FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 13 April 2003
2003 RACE REPORT
Paula Radcliffe, running with the assistance of two male pacemakers,
rewrote the record books yet again with a sensational world record in the
Flora London Marathon of two hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds, knocking an
astonishing one minute and 24 seconds off the time she set in the Chicago
Marathon last October. The men's race was won by the Olympic and world
champion Gezahegne Abera in two hours seven minutes and 56 seconds,
outsprinting four other athletes over the last 400 metres.
Radcliffe's preparations as she attempted to defend her Flora London
Marathon title had been anything but perfect, the runner dislocating her
jaw after colliding with a cyclist during training at Albuquerque, Mexico,
However, in only her third race over the distance, Radcliffe made her
intentions clear from the start, latching on the two pacemakers designated
to run at two hours 16 minutes pace. In fact, they started at a much faster
tempo and Radcliffe's third mile, aided by the descent into Woolwich, was
an electric 4 minutes 57 seconds. This must have been slightly worrying for
Samson Loywapet, one of her pacemakers, who only had a personal best of two
hours and 12 minutes himself.
"I was a bit conscious that the third mile was too fast and I tried to back
off a little bit," said Radcliffe later, and over the fourth and fifth
miles a lead of 20 seconds over the chasing athletes, lead by Romanian
Constantina Dita, was briefly reduced to just 10 seconds. Any sense of a
contest developing, though, soon faded as Radcliffe settled into a
With the Kenyan pacemakers Loywapet and Christopher Kandie running just
ahead of her and to the side, Radcliffe rattled off mile after mile at an
average pace of around five minutes and 14 seconds and pushed steadily
further and further ahead.
The Bedford athlete passed the halfway mark in one hour eight minutes and
two seconds, on schedule to break her own world record by well over a
minute. The Romanian Constantina Dita posted an exceptional time of one
hour nine minutes and 21 seconds at the same marker in second place, but
did not now even have a sight of the extraordinary athlete ahead of her.
In the second half of the race, the Romanian soon started paying for her
first-half efforts and began to fade. Radcliffe, by contrast, appeared to
get stronger after crossing Tower Bridge and, with a succession of miles at
around five minutes and 10 seconds, reached the 30km in a new world record
of one hour 36 minutes and 39 seconds.
By the 19-mile mark, Kandie had resigned his pacemaking duties leaving only
Loywapet to chaperone Radcliffe home. The 20-mile was reached in one hour
43 minutes and 34 seconds, another world record within a world record. Only
at that point did Radcliffe take off the gloves she had been wearing from
The Kenyan Catherine Ndereba continued to race with hat and gloves on, even
though the dawn crispness had by now long left the air. Ndereba had sparked
into life from the halfway mark, overtaking Dita and establishing second
place as her own, but far from making any inroads on Radcliffe's lead,
Ndereba continued to lose ground on the leader.
On a perfect day for marathon running, with temperatures at a lowly 10
Celsius at the start, and rising just six degrees during the race.
Radcliffe also had the assistance of a south-easterly breeze for much of
However, she had to contend with a slight headwind at mile 25, but even so
was still able to up the tempo as she turned into The Mall. With the crowd
roaring her on, the 29-year-old sprinted across the finish line in a time
of two hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, exactly four and a half minutes
(or almost a mile) ahead of Ndereba. "In the last five or six miles I was
struggling a bit and my stomach was cramping," said Radcliffe, who
nevertheless managed her third negative split is as many marathons.
Radcliffe has now established a world mark that is over three minutes
faster than any other athlete, but she is still not prepared to commit
herself to the Olympic marathon in Athens.
The American Deena Drossin took third place in two hours 21 minutes and 16
seconds to set a new American record, breaking the record of Joan Benoit
set in 1985, while three more athletes - Susan Chepkemei, Ludmila Petrova
and Constantina Dita - ducked under two hours and 24 minutes.
The men's race was in marked contrast to the women's event, with a
crocodile of athletes following the pacemaker Eliud Lagat for much of the
distance. Even as the race approached its closing stages, there were still
half-a-dozen athletes in contention and though the Korean Lee Bong-Ju was
dropped, five runners closed in on the finish line together.
Abera, Paul Tergat, Stefano Baldini, Joseph Ngolepus and Abdelkader Mouaziz
were line abreast as they came up The Mall and it felt like an eternity
before the sprint for the finish finally came. The Italian Baldini was the
one to make a dash for the line, but his moment of glory was short-lived.
The 24-year-old Ethiopian Abera, the only runner ever to hold both world
and Olympic titles simultaneously, had looked comfortable throughout the
race, and shortened his stride to sprint easily past Baldini. They were
both given the same time, of two hours seven minutes and 56 seconds, while
the Kenyan Ngolepus was just a second back in third place. Tergat, who has
finished second in the last two Flora London Marathons, again suffered for
his lack of a sprint finish and was fourth.
Frenchman Joel Jeannot won the men's wheelchair race, finishing ahead of
Britain's David Weir and setting a new course record of one hour 32 minutes
and two seconds. The women's wheelchair event went to the Italian Francesca
Porcellato, with second place going to the Welsh athlete Tanni
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