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Radcliffe all set for London Marathon

Paula Radcliffe, posing in front of the Tower Bridge, is keen to break her world mark when she defends her title in the London Marathon to be run on Sunday. — AP  

LONDON APRIL 9. After recovering from a bloody crash with a cyclist, Paula Radcliffe is ready for the next challenge — breaking her own world mark in Sunday's London Marathon.

A training run almost turned to tragedy a month ago when the 29-year-old Briton was run down by a cyclist in New Mexico.

Radcliffe came away with a dislocated jaw, gashed knees and bruised shoulders, a bloody chin and a ``pretty badly scuffed up heart-rate monitor.''

``I was really scared at the time that something stupid like that could have messed up everything,'' said Radcliffe, who ran the world's fastest time for a woman last fall in the Chicago Marathon.

Her time of 2 hours, 17 minutes 18 seconds was 89 seconds faster than the previous world best set by Kenya's Catherine Ndereba.

Radcliffe isn't talking about her time for Sunday. But race director David Bedford said she could take marathon to a new level if the winds are still and the temperatures are mild.

``If the weather conditions are good, I think this girl can run 2:15,'' Bedford said. ``That's achievable. That's my instinct.''

Radcliffe's bloody crash happened on March 8 on a bike path in Albuquerque, just minutes from the finish of a 23-mile training run. Two weeks earlier in Puerto Rico, she had set a new world best for a 10-km road race (30:21).

As Radcliffe ran by, a young girl cycling with her family inadvertently turned into her path and caught her trailing leg.

``My jaw was the sorest part,'' Radcliffe said. ``I was sore for a couple of days and I had to go to the chiropractor to get my neck sorted out because I'd given myself a bit of whiplash.''

``I couldn't eat an apple for 2-1/2 weeks or anything that needed a big crunch,'' she added. ``When you are running you make certain grimaces, but it's hard with a pain in your jaw. I wanted to screw my face up but just couldn't.''

A star in Britain, Radcliffe is largely anonymous elsewhere — as the crash illustrated.

``I don't think they knew what they'd done really,'' Radcliffe said. ``As far as they knew, they had just knocked over some runner out on a Saturday run.''

Radcliffe will face a world-class field on Sunday that includes Ndereba, Russia's Ludmila Petrova, Kenya's Susan Chepkemei, Romania's Constantina Dita and Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu.

The top American is Deena Drossin, who finished second at the World Cross Country Championships in Switzerland on March 29.

The favourite in Sunday's men's race is Ethiopia's Olympic and World champion Gezahegne Abera. Moroccan-born American Khalid Khannouchi, who set a world best last year in London (2:05:38), withdrew with tonsillitis.

In her marathon debut a year ago, Radcliffe won the London race in the second fastest women's time in history (2:18:56). Six months later, she won in Chicago with a new world best time.

With Britain's Mark Steinle out of the race, Radcliffe could finish as the fastest Briton — man or woman.

Her time in London last year came in an all women's field. Chicago was a mixed race, where she had pacemaker help.

This year London officials will use half-dozen male pacemakers in the women's field, making it a ``mixed'' field in the eyes of the IAAF, the world governing body of track and field.

Radcliffe didn't ask for the pacemakers. It was the idea of London organisers, who want to see a world mark on their course.

This may be Radcliffe's last marathon until next year's Athens Olympics. — AP