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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Radcliffe leaves rivals trailing

By Steve Cram
BBC Sport

If anyone ever doubted it, Paula Radcliffe has proved once again that she is in a league of her own when it comes to the marathon.

Her victory in London on Sunday was another superlative piece of distance running.

One or two athletes thought about trying to go with her in the early stages of the race, but they just can't live with it.

I think it surprises Paula that some of her fellow competitors don't feel as though they can commit to that sort of pace early in the race.

I know she feels that many of her rivals should be running quicker than they are - but she cannot do anything about that and it should not detract from her performance on Sunday.

And all that with an unscheduled toilet stop towards the end.

I must have eaten a bit too much
Radcliffe on her toilet stop

It's not the first time it's happened and at the end of the race, you can't waste time by running off to find the nearest portaloo.

No such drama in the men's race which was won by unheralded Kenyan Martin Lel as the big names fell away.

Lel, who won the 2003 New York Marathon, has been due another good run but he was not expected to win it.

It's difficult to know why the likes of world record-holder Paul Tergat, who ran a very quick half-marathon just four weeks ago, failed to perform.

Last year's winner Evans Rutto and his coach told me before the race he was running well but he produced a time well below his average.

The pace was steady and that makes it even more surprising that Tergat and Rutto could not cover Lel's move when it came.

London Marathon winner Martin Lel
That slow pace helped Britain's Jon Brown pick some people off in the latter stages to finish sixth after he ran a very clever race, sticking closely to Olympic champion Stefano Baldini.

It was a good gameplan but unfortunately, because the race was slow, it meant that although Jon set a personal best, he did not quite get under two hours and nine minutes.

I'm sure he would have loved to have done it - but I'm also sure that it will happen in the future.

But the headlines belong to Paula for a performance I would put up there with her two previous world record runs.

In both those, in Chicago 2002 and London the following year, she was helped by male runners most of the way round.

She did not have that on Sunday and it makes a huge difference when you've got company and people around you taking the pressure off.

I know Paula's critics will not be satisfied.

They will say that she needs to deliver in a major championships - and Paula knows that as well as anyone.

November's win in New York was about getting back on the bike after a disastrous summer Olympics, and Sunday's victory allows her to start building again.

Now she has three weeks off in which I am sure she will decide whether to run the marathon or the 10,000m at August's World Championships in Helsinki.

That decision will be a whole lot easier to make in the knowledge that she is fit and healthy, and with a performance like Sunday's fresh in her memory.


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