Paula Radcliffe to Defend at ING New York 2008, Transcript of Interview, Courtesy of NYRR, Comments by Larry Eder


If one makes the assumption that Yelena Isinbayeva has dominated her event, the pole vault, like few others, then one can imagine the superlatives that could be used to describe Paula Radcliffe and her relationship with the marathon.

There is a difference. Paula Radcliffe has paid a huge price in her relationship with her event. The training, the racing and the price her body has paid over the years in order for her to run 2:15.25 in 2003.

And then, there is the New York City Marathon. In 2004, Paula Radcliffe collapsed in the women's Olympic marathon, and ten weeks later, came back to win the ING New York City marathon by a step, the closest women's finish in the race's history. Last year, ten months after the birth of her daughter, Paula won ING New York once again!

Radcliffe is an unique athlete. She has been willing to pay the price to reach her athletic heights, and because of that, injuries have plagued her career. Her performance in Beijing, where she ran a 2:32 off less than four weeks of decent training is a lesson in focus. Radcliffe wanted to finish an Olympic marathon, whether she would medal or not. She gave it her all, and she finished. And that was good.

Below is the complete transcript of the Interview that Paula did on behalf of the ING New York City Marathon, to be held November 2:


October 1, 2008

Q. What sort of shape are you in now then?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Well, hopefully good shape, I think good enough shape to commit now to running the race and building on that between now and the race. I guess I would hope a little bit ahead from where I was from the Great North last year.

Q. Are you going to run a race before New York?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I'm just looking at that at the moment. It's not confirmed. I would like to have a sharpen up, yes, somewhere, but I don't know where yet.

Q. Can you perhaps tell us a bit of your recovery after the Olympics and when you decided New York was going to be on your agenda?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, sure. I guess we went straight back after the Olympics. I only took five days off, just for the soreness and the stuff to go down in the legs. I hadn't really run hard enough to cause a lot of damage anywhere else because I wasn't able to. So then got back into running. Could just feel a little bit of tightness still in my left calf where it really started in the race.

So then the following week I had the checks that were planned in London which showed that my leg had continued healing all the time I was in Macau and Beijing and hadn't been set back any by the race luckily. But it did show up there was a little bit of kind of inflammation around the base of my spine which had pressed on a nerve and caused the spasming in the race.

So I basically just took the time to recover that. That was just a side effect of I guess jumping back into running pretty quickly. And it settled down normally.

So I just wanted to then sort of concentrate on getting back fully healthy, getting the leg back to the strength it needs to be for running on. So a lot of rehab work, a lot of just basic running, just getting back to getting out twice a day running, without any pressure to race, which is why I've taken until now to confirm in races, because I didn't want to put them down sort of in pen and paper, as it were, and then to sort of push things to get there.

Q. You say "races." Which others have you put yourself down for?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: No. This one, I mean. I didn't want to plan anything.

Q. Can you talk about what it means to you to be able to come back and defend your title. Were there ever times you thought you wouldn't be able to?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, it means a huge amount to me. I think I probably was faced with the choice about four weeks out from Beijing, where I was told, Look, the state of the injury is that we think you could safely make New York, we don't think you can make Beijing, and you have to kind of make a decision. And that was a really hard decision to make because New York is very important to me. In the end, the Olympics won out, and a chance just to give myself a shot of going there and trying it, even though I knew it was a very longshot.

So I think then as I got back into training, when I reached this stage now, to know that I didn't throw away my chance of being in New York means a lot to me. It means that I can go in and really enjoy the race in its own right.

But I think also the fact that I feel like I've missed out on a lot this year, so I'm going to be doubly sort of happy to be out there racing because it is just getting back out there and it's getting back out there in a race that I love.

Q. Going back to Beijing for a second. In the first half of the race, were you already having sort of problems with the calf? I'm wondering from a fitness point of view, do you think you were ready if you weren't having the biomechanical problems?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think, yeah. I mean, first off, I started to feel the calf at about 10K. At that stage it was a little bit of tightness, mostly just kind of the neuro symptoms up and down my calf and the shin. Then I think they went away for a K or so, but then started to get a lot worse. Certainly by halfway, I didn't feel like I was planting my left foot properly. And by 30K, I just couldn't ‑‑ we knew (indiscernible) down that leg.

In terms of the fitness, that's a difficult question because, yeah, cardiovascularly I was fitter and should have run a lot better than that. I think even the running I did in Macau led us to believe that. But what I didn't have was running‑specific fitness and enough time on my legs, which I guess is what caused the calf to cramp up. I just needed to get out there. There is no substitute for running.

And, yes, cardiovascular‑wise I was fit, which probably helped things come together a lot quicker afterwards, but I didn't have the specific muscle fitness to be ready to absorb the shock of going out there and running 26 miles in racing shoes on concrete, on tarmac.

Q. In terms of the fact that you've come back in New York twice before, did that play a part? I'm not sure if "redemption" is the right word, but does that help psychologically?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I mean, yes and no. I think that it has played a good part in it being sort of a comeback place for me. This year I kind of desperately wanted it not to be that, and to be coming back to New York to defend my title in its own right, having achieved what I wanted to achieve in Beijing. But, unfortunately, that's not been the case.

I think, to answer your question, I don't associate New York with being a place where I have to go to get over something bad. But at the same time, yeah, I do kind of have good feelings about the place that, yes, when I go there I can race well and something special can happen there.

Q. How hard was it for you in the aftermath of Beijing mentally when you went home and tried to get used to the idea that it sort of happened again? Was it tough for you for a while?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: You know, it wasn't as hard as it was after Athens because I think I'd gone in knowing that everything is really going against me this year and that it was a longshot. At the same time there was a huge amount of frustration and disappointment there. I didn't feel that what I did in Beijing by any means reflected how hard I worked cross‑training, and, like I said, the cardiovascular shape I was in. However, there were reasons for what happened.

It wasn't like I was searching around after Athens trying to work out what happened, why couldn't I run any further. I mean, I knew what happened. I knew what happened straightaway in the race, that something must have caused my calf to cramp. At the same time I knew I hadn't reinjured my leg or injured the calf in such a way that carrying on to the finish was going to really, really damage it. I just knew by then that it was just going to be a really hard day, in a sense, to get over it, once I'd got over the mental disappointment, like you say, of missing out on another Olympics, almost kind of a feeling that the Olympics are against me. Once I've gotten over that, physically it was just like really like getting over the effects of quite a bad training run where you just try and run too far before you're ready to do it.

Q. Given all the problems you had going in, where do you rank what you did in Beijing? The position wasn't anything like you wanted, but was it up there with the best that you've done?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Oh, no, no. Not to me, no. I mean, it's one of those things where I totally don't regret being there because, like I say, I worked really hard to give myself that chance. And I said that being in the race and giving it a shot is a hundred times better than watching it on TV. Being as I would have watched it on TV and I would have thought, I could have gone there, I could have gone there and done something. But I don't regret it at all.

But if you say to the crystal ball that this is what's going to happen, you plainly haven't done enough running to run well there, then maybe I would have thought differently about it. But you can't do that. It's the Olympic Games. I wanted to go there and give it the best shot that I could.

Q. Just wondered if you had any thoughts about what time you might be capable of in New York? The second part of that, you've got a benchmark time out there of 2:15. Is that a time you still think that you can reach again or improve on?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I don't know. I mean, I don't think that's something that I'd be aiming for in New York this time. Having said that, I do think that I haven't really run as fast as I should be capable of doing in New York.

But it's always a great race there. And I think the two times that I've run there, it has been a race right down to the wire. I've been thinking about winning rather than how fast you can go.

Certainly I think you can go a couple minutes faster than I have done in New York, but it needs to be a particular time trial race or a race. And sometimes that comes about just because you're racing each other and sometimes it doesn't.

So, really, I'm not going in with a time in plan, I'm just going in with the end to it to run the race. I would like to make sure that I'm in shape to run faster than I have done in the past, definitely.

And in terms of beating 2:15, I think that, yeah, with a good strong buildup and things going right for a good time, and then on a fast course, then yeah, I think it's possible. But you would need everything to go right. You would need a really good pretty long buildup where things have gone well, perfect conditions on the day, and then I think sort of a good racer around me or certainly running with pacemakers.

Q. I'm wondering how much of a confidence boost it would be to run a good time in New York? Is that important to you to sort of get some confidence back in competitive racing?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: In terms of getting ‑‑ I think you can get confidence back from winning the race, but, yeah, it is important as well. I think with any marathon buildup, certainly for me, if you put in all the hard work, you kind of want to see that reflected a little bit by the quality of the run as well as just by running the race.

Q. I wanted to ask you, reflecting on last year's race and this year's race, because Gete is back, does that fuel your memories of your great duel and once again meeting?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I guess from the fact that New York was going to be a strong race and a strong field. But I think I've kind of not grown up but I've raced Gete so much that I always know she's going to be a really strong competitor and it's going to be a really strong quality race.

But, I mean, I have memories from the duel last year in New York, but I also have memories of the World Cross Country duels I've had with her and on the track over the years.

Q. Tell me about Isla and how she's enhanced your life even more as she's grown up.

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I mean, she is great. She's really just changing every day and learning something new. Just really starting to pick up words and to sort of babble away, carrying on with her own little character, which is really good. I mean, we took the time when we came back from Athens ‑ sorry, from Beijing ‑ to just sort of take her to the beach. She just learnt to swim, just running, had a field day. It was good to just kind of have that release, almost like a little holiday before getting back into things properly.

Q. Is she running yet?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Oh, yeah, she's quick (laughter). No, we have to watch her. She is running around. She just kind of puts her head down and goes, Go, go, go, allez, allez, allez, and just goes.

Q. I seem to be hearing a lot more discussions in recent years about the marathons being more about competition and less about times, although certainly Berlin cast a slightly different perspective on that. What is your thought about that? Which are more important to you in terms of the wins or the times?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think both are. I think it's always important to win the race and to go there and do that. But I also think that sort of when you are in shape to really run fast and to do it, then you should take advantage of that.

I mean, the marathon, it's something very special and a lot of times you can prepare and you can do all of the hard work and then you can just not be able to have things right on the day either by weather, either by how you feel, or by things that happen in the race.

So I think it's always important that you kind of seize the opportunity and when things are going well that you take advantage of the shape you're in and run fast times, too. But it is essentially racing is what we do, so the most important thing is to win the race, I think.

Q. Are you looking beyond the New York City Marathon at all and maybe preparing for a spring marathon, maybe London? Are you going to take it a race at a time and see how you do in New York, considering your injury?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I think, as I've always done, take each race at a time, sort of take the break to recover afterwards and reassess exactly where I'm going with that.

Q. So you haven't really looked beyond any competitive running beyond New York at this point?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: No, that's the only one that's kind of down in paper at the moment.

Q. Compared with your fastest races in London and Chicago in the very good days, on a scale of 1 to 10 where would you put yourself in terms of fitness going into this race?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I don't clearly know at this stage, is the answer to that. Certainly going into London, I never prepared here, so my routes are slightly different. The preparation for Chicago was here, but I wasn't yet running the same loop that I've used in tempo runs as I had for previous New Yorks.

So I don't know. If I had to guess, I'd probably say somewhere between the two, but I don't really know until I kind of go back and do the sea level workouts going into it.

Q. Somewhere between the two, did you say?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, yeah. I guess between meaning like Chicago and New York at the moment, but I don't really know.

Q. Do you think you can win in New York?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Oh, yeah, definitely, definitely. I mean, that's why I would be going there. I think what Grete did there winning nine was amazing. But to even just win New York three times is a big achievement and would be to me.

So, yeah, I mean, that's certainly the aim in going there.

Q. And if you did win, where would that rank with the other two that you've won?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Right up there, definitely. I mean, I think every one is special in their own right.

Q. You looked so beaten up physically and a little bit emotionally in that mixed zone and the last few miles of the race in Beijing, was there ever any thought or did anyone ever advise you maybe in the long‑term it would be maybe a good idea to miss an autumn marathon?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I think probably a lot of people said that. And I think that I did accept that what was most important, was that I get back, have the chance to see what was happening with my leg, and physically I just reassessed and got everything back strong. I think that's one of the things, when I got back into running, it was very clear to me how weak my left leg was and my whole left side. So I knew I had a lot of strengthening work to be done on that before I could even think about planning races and seeing what happened.

It then worked out that with like four or five weeks of really sort of conscientious strengthening work, I mean, I hadn't been able to do weights all year, because first with my (indiscernible) and then with the leg. So getting back into the gym and just lifting three times a week, doing all the course ability, that seemed to have a very quick effect in how quickly the running turned around. I think then I kind of didn't have to do that whole, I want to run New York, why can't I, almost the whole not pleading thing but convincing thing, because I think people saw that I was just getting into good shape, and that that was a reason to go rather than a reason to pick up emotional pieces or to kind of just ‑‑ it's not kind of going there for redemption, it's just going there because I am in good enough shape to race and I'm happy where I am and I want to get out and race.

Q. You mentioned earlier about you thought the Olympics were against you. What are your thoughts now about the Olympics and your career in them? What realistically are you looking to for 2012?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I don't know. I mean, that's a difficult one. I mean, certainly in (indiscernible), I think that I went there and I achieved probably as good a shape as I've ever been when I went there. But then, of course, in Athens and Beijing, I kind of got the feeling that things didn't go right and things didn't certainly go my way. I certainly didn't get the luck on the day that you'd certainly hope for in an Olympics.

Yeah, I guess you have to go through a certain amount of soul searching and put things together. I don't think my Olympic career is over yet. I know that probably the best years for achieving it might have gone, but then you never know. I mean, Constantina was 38 and she got the luck and she ran really well and she went out there and seized it and deserved it fully in Beijing. So there is still a chance.

And I think, if anything, from all of the World Cross Country things, I learned that you just keep going back, keep going back, keep going back, and there's more chance that it will work out for you.

But you have to also come to terms with the fact that, yeah, my career might finish and it might be that I haven't achieved what I think I'm capable of doing in an Olympic Games. But at the end of the day I think I have to also look at my life and say that, yeah, in other areas I've been very lucky with family, with other things that I've achieved, with the world records. And I still have a huge enjoyment and desire to go out and run each day. I mean, I even just came back from a run last night and said to Gary, Look, I'm just loving it at the moment. This time of year here, the only person I saw on the run was me and a couple of deer. And that does mean a lot to me, probably more than all of the fame associated with doing well at the Olympics would do.

But I think the fact that the Olympics is special because it's what I've wanted to achieve since I started out running. So, yeah, it would be hard to have that missing from my career, but I don't think by any means I need it to define my career or to define me, if that makes sense.

Q. You've only raced I think it's four or five times in the last few years. Do you plan to race more next year if the body is fine?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, definitely. No, definitely. I mean, I think that hasn't been by not wanting to race; that's been by kind of having to struggle with injuries and with getting back from those.

So, yeah, I mean, definitely, getting back to racing more often and just enjoying it are really important to me.

Q. You seemed to have a summer that was dominated by training on a treadmill with your iPod. Have you incorporated any of the cross‑training techniques into your current schedule, your training for New York, or are you sick to death of treadmills and jogging belts, Nordic skiing machines?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Kind of a mix. I mean, honestly, I haven't been back into the pool, apart from that couple of weeks we took at the beach. But that was more just like messing around in the sea. And I haven't been back on the ski machine, but it is something that will continue to be incorporated in my training.

I have been incorporating still the treadmill and some cross‑training in the week because I think everything has its place. I did learn some good ways of maintaining fitness and keeping in good cardiovascular shape, like you say. I just needed to have more time on my feet, which I wasn't able to get going into Beijing.

But in the long run, in marathon training, I think it's always a good thing to be able to mix in some cross‑training just to ease the load on your legs and muscles. I guess, especially as I get older, that's important.

Q. You had such a limited buildup to Beijing, horrendous injury, but still managed to run 2:32. Have you taken any satisfaction after the Games in speaking to one or two of the medics or doctors who told you it was impossible to even reach the Games?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Not really. I mean, to be honest, I think all of those medics who said that they did want me to be there and they did sort of support me in getting there, I think everyone on the medical team who'd worked around me, we kind of went through all that even before the race saying, Look, thanks for working as hard as we did to get to this point. The guys said that they didn't think we would get there. And now that I should be proud of having just got there, but, of course, I wanted to go there and I wanted to ‑‑ I still don't feel that I did perform out there. So it's not like I would be sort of claiming anything by what I did there. I didn't run as well as I hoped to do, even with the buildup I had. But at the same time, like I say, there were reasons for that and I'm not going to crucify myself either, but I did hope we would do better than that.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you keep perservering, you'll keep perservering with the Olympic marathon in the way you did with the World Cross Country. Are your World Cross Country days over now or do you see yourself lining up in that event again?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I don't know. I mean, yeah, it's an event that's very special to me. It's probably something that I would like to see myself going back to. Whether it's in the plans this year, I don't know. I guess it depends on decisions about a spring marathon. But I don't rule it out. I mean, I hope I've still got a good few years left in me yet. Like I say, I would like to get back to kind of just being able to go out and race a lot more. I probably have to get over the fact that I haven't won (indiscernible) since 2005, but I don't think that would be a big hurdle to get over, especially on a cross‑country course.

Q. You mentioned Constantina, 38. Last weekend in Berlin Mikitenko, 36, ran sub 2:20. Do these things give you a bit of a lift, knowing there's athletes two, three, four years your senior turning out the kinds of performances that are good enough to win major events? Does that help you psychologically at all?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, definitely. I think you have to go a lot on how you feel, as well. Certainly from a mitration point of view, from an energy point of view, I don't feel like I'm hanging on by any means. And I've always said that sort of the end of my competitive career will probably be signaled by the fact I don't really have the desire to go out and put in the huge work that you need to put in in training weeks every day.

I don't feel like that at the moment. I feel at the moment like I'm just really enjoying going out and training every day and not having a cloud of injury or something hurting hanging over me.

So I think it's how you feel rather than the actual age on the piece of paper. So at the moment I do feel that I have good runs left in me, yeah. I just need to be able to sort of steer clear of injuries and keep the buildup strong.

Q. You mentioned that 2:15. Is not out of the realm of possibility. When was the last time you had a smooth buildup for a marathon?

PAULA RADCLIFFE: I guess probably going into Helsinki. Into Helsinki, it was a pretty smooth run. It was pretty smooth once I got going into New York last year, it's just that it was short. I guess ideally again this time, but sometimes if you've got the background there, it almost is better. I do feel with a good, smooth buildup that would help.

RICHARD FINN: On behalf of Mary, who I'm sure is sorry that she could not make the call, the connection didn't work from the airport, she's on the plane now, but on behalf of all of us, we'd like to thank everybody joining us. We look forward to seeing everybody here in New York in a few weeks. Again, our special guest Paula Radcliffe, we welcome you back to New York.


FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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