Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Paula Radcliffe redeems herself

AP , NEW YORK

Hendrik Ramaala, left, and Paula Radcliffe celebrate victory after winning the men's and women's divisions, respectively, of the New York City Marathon, Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Over one of the toughest courses the marathon offers, against one of the strongest fields ever assembled, Paula Radcliffe ran the way she always does: like a metronome.

It wasn't until the final 180m of the New York City Marathon, when she finally pulled away from Kenya's Susan Chepkemei and into the clear, that anybody -- Radcliffe included -- could be sure she'd won.

Before Sunday, the last image most people still carried around was Radcliffe sitting on a curb in Athens barely 4.8km from the finish line of the Olympic marathon in higher than 38? C, holding her head in her hands.

She was a prohibitive favorite to win there, too, and you'd have to be British to get a sense of disappointment many of her countryman felt at that moment, as well as the trepidation with which most greeted Radcliffe's return.

Some marathoners, like prize-fighters, never recover from their first defeat. That made Radcliffe's decision to run just 11 weeks after Athens, risky enough. That she would choose New York for her comeback was riskier still.

"I felt totally myself," Radcliffe said Sunday. "Nothing like that horrible feeling that I had, nothing like that."

New York offers the toughest of the big-city challenges, an undulating course over a series of bridges that demands patience, punishes runners and results in winning times a good 5 minutes slower than its London and Chicago counterparts.

Yet Radcliffe, who always runs from the front, separated herself from the pack in the first mile and never looked back. And she did it knowing that anything less would likely be considered a total failure.

Hendrik Ramaala of South Africa finished in 2:09:28 for his first marathon victory. Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi of the US was next, 25 seconds behind.

Ramaala, like Radcliffe, got a bit of redemption in this race after pulling out of the Olympic marathon with a groin injury.

"I always said I will win a big marathon one day," he said. "It didn't happen for four years, but I kept on trying. Finally, I made it."

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