Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Radcliffe’s Return Imminent - written for the IAAF 05/09

World marathon record-holder and British distance-running superstar; Paula Radcliffe has recently confirmed that she will resume event-specific training next week, with an aim to make a competitive return at this summer’s World Championships, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 35 year-old 2005 World Champion over the 26.2-mile distance; speaking in advance of her participation in the Cancer Research 5km race in London’s Battersea Park – albeit walking with her mother, who was diagnosed with the illness last November – has been in rehabilitation for the past seven weeks; recovering from toe surgery, but has been given the all-clear to recommence road running, after successfully training at eighty-five -percent bodyweight on her $35,000 anti-gravity treadmill – the Gtrainer; which has significantly sped up the recovery process.

Radcliffe sustained an injury to her right big toe while running at her high-altitude base in Albuquerque, New Mexico last March and subsequently had an operation to remove a bunion and correctly align the toe by fifteen-degrees, which was believed to be the cause of the injuries she has suffered in recent years through biomechanical problems.

The three-time London marathon winner explained, “I’m feeling good now. I’ll only run twice or three times per week for a while now and stick with the work on the G-trainer, as it’s the volume of running not the pace which is important at this stage. By mid-June, I hope to be back to normal full training but keep the cross-training sessions in.”

Previously based in Monaco with her husband, Gary Lough and their two-year-old daughter, Isla, Radcliffe will now head to the Pyrenees to train at her base in Font Romeu; where a select team of British endurance runners are currently training; “It’s nice to have a UK team out with me – hopefully, it will boost our chances at Championships by having regular altitude trips,” the injury-ravaged Beijing Olympic 23rd-place finisher explained.

Despite her forthcoming return to full training, Radcliffe is reluctant to predict any potential fixtures on her racing calendar bar the major aim of the year – the World marathon Championships in Berlin this August; “I’m following the surgeon’s rehab programme but I think I’ve got a good chance of being there (Berlin). I’d love to go back and win it; it means a lot to me. I’d really like to add another title so we’ll see what shape I’m in during the summer. As for other races in the build up, I’d prefer to concentrate on my training and rehab – I can’t predict what will happen.”

One thing that certainly can be envisaged once back to full fitness, however, will be Radcliffe’s arduous training regime. With Olympic marathon Champion, Constantina Dita, among others, warning Radcliffe against her usual 145-miles per week mileage in case of burn-out and more injuries, Radcliffe defensively insists; “everybody needs to do what’s right for them. I know I need to do the miles for the marathon but cross training and the Gtrainer help me, too. After two years, I’m no longer struggling with my foot, my body’s no longer breaking down so I’m feeling positive looking forward.”

The wonderfully-obsessive Radcliffe – who wears a mouth-guard during weights sessions to “balance out the pelvis and keep me relaxed” – evidently has a unique game-plan for success in the run-down and including the 2012 Olympic Games on home turf. And with the average age of the top-ten women in the recent London marathon being 33 (with the majority in their mid to late-thirties), Radcliffe is filled with confidence as she attempts to extend her glittering career during her more experienced years. “Your endurance gets stronger as you get older,” she explained, “maybe you need an extra day’s recovery in between hard sessions but I think mental toughness and maturity comes to the fore a bit, and you’re heart’s more in it.”

All going well, the ominous head-bobbing figure of Ms Radcliffe will be seen in full-flight in the Championship cauldron this summer and she will gladly receive the participation of her newly-World-class compatriot, Mara Yamauchi. The Japan-based London runner-up has fended off recent reports of team-tactics come Berlin, as does her more illustrious team-mate; “It was great to see her (Mara) get everything timed right (in London) and take advantage of the conditions. The marathon is an individual event first and foremost, but it will be great to have her there with me and we can help each other in terms of inspiration; to give it our best shot.”

With everything almost completely back on track – including a blissful home-life with a new training aid in the form of Radcliffe junior; “Isla’s on great form; she passes me drinks while I’m on the G-trainer and asks for high-fives” – Radcliffe is now heading back to the Pyrenees to begin her 15-week preparation assault on World Championship marathon gold. “There’s no time for holidays,” she explained, “I’ve had enough time with my feet up.”

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