Britain's leading marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, poses for the cameras with Tower Bridge in the background, in London, Tuesday April 12, 2005. Radcliffe will be running in the London Marathon which takes place Sunday April 17.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
LONDON Paula Radcliffe looked untouchable when she set the world record in the London Marathon two years ago.
How things have changed.
Dogged by injuries, illness and two flops at the Athens Olympics, Radcliffe has had to hear one suggestion after another that she is past her peak.
''How do you know that until you are there?'' she said. ''You don't know that until you are already starting to come down. And at the same time you can still be running very well.''
Radcliffe gets a chance to get back on track and quiet her critics Sunday, when she goes back to the London Marathon. She hinted Tuesday that she is still capable of breaking her world record of 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds set on the fast, flat London course in 2003.
She skipped London last year to prepare for the Olympics. The result? She dropped out of the Athens marathon at 23 miles and five days later, quit the 10,000 meters with eight laps to go. She blamed both on pressure, and a reaction to anti-inflammatory medicine she took to treat a thigh injury.
''It's in the past, it's behind me,'' Radcliffe said. ''You take what you can from it and you put it in the past. It's something you never totally, totally get over. ... I think one of the things that has come out of everything that happened is that I've probably toughened up a little bit.''
Despite winning the New York City Marathon in 2:23:10 11 weeks after the Olympics, the 31-year-old Briton is still facing criticism. She's been on a no-dairy, wheat-free, gluten-free diet since New York, and has taken antibiotics to clear up stomach problems.
Training at altitude in New Mexico for the last several months, Radcliffe finished second in the Crescent City 10,000 three weeks ago in New Orleans. Kenya's Isabella Ochichi won in 30:27, and Radcliffe was 18 seconds behind.
''I trained hard right up to the race,'' Radcliffe said. ''My legs just felt a bit flat. Looking back, had I eased back I would have run better.''
When Radcliffe set the world record, she did it with men setting the pace. This time, there will be only female pacesetters.
''If you are running with somebody, maybe you can get more out of yourself, maybe not,'' Radcliffe said. ''I have the opinion that when I am running on my own there is less pressure and I take more risks and might actually run faster.''
Defending champion Margaret Okayo of Kenya might be Radcliffe's main challenger Sunday.
Fellow British distance runner Liz McCoglan a former London winner, Olympic silver medalist and world champion in the 10,000 believes Radcliffe could burn out with too much racing and training that reaches 145 miles weekly.
''If she keeps doing what she's doing, I can't see her making it to Beijing (2008 Olympics),'' McCoglan said. ''She's not the young thing she once was, and the body can only take so much.''
When asked about those comments, Radcliffe said: ''If she was genuinely concerned, she probably would have come to me privately and not do it in the press.''
The 25th edition of the London Marathon is expected to attract a field of 33,000. The course rerouted to avoid a twisting, cobblestone stretch is expected to be about 45 seconds quicker.
In the men's race, world-record holder Paul Tergat of Kenya is the favorite. The men's field has 13 runners who have run under 2:09. They include defending champion Evans Rutto and fellow Kenyan Sammy Korir, whose best time of 2:04:56 is just one second off Tergat's world record.
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