World marathon record-holder preparing for “hugely emotional” return to the London Marathon where she is set to start with British championship runners behind elite fields

Paula Radcliffe will continue her tradition of not putting a limit on what she might achieve when she returns to the Virgin Money London Marathon on April 26.

The event had been billed as the world record-holder’s swansong over 26.2 miles but the 41-year-old understandably wants to see how her run in the British capital goes before saying that for sure. After injury problems and the surgery she had on her left foot in 2012, she is relieved to be back running at all and is preparing herself for a “hugely emotional” return to the event at which she experienced such success in 2002, 2003 and 2005.

“I’m expecting it to be emotional and I’m probably underestimating just how emotional,” said Radcliffe, speaking at the London Marathon’s annual lunch event. “It will be emotional for lots of reasons – for the fact that it’s London, for all of the happy memories of growing up and taking part, for all of the times that I couldn’t do it and I think as well for the fact that I couldn’t run at all. I never thought I could be back here. I get emotional just talking about it now.”

“I never thought I could be back here. I get emotional just talking about it now”

Radcliffe’s name was omitted from the list of elite runners announced earlier this month and on Friday organisers confirmed that she is set to start with British championship runners behind the elite fields.

“That would be ideal because then I won’t be running on my own, embarrassing myself!” said Radcliffe. “But I will be enjoying the atmosphere and will hopefully be competitive at that level.”

She added: “For me, I’m kind of thinking I can’t be competitive at the front end of the elite women’s field but I’ll still try and run as hard as I can. It’s the opportunity to go around, to run it hard, but to take in the atmosphere. Just to run the London Marathon, because it’s special.”

After Dennis Kimetto became the first to break 2:03 for the marathon in Berlin last September, talk again turned to the possibility of a sub-two-hour marathon. Then came the consideration of what might perhaps be the equivalent of that mark for women, with the Journal of Applied Physiology arguing that Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 world record set in London in 2003 is at least equivalent to a two-hour marathon for women.

But when it comes to breaking barriers, Radcliffe reiterates how she was always reluctant to set herself a limit.

“I always used to say don’t set a limit but just really tune into your instincts and your body”

“For me, I just wanted to see what I could do. That day (breaking the world record in London in 2003) what was important was that I ran faster than I had done in Chicago and in Chicago what was important was that I ran faster than the existing world record,” she said.

“You need a target to shoot for but what I always used to try and keep in my head is actually you don’t want a limit going into it, so you don’t want to think ‘oh, two hours and that’s it, it’s not possible to run faster than that’ – that is a barrier, because then if you’re running faster than that at mid-way you’ll be thinking you need to slow down and pace yourself more.

“I always used to say don’t set a limit but just really tune into your instincts and your body. Then see where the limit lies, see how fast you can go.”

And that’s what Radcliffe intends to do when she returns to run London in April. Speaking to AW in Gran Canaria last weekend before she clocked 34:16 to win a 10km in Las Palmas, she explained how she hopes to run in the low-2:30s, but she’s not setting a cap and will be running as hard as she can.

Speaking in London on Friday, she added: “I know that I haven’t got the same running mechanics as I used to have and I won’t ever be able to get that back, but I am always a competitive person and I want to do the best that I can on the day.

“It’s more about running pain-free, enjoying it and being able to genuinely say that it was the best that I could do that day.”