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London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe reveals race against time for London swansong

Marathon farewell on Sunday nearly ruined when 41-year-old’s foot injury flared up in February

Matt Majendie
Thursday 23 April 2015 19:09 BST
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Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radcliffe (GETTY IMAGES)

Paula Radcliffe came within a whisker of pulling out of her marathon farewell on the streets of London following an Achilles injury.

The latter part of Radcliffe’s career has been curtailed by her fitness travails and she admitted this latest setback was in danger of quashing her final career ambition of running one more competitive marathon.

But the women’s marathon world-record holder, a three-time winner on the streets of London, will make it on to the start line for Sunday’s race courtesy of medical teams from the United States, Britain, Belgium and Monaco collaborating to patch her up.

Asked if there had been a fear she might not make the start, she said: “There definitely was because I thought ‘oh God, if I can’t run 45 minutes…’ But people kept saying ‘you’ve only just got to get round’ but, if I can’t run for 45 minutes, I can’t get round a marathon.

“People were saying ‘just run round really slowly’ but that’s actually probably worse for my foot because it’s longer out there impact wise.”

The problem first flared up while heading up a British Athletics training camp in Iten, Kenya, in February, which resulted in a six-week lay-off.

She resumed training on Easter Sunday, has run every day since and is confident she will finish Sunday’s 26.2-mile course regardless of how badly the Achilles on her left foot flares up during the course of the race.

The 41-year-old has called on a career’s worth of medical experts in order to get her in one piece to the start line on Sunday, when she will compete with club runners rather than in her traditional position among the women’s elite.

Radcliffe, who has a 100 per cent record in London, called on British Athletics’ medical team at the European Indoor Championships in Prague and consulted her surgeon in the US, her orthotics specialists in Belgium as well as local medical staff in Monaco, where she lives.

It was initially an injury that baffled the specialists who, she says, seem to have solved the problem by “all throwing ideas in”.

She added: “I’m just lucky I’ve got a lot of support around me that I’ve built up over the years. Thanks to a combination of everything, it started to get better.”

But it wasn’t until a day out in the park in Eze near the family home that she finally felt she might get back on track to make the race: “Four weeks to go to race day, I took Isla [her daughter] up to the park, who was on her bike. I managed to run/jog for 45 minutes and that was the best I’d done in six weeks since I got back.

“From that day I’ve been able to gradually increase it and get back with ice packs after every run and I’m just grateful to everyone who has helped me.”

While it has been an anxious race against the clock in terms of her battle to get fit, time is the last thing on Radcliffe’s mind on a course where she set her world record of 2:15.25 12 years ago.

She admits she has no idea what time she might run but that lack of pressure against the clock in some ways played a key role in her getting back to fitness in time.

She said: “If you were being competitive, I would’ve pulled out five weeks ago but I’ve been there so many times and this time I thought it doesn’t matter, essentially, if I run it in three hours or 2:45. It was just to see if I can get healthy and get to the start line. I’m almost there and I’m hoping my body will remember a little bit once I get running.”

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