopped," she said. Although she collected a bonus of £65,000 (for bettering her own world record for a women-only race with 2hr 17min 42sec, she described herself as "a little bit frustrated" that she had not been able to run faster, adding that her physical therapist, Ger Hartmann, had said that her legs had never been in such good shape after a marathon.

Although it was the third fastest time ever run - and she has the two faster marks - she described Sunday's performance as being intrinsically superior to her performance in setting her first overall world record of 2hr 17min 17sec in Chicago two years ago, when she had the benefit of male pacing.

Radcliffe confirmed she had asked selectors to put her name down for the marathon at the World Championships in Helsinki, even though she may yet swap to the 10,000 metres.

The fact that running a marathon in Finland would mean she had taken on the distance four times in a space of a year - twice more than is generally recommended - was something she has already begun rationalising. She discounted the Olympic marathon, as she didn't finish it. And she described her victory in New York last November as an occasion where she was not running at full capacity. Clearly numbers are not going to put Radcliffe off running 26.2 miles again this summer if she feels it is the race she needs to run.

Although Radcliffe remains wary of committing herself to a racing schedule, her next competitive performance could well be at the European Cup in June, when the British women will seek to return to elite level after relegation last year.

"It's very important that we get back up and we need as strong a team as possible," Radcliffe said. "But it is not more important than jeopardising my plans for the World Championships." The three-times champion will now take a few weeks off, although she has one more commitment looming - a visit this Sunday to her old school, where she will open a community sports hall named in her honour.

David Bedford hailed the 25th running of the event as the "greatest ever London Marathon". Among the factors which persuaded the former world 10,000m record holder to voice such a claim was a record number of entries - 35,680, of whom 34,175 finished on the day. Clare Forbes, a 21-year-old who lost both legs after contracting meningitis five years ago, became the 34,176th and last finisher at 1.10pm yesterday.

The number of spectators, estimated at 750,000, was also an unofficial record for the race on a day when the sunshine made an unexpected and - at least from the crowd's point of view - welcome appearance.

A further record was contributed by runner Steve Chalk, who - subject to ratification - raised £1.25m for Oasis Trust, surpassing the largest previous individual amount of £1.13m collected by Marathon director John Spurling in 1999.

There was a black mark, however, for TV doctor Hillary Jones, who gave his marathon place to his son, Sebastian, despite having been told by the organisers that it went against the race policy. Jones and Jones junior are now banned sine die from London Marathons. The Marathon chief executive, Nick Bitel, described the action as "irresponsible".

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