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LONDON — Just four days before her unparalleled marathon career will come to a close at the 35th Virgin Money London Marathon here, Paula Radcliffe is grateful to get one more chance at the distance and said that although she had experienced some difficult disappointments —like dropping out of the 2004 Athens Olympics—she had no regrets.
“I try to have this philosophy to not have regrets because you can’t go back and change it anyway,” Radcliffe told a packed press conference here today at the marathon’s headquarters hotel. “Obviously, the Olympics is a big disappointment, especially the marathon. On the track I feel I was able to go there, give it my best shot; just wasn’t good enough on the day in Sydney (in 2000 in the 10,000m), and I got fourth.”
Although Radcliffe never won an Olympic medal, she remains the greatest women’s marathoner of all time. She holds the three fastest times in history (2:15:25, 2:17:18, and 2:17:42), won both the London and New York City Marathons three times each, won the world marathon title in 2005 in the still-standing IAAF World Championships record of 2:20:57, and recorded six marks under 2:20:00. Only Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba can be considered in Paula’s class with two world marathon titles (and a silver medal), two Olympic Marathon silver medals, two marks under 2:20:00, four Boston Marathon victories, and two Chicago Marathon victories.
But among all of her achievements, Radcliffe’s spectacular 2:15:25 at London in 2003 is undoubtedly her greatest. It remains perhaps the strongest world record in all of athletics, nearly two minutes better than Radcliffe’s own second-best mark and more than three minutes quicker than the next-fastest athlete, Kenya’s Mary Keitany, who ran 2:18:37 at London in 2012.
“I don’t think we’ll see that time broken in 25 years,” said Dave Bedford, the London Marathon’s former race director in a video played for the media here today.
Radcliffe, 41, said her world record might actually have been faster based on her training and the conditions that day.
“The preparation had gone really well,” Radcliffe explained. She continued: “On race day, I felt good, conditions were good. Certainly, I did feel I was able to run pretty close. I did finish that day and think I was going to go quicker, but it never happened.”
For Sunday’s race, Radcliffe will not be joining the elite women’s contenders –like Kenyans Priscah Jeptoo, Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, and Florence Kiplagat in the early start—but will rather run in the mass race, an experience she said she would savor. She offered no specific time goal, especially since she suffered an inflamed Achilles tendon during her training, but promised to give her best effort, as she always has at this event.
“I want to feel like I run the London Marathon hard, giving it as good a shot as I can on the day,” Radcliffe said in earnest.
The top women entered in Sunday’s race all agreed that Radcliffe had been an inspiration for them.
“I can say Paula set the pace for us,” said Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo, the 2012 Olympic Marathon silver medalist who won the London race in 2013 and finished third in 2012.
Florence Kiplagat, the world half-marathon record holder, took Jeptoo’s sentiment a little further.
“But why not pacing us?” said Kiplagat with a laugh. “She’s the world record holder.”