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Paula Radcliffe on Records, Pacing, Shoes and Bridges

Radcliffe comments on losing her 16-year marathon record, the shoe war, and running the New York City Marathon bridges.

Paula Radcliffe set the world record of 2:15:25 at the London Marathon in 2003. It stood for 16 years, until Brigid Kosgei ran 2:14:04 on October 13th in Chicago this year. This week, Radcliffe was at the New York City Marathon, where she won three times, in 2004, 2007 and 2008.

We talked with Radcliffe before she signed autographs at the booth of a new device, Frontier X, that monitors breathing rate, training load, and heart strain.

Before we had a chance to ask a question, someone passing by told her they were sorry about her record. After they left, Radcliffe said she gets these comments all the time.

On Losing the Marathon Record

“I don’t know what to say,” she said. “I’m still the same person as I was yesterday. I knew it was going to happen at some point…If I can do it, someone else can do it.”

Asked why she thought the record had lasted so long, Radcliffe said, “I think, it was people not really attacking it from the beginning. [Kosgei] really attacked it. That was the biggest surprise for me, that she could hold it after that. She was 2:10 pace for the first 10 minutes! But you have to [go after it hard] when it is smart.”

About Those Super Shoes

Without prompting, she had something to say about shoes. “Everyone is talking about the shoes,” she said. “But the shoes I ran in it were better than shoes Joanie [Benoit-Samuelson] and Ingrid [Kristiansen] ran in.”

That said, she does think the new shoes provide an advantage in the marathon. “Without a doubt, your legs are crushing the last 10K—that’s the benefit,” Radcliffe said. “It is all of the pounding. Normally, you can’t get away with pounding so hard in the first bit, you’ve got to keep something in the res’ for the last 10K. These seem like it saves your legs.”

photo: NYRR

Running the New York City Bridges

Turning to this week’s New York City Marathon, we asked her about the most memorable, and significant bridge on the course, and why. She had lots of memories and trouble deciding which.

First, she named the Queensboro Bridge, which spans from mile 15 to 16.

“The Queensboro, because it goes from being quiet and so eerie with no noise or people around you, then you drop onto 1st avenue and it’s a real craze,” Radcliffe said. “And the first time you do that it is huge…”

But then she changed her mind, and went back to the beginning.

“But the Verrazzano at the beginning as well,” she said. “Because you go from the big party that is the start, then you go over the bridge, and there’s so much space and you have all of New York laid out in front of you, and people are just really scared to commit. I don’t know how many times I’ve led off that bridge because no one else would do it.”

Asked if it is dangerous to lead, she agreed that you can’t blast away from the gun.

“The first mile is kind deceptive,” she said. “You get to the first mile and that’s where the slope begins. You go off from there.”

Once Radcliffe had started thinking about her memories of the course, she wanted to add one more important bridge.

“The bridge in the Bronx, at 21 miles [Madison Avenue Bridge] is quite significant I think,” Radcliffe said. “Your feet are starting to feel every single ridge, and you feel that metal grating.”

More important than the pain underfoot, however, is what the Madison Avenue Bridge leads to: “Then from there, you get to Central Park, and the roads are so much better, and the trees in Central Park…,” Radcliffe recalled.

“That’s a turning point in the race as well, a good point to think about kicking it in and making moves.”