Re-pounding the Past: Flashback to great road races – Part Two (written for UK Athletics 04/08).
Each month, Run Britain will delve into either the domestic or international road running archives and review a classic road race. This month, NICOLA BAMFORD winds back the clock to April 13th, 2003...........
London was the setting; the marathon was the task and Paula Radcliffe was the sublime conqueror. The 29 year-old 2002 BBC Sports Personality of the Year slashed a remarkable 1-minute, 53-seconds off her own World Record from the previous year in Chicago, to register a blistering 2:15.25; en route to her second London marathon victory.
The Bedford and County AC member set a fierce pace from the start. By Tower Bridge, 12 miles into the race, the Briton was more than a minute ahead of Constantina Dita and Susan Chepkemei; it fast-becoming clear that it would be Radcliffe against the clock, rather than her opponents.
Within another six miles, the MBE owner had stretched her lead to more than two minutes and 20 seconds, by consistently clocking in the five minute region for each mile. With a best of four minutes 57 seconds coming in the third mile, Radcliffe was evidently reaping the reward for her tough training regime in Alberquerque, New Mexico.
Running like a woman possessed, Radcliffe set world records at 30km and 40km, only enduring a short bad-patch around the Isle of Dogs when she began to suffer some cramps.
But on reaching the Tower of London, where the crowd roared her on, Radcliffe again upped the pace, setting her second fastest split mile of the race of five minutes and six seconds after 22 miles on the road.
She bettered that by three seconds two miles later, despite admitting that the closing stages proved the most difficult, to set the seal on a memorable run.
Catherine Ndereba finished second, more than four minutes adrift, with America's Deena Drossin in third.
A delighted Radcliffe revealed; "I once said that London couldn't be a fast course but I knew from last year it was. It was a bit windy but it seemed the wind was behind us more than it was in front of us. The first mile, nobody seemed to want to go with us and we weren't running that fast so I just relaxed and followed the two guys (pacemakers). I was just trying to stay relaxed until halfway and then just keep it going but it was really, really tough for the last five miles.”
"It was just a matter of keeping my head strong,” the 2000 Olympic and 2001 World 10,000m fourth-placer explained; before paying compliment to the crowds who helped her through the tough times; “This year they were amazing, even around Docklands which is supposed to be quiet."