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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Radcliffe raises the standard

In the space of 12 months, Paula Radcliffe has catapulted women's marathon running into unimagined territory.

Since her debut win in last year's London Marathon, Britain's distance queen has improved her own best by over three and a half minutes.

And in taking 1min 53secs off her world record on Sunday, Radcliffe ran more than two minutes quicker than Britain's legendary male marathon runner Jim Peters.

Peters set four world records between 1952 and 1954, bringing the men's mark down from 2:20.42 to 2:17.39.

Radcliffe bettered that by over two minutes on Sunday, in a time that would have won every men's Olympics marathon until 1960.

In 1964, when Britain's Basil Heatley held the men's world record and compatriot Dale Greig the women's, the difference between the sexes was an hour and 14 minutes.

Women's world record
1964: 3:27:45 Dale Greig (GB)
1971: 2:55:22 Elizabeth Bonner (USA)
1981: 2:29:57 Joyce Smith (GB)
1985: 2:21:06 Ingrid Kristiansen (Nor)
2001: 2:18:47 Catherine Ndereba (Ken)
2003: 2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe (GB)
With the men's record now standing at 2:05.38 - set by Moroccan-born American Khalid Khannouchi last year - Radcliffe has reduced that to just over 10 minutes.

And while Britons such as Steve Jones - who set a mark of 2:08.05 in 1984 - have run quicker, only 14 men ran faster than Radcliffe over the 26 miles and 385 yards on Sunday.

"It has narrowed the gap and the women's record probably had to get a lot closer to the men's," Radcliffe told BBC Sport.

"Ten minutes is probably about the right gap and it is going to get a lot harder to improve that.

"But I think there are a lot of women out there who are capable of running faster."

Despite the apparent ease of her Sunday best, Radcliffe did not enjoy the smoothest of build-ups to the race.

Five weeks ago she dislocated her jaw and suffered severe cuts to her knees, hands and shoulders after colliding with a cyclist on a training run in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It will be an awfully long time before Paula's time is bettered

And the 29-year-old revealed how an oil made from the belly of an emu helped heal her wounds in time to race.

"It is a very good antiseptic, anti-bacterial, moisturising oil," Radcliffe said of an Aboriginal remedy also used by Australia's Olympic champion Cathy Freeman.

"I heard about it when Sonia O'Sullivan was also out training in Alberquerque and she said it was very good for cuts and bruises - she uses it on her children for 'nappy rash'!

"So we ordered some on the internet and it seemed to help the cuts heal quicker."

Radcliffe's next marathon will not be until at least next August - should, as seems likely, she opt to run the distance at the 2004 Olympics.

Radcliffe passes her pacemaker
Photo sent in by S Meldrum
Should the schedule allow, Radcliffe may attempt a remarkable double and run the 10,000m beforehand, but she confirmed she will not run another marathon before Athens.

"Should it be the marathon in Athens I want to make sure I go in there fresh and not tired from any other marathons before then," said Radcliffe.

"It is a hard event and requires a lot of physical and mental preparation. But there are other things I want to do.

"I want to race on the track and some shorter distances on the road."

Radcliffe's major goal for the rest of the season will be August's World Championships in Paris, when she is likely to attempt the 5,000m and 10,000m double.

"I will have three weeks' rest now and then I will get into training for the summer season," she added.

"I have been looking forward to this rest for a long time and I enjoy it for the first week or so. But then I get withdrawal symptons and itchy feet again."

Links to more London Marathon 2003 stories


Paula Radcliffe
"The last five miles were tough"

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