Radcliffe's long moment of truth to come in Berlin?

Radcliffe's long moment of truth to come in Berlin?

Provided by IAAF

Berlin, Germany - It should be a match made in heaven: history's fastest women's marathoner finally running on the universally recognised fastest Marathon course in the world. But it’s been two years since Paula Radcliffe ran a 42.195km race, finishing fourth in New York 2009, and, on her own admission today, “I was hurting”.

Her only race since then was, again in her own words, “a bit of a disaster”. That was a 10km in London in May, when she finished a poor third, in 33:17, the sort of time that she did for each 10km section of her 2:15:25 record run in London 2003.

But with two Olympic disasters behind the most accomplished women’s distance runner in history, and a need to run close to 2:20 here in Berlin, both to qualify her for London 2012, and to give her the springboard to a potential Olympic victory, it is not untoward to suggest that Sunday’s 38th BMW Berlin Marathon - an IAAF Gold Label Road Race - is going to be a (long) moment of truth for the 37-year-old Briton.

Radcliffe cited injury and a then undiagnosed thyroid condition, following the birth of her second child Raphael a year ago, as reasons for her poor 10km in May, and has privately admitted to training to do 2:20 here. And on the evidence of previous events here – six World records in a dozen years – the course is the kindest that any marathoner is likely to encounter; the best example being Tegla Loroupe’s run in 1999 when, having reached 30km two minutes down on a really fast time, the Kenyan astonished herself by taking seven seconds off her own World record.

At today’s press conference, Radcliffe and Berlin race director Mark Milde reciprocated that they were both top of each other’s wish list. And given that Radcliffe spent some of her university year abroad in Germany, and is more than adequate in the language, she has already endeared herself to the population by fielding press and TV questions in the local lingo.

Victory on Sunday would only make things better on all fronts. “I’ve watched the race on television,” she said, “and I’ve run a little bit in Berlin in the past, so I’m really looking forward to the experience.”

With no mention of pacemakers, Radcliffe’s principal opponent here on Sunday morning is likely to be Kazakh-born German Irina Mikitenko, who won both London and Berlin in 2008, and won again in London the following year. An injury forced her out of London last year and, also struggling with injuries, she could only finish seventh this year.

But, like Radcliffe, she says that recent training has gone well, and at a year older, admits that the Briton had been an inspiration for her. “Seeing how Paula developed from the track to the Marathon encouraged me to do the same, because we had raced on the track as youngsters.

“I’m really looking forward to running on Sunday. Having Paula in the Marathon will give the whole event a different atmosphere.”

The other contenders are all Russian – Lidiya Grigorieva, a winner in Boston and Los Angeles in the last five years, Tatyana Petrova, who also won Los Angeles two years ago, and reigning European champion, Nailya Yulamanova.

Pat Butcher (organisers) for the IAAF