Avon Women's Race Berlin 2021 on 15 May 2021

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“It is not an Olympic gold medal" - Allan Steinfelds comment

Paula Radcliffe’s liberation in New York - she crossed the finish in Central Park as the victor


“It is not an Olympic gold medal. But the world saw what she can do: Paula Radcliffe won the New York City Marathon.“ That was the comment made by Allan Steinfeld, the Race Director of the running spectacle, to a question regarding his estimation of Paula Radcliffe’s achievement. The 30-year-old English woman managed to end a catastrophic year with a success through an enormous exertion of energy. In a super time of 2:23:10h, the third fastest time of the year, she crossed the finish in Central Park as the victor with only a 4-second lead ahead of the Kenyan Susan Chepkemei.

Never before such a finish in the women’s race
Never before in the 35-year-old history of the New York Marathon has there been such a finish in the women’s race. The men’s race was won by the South African Hendrik Ramaala in 2:09:28h. And so the victors had a parallel pre-race history: both dropped out of the Olympic marathon in Athens 10 weeks earlier.

It was Paula Radcliffe’s comeback, however, that made the big news in New York. In Athens, the marathon world record holder (2:15:25h) suffered a double knockout. She started out as the big favourite, but her dream of her first Olympic gold ended at the side of the street at 36 kilometres. She sat crying on the ground after she gave up and gave in to the extreme climatic conditions. Five days later she tried again in the 10,000m raced—and again did not make it to the finish. The Olympic nightmare was perfect. It was not the first time that Paula Radcliffe returned from a big championship empty handed. The British media had in part already given her up.

A risky decision
To everyone’s surprise, Paula Radcliffe registered for the largest marathon spectacle in the world only twelve days prior, where she joined a record number of 37,257 runners at the start on Sunday thrilling 2 million spectators along the course. Considering the fact that it was really too short a time to fully recuperate and prepare after Athens, it was a risky decision. It could have ended in the third disaster within three months, especially since the night before the race she was fighting a stomach problem. “The spaghetti Bolognese did not sit with me well, and just kept hoping that nothing would happen during the race,” stated Paula Radcliffe. “Training had gone well, and that is why I had decided to race here. I would not have come had I not had the form for winning.“

She entered the race with race number F111. This unusually high number for a favourite had brought her luck once already—at her marathon debut in London 2002 she won with the number F111 as well.
“There may have been a certain physical risk in starting here,” said Paula Radcliffe’s manager, Mann Gary Lough. “But Paula felt good, and she was looking forward to running another race. It was not her intent to prove anything to anyone. It was most important for Paula to find the joy of running again.“
She managed to do that in New York, even though she had to fight hard to win her fourth of five marathons. “It was a hard race at the end of a hard year. But I feel good again —like I used to feel. Athens was the greatest disappointment of my whole career. It was important after that to come back and be successful,” said Great Britain’s athlete of the year 2003, for whom BBC even made a last minute change in programming.
Paula Radcliffe’s race was broadcast live.

Looking forwards
“It is difficult to even out what happened in Athens. That cannot be undone. But it is over and I am looking forwards again,” said Paula Radcliffe, who was surprised at the great support she received from the spectators in New York. “There were many Brits on the street who cheered me on. The only place it was really quiet was on the first stretch after the start on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. There I enjoyed the view of the Statue of Liberty.” In the end, the New York Marathon was a personal liberation for Paula Radcliffe.

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