Paula Radcliffe crosses the finish at the 2003 London Marathon (© Getty Images)
Paula Radcliffe ran a stunning World women’s marathon best of 2:15:25 in London today, while World and Olympic men’s champion Gezahegne Abera once again triumphed after five athletes entered The Mall together to begin the final sprint to the finish.
Radcliffe led every step of the way and was almost a mile clear of former world record-holder Catherine Ndereba of Kenya by the finish, as Deena Drossin broke the 18-year-old US record of Joan Benoit.
It was an awesome display by Radcliffe, running almost as fast as the leading men in the closing stages, and it took women’s world marathon running into a new era. She obliterated her own world best by almost two minutes as she maintained her 100% record at the distance.
Radcliffe has raced just twice this year and has set world bests on each occasion, but if her 30:21 10km in Puerto Rico was outstanding, there are few superlatives that can adequately describe a performance that left a truly world class field reduced to virtually also-rans.
Radcliffe blasted through halfway in 68:02, yet still ran negative splits as she produced an amazing second half of 67:23. She was so fast that only one of the two designated 2:16 pacers, Simon Loywapet, went the full distance with her.
The unique decision to use male pacemakers, saw eight Kenyans setting out in four pairs with target times of 2:16, 2:18, 2:20 and 2:22. But from the start only Radcliffe went with the two 'rabbits' who were designated to run at 2:16 pace, Loywapet, and Hamburg Marathon winner Christopher Kandie. An opening mile of 5:10 saw her already well clear of her female rivals and a quicker second split pushed her 14 seconds clear and on sub-2:15 schedule.
Although she revealed she went into the race with no set pace or race plan, she admitted to realising a 4:57 third mile was too fast, and so decided to ease off. “Then I eased off a bit too much,” she said. Radcliffe’s slowest mile of the race, a 5:22 sixth mile split, had allowed Constantina Dita (ROM) and Susan Chepkemei (KEN) to close to 11 seconds. However, soon the gap was increasing again and had reached 79 seconds by halfway over Dita, with Chepkemei a further nine seconds down, and Ndereba fourth in 70:12.
The 17th mile saw Radcliffe pick up the pace with a 5:07 mile that took her two minutes 20 seconds clear, and perhaps now she appeared to be visibly working for the first time, her head beginning to bob but the legs were still piling on the pressure. Ndereba had just moved into second by this stage but Radcliffe was out of sight.
The home favourite was well inside the world best for 30km as she went through in 1:36:36, some 64 seconds inside her split from Chicago. Ndereba (1:39:30) was having a good spell and was no longer losing ground, but equally she was not closing on the Briton.
With three miles to go Radcliffe threw off her gloves, but there was no sign of the wheels coming off as well, as she powered to a truly sensational run.
Drossin was also beginning to show what she could really do at the marathon and was closing on Ndereba, and more importantly Benoit’s longstanding national record.
Into the last mile and with head bobbing more and more, Radcliffe pushed herself to the limit, trying to drag every extra second she could out of the world best. Cheered on by a huge crowd, she came into the finishing straight knowing she would not only smash her world mark but also become the first woman to break 2:16 for the distance.
She said: “The last five miles were tough, especially the sections into the wind, but the crowd were fantastic. After last year I didn’t think the crowd could be as good but they were even better. The say the Isle of Dogs is quiet but it was the noisiest part of the course. They were amazing and I am so grateful for their support.”
“I knew that in every marathon you go through a bad patch. In London last year it was around 17-18 miles, in Chicago it was 23 miles, and today it was off-and-on for the last five miles.”
“I just kept telling myself ‘five more miles and then you can rest for three weeks’ but it still hurt. Those last two miles were really hard into the wind but once I reached Big Ben I was out of the wind and it got a bit easier.
“I knew from last year London is a fast course and the wind was more in our favour this time. My time at halfway was far faster than I had planned, even if I felt good I didn’t expect to run that fast, but I thought ‘you’ve committed yourself now, so you’ve got to keep it going.”
“I hadn’t planned it that way but no-one came with me in the opening mile and we weren’t even going that fast, so from then on I just followed the pacemakers. I didn’t speak to them at all, my only words were to a TV cameraman on a motorbike who was getting too close. I had to tell him to move away because the fumes were making me sick.”
“I felt sick at the finish. I had stomach cramps but no worse than I’ve had in the past. I sometimes feel as bad at the end of a hard training session, it’s just the body telling me ‘You’re working me hard, it hurts!”
Drossin joked: “I know how my stomach feels after running 2:21, so I can’t imagine what Paula’s is like.”
The world cross country silver medallist had a bad spell at 25km but finished strongly and said: “Coming into the finishing straight I thought I was probably 30 seconds outside the schedule for the record. Then I saw the clock on the gantry and thought ‘I can’t reach the line in 30 seconds … well, let’s at least give it a try. I am delighted to break the record. I wanted to run 2:20 but I am still very happy.”
World and Olympic champion Abera triumphs in sprint battle
If Radcliffe’s run was effectively a time trial, the men’s race was a classic battle to the line.
A big pack was together throughout and despite twice winner Abdelkader El Mouaziz (MOR) seemingly itching to make a long kick for home, it eventually came down to a test of last ditch sprinting abilities, and there are no equals to Abera when it comes to speed at the end of 26.2 miles.
Although the men had been inside 2:05 schedule at five miles, with pacemakers Julius Kariuki and Eliud Lagat dragging a sizeable group, the tactical nature of the race eventually meant the winning times were rather ‘modest’, with Italy’s former European champion Stefano Baldini in second sharing the same time as Abera, with Joseph Ngolepus just one second down in third.
Through halfway in 63:18, all the big guns were in the group - El Mouaziz, Abera, Paul Tergat (KEN), South African Hendrick Ramaala and Lee Bong-ju of Korea - as well as a handful of others seeking to make a breakthrough.
After 15 miles, El Mouaziz moved to the front and tried to stretch out the leading pack, but he soon settled back and allowed David Makori (KEN) to lead. Bong-ju was the next to hit the front but a large group remained and Tergat was looking particularly good – hoping his first marathon victory would finally arrive.
But as the race reached its closing stages, it was Baldini doing most of the pushing. In 1997 he had come from nowhere only to be pipped by Antonio Pinto, but with Abera and Tergat he knew he could not leave it too late.
Ngolepus, who won the 2001 Berlin Marathon after deciding to continue once his pacing duties were completed, was getting stronger with every mile and into the final half-mile only Baldini, Abera, Tergat, Samson Ramadhani (TAN) and El Mouaziz were with him. The latter vomited as the race hotted up but still he tried to keep up with the ever-increasing pace.
Baldini took a slightly wide turn into the final bend - which ultimately may have cost him the race – and once in The Mall it looked as if he might just edge Ngolepus for the win, but Abera again timed his run to perfection and snatched victory on the line from them both.
Baldini was given the same time of 2:07:56, one second ahead of Ngolepus, with Tergat in fourth as he continues to wait for his first marathon victory after five attempts.
Abera said: “I am always confident in a sprint finish, it is my style of running. There were so many in contention but I used my instinct to decide when to time my sprint and it worked to perfection.”
Baldini admitted: “I am a little disappointed, but still happy with my run. I tried maybe three times to get away but I couldn’t drop them so it all came down to the finishing straight.”
Bob Frank for the IAAF
1 Gezahegne Abera (ETH) 2:07:56
2 Stefano Baldini (ITA) 2:07:56
3 Joseph Ngolepus(KEN) 2:07:57
4 Paul Tergat (KEN) 2:07:59
5 Samson Ramadhani (TAN) 2:08:01
6 Abdelakder El Mouaziz (MAR) 2:08:03
7 Lee Bong-ju (KOR) 2:08:10
8 Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 2:08:58
9 Ian Syster (RSA) 2:09:18
10 Javier Cortes (ESP) 2:10:39
Mile Split Elapsed
1 4:52 4:52
2 4:53 9:45
3 4:35 14:20
4 4:47 19:07
5 4:43 23:50
6 4:54 28:44
7 4:52 33:36
8 4:447 38:23
9 4:52 43:15
10 4:55 48:10
11 4:54 53:04
12 5:11 58:15
13 4:36 1:02:51
14 4:23 1:07:41
15 4:48 1:12:29
16 5:03 1:17:32
17 5:01 1:22:33
22 4:50 1:52:15
23 4:57 1:57:12
24 4:56 1:57:11
25 4:53 2:02:04
1 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) 2:15:25
2 Catherine Ndereba (KEN) 2:19:55
3 Deena Drossin (USA) 2:21:16
4 Susan Chepkemei (KEN) 2:23:12
5 Ludmila Petrova (RUS) 2:23:14
6 Constantina Dita (ROM) 2:23:43
7 Jelena Prokocuka(LAT) 2:24:01
8 Elfenesh Alemu (ETH) 2:24:56
9 Michaela Botezan (ROM) 2:25:32
10 Derartu Tulu (ETH) 2:26:33
Mile Split Elapsed
1 5:10 5:10
2 5:08 10:18
3 4:57 15:15
4 5:07 20:22
5 5:10 25:32
6 5:22 30:54
7 5:12 36:06
8 5:11 41:17
9 5:18 46:35
10 5:13 51:48
11 5:10 56:58
12 5:16 1:02:14
13 5:16 1:07:30
14 5:08 1:12:38
15 5:10 1:17:48
16 5:13 1:23:01
17 5:07 1:28:08
18 5:11 1:33:19
19 5:07 1:38:26
20 5:07 1:43:33
21 5:11 1:48:44
22 5:06 1:53:50
23 5:13 1:59:03
24 5:03 2:04:06
25 5:08 2:09:14
Slovak Prime Minister finishes with better time than in New York
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda who is a keen runner finished the London Marathon without difficulties writes Alfons Juck.
His official time 3:36:27 was more than 6 minutes better than his last marathon in November 2001 in New York (3:42:36). He finished according to the event’s web-page in 4385 position. But that was not so important as he said after finishing his 18th marathon:
”This time I had fantastic feelings from the course. Very nice weather, great atmosphere. People recognised me and talked to me. That was nice. I was running without body-guards and with the national team Slovak vest. I did not have any crisis but after the 20th mile the sun was really shining strong and that was very hard.”
”But once again, I’m very please with my time and I m looking forward to my next marathon, maybe not this year, but definitely in 2004," said the first prime minister in office who has run and finished the London Marathon. It was his second marathon abroad. His best since 1986 is 2:54:57.