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WORLD MARATHON MAJORS MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 3, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Thanks to everyone for joining us today for a really exciting announcement. I'd like to introduce now Mary Wittenberg to give us some opening remarks.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you. On behalf of all of us at New York Road Runners, thank you for joining us. We've got some good news. This is I think a great day for our sport. We have had an amazing year of marathon running with big races in London, Boston, obviously one of the greatest races ever last weekend with Haile breaking the world record in Berlin. We're going to head towards a super Chicago this weekend.
This is icing on the cake and so much more for our entire sport, to welcome back to marathon running after an over two-year absence, one of the greatest that's ever lived. I've called her a living legend before. That's absolutely what she is. We are so pleased to announce that Paula Radcliffe will return to the ING New York City Marathon this year.
Paula has won three of the majors, London, Chicago before, as well as New York in 2004, and brought us in 2004 the best women's race we've ever had. We're looking very much to this year and to welcoming Paula back.
Paula, do you want to say a few words and we'll open it up for questions.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Sure. I just want to say I'm really pleased to be coming back to New York. I'm excited about coming back and racing. I took my first step back racing at the weekend with a half marathon in the Great North Run. Was a bit disappointed with it. But looking at where I've come in the five weeks to get to there, thinking about where I can get in another five weeks, I'm really excited that I can be very competitive in the race in New York and be right up there with everyone else.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and start with questions.
Q. Tell us why New York. Why not Chicago, Japan? Why New York?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: A number of reasons. I mean, I had in the back of my mind that the next step would either be a marathon or going on to some shorter races after the Great North Run. Obviously time-wise Chicago is a no go because there's no time to get ready for that. New York kind of fitted in perfectly really. It gives me enough time to come back and to do another good three weeks, good mileage here. It's not too long, it's not too short. On top of that, it's a great field.
Like I said before the Great North, I want to go back into races that I can get my teeth into and that are really going to get me fired up in training and are a good competitive starting place back. So I want to be able to get in there and be competitive with the rest of the best in the world. I think that New York is a great place to do that.
On top of that, it's a special place to me as well, going back to when I started with the Fifth Avenue Mile, the 10 Ks in Central Park, and then obviously to my race there in 2004. It's a great city that I really enjoy being in and visiting. But to race there, be there marathon week, it's a really special place.
Q. You were saying at the weekend you were going to make this decision in the car on the way home. How long did it take you before you knew you were doing New York?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Well, it took us a lot shorter than it took us to actually drive home sitting on the A1 (laughter).
I wanted to discuss it with Alec as well. He was there at the finish, just to see was that a solid start, did I feel good, pull up well out of it, which was one of the main things. I actually felt better in the last mile or so than I had earlier on in the race. And I felt that the stamina was there in the race. It was the leg speed that wasn't. My foot locked up a little bit. We looked at that on Monday. We're sure that's okay. It was getting back into racing shoes. So then it was just, was it something I wanted to do. That was, yes, obviously it was something I wanted to do. I just decided that I could probably get more out of starting back into marathons rather than doing the other shorter races and I could be ready in time.
Q. You said you wanted to get back into competitive racing. Looking at the lineup, it certainly looks very competitive. You have the defending world champion, Catherine Ndereba. Is that one of the markers you're looking forward to in Beijing?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think whenever you race Catherine, it's always going to be a very good race. She's definitely one of the people that you look to. But that field is loaded. There are a lot of people in there. Jelena has a very proven record in New York. Grigoryeva. Gete ran well at the weekend. I've probably missed loads of people because it is a very good field.
I think that's the most important thing, is just to get back into a very good field and race well. I'm not sort of looking at one person above anyone else. It just is a very highly competitive field, as the field will be in Beijing. I think that's what I need to do. Looking between now and Beijing, what I want to do is to get into very competitive races and race them and win them.
Q. Coming back into competitive racing after so long off, having a child, was it tougher than you expected? Can you tell me some of the tougher parts of doing all that.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: To be honest, the racing was the great part. The hardest part was not being able to get back into racing sooner and coping with the delays that I've had related to the childbirth, over the summer, not being able to be in a (indiscernible). To be honest, when I got back to the North Great Run, was up there in the race hotel, it didn't feel like I'd been away that long. It just felt like I was getting back to something I enjoyed doing. I was excited about it.
I think in the race, obviously it blew a few cobwebs away when Tara threw in the fast miles, I had difficulty responding fully to those. It was only hard as it would ever be hard getting beaten in a race because you don't want to get beaten. I'm just excited and pleased to be back.
Q. When you found out you were pregnant, when you had your daughter, how did you expect it would go? What was your plan? How quickly did you find out it wasn't going to work out like that?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think probably, to be honest, it was the opposite way around to the way I anticipated it would go. I anticipated to have to (indiscernible) a lot more through the pregnancy, and to maybe stop running for the last few months, not to be able to run the whole way through, to feel a lot more uncomfortable, to feel sick. Obviously because it was something we planned and really wanted, I was prepared for all that and quite happy to deal with it.
As it was, I had an easy pregnancy, didn't feel that sick at all through it, was able to run right through. My problems were coming back after the labor, which I guess I hadn't anticipated. I thought I would be able to bounce back faster. But if you look at it, it was probably just the one mistake we made in trying to come back a little too quick at the beginning and certainly not respecting it when it was still a stress reaction before it progressed to the full stress fracture.
So that's been the hard bit, but I've learnt lessons from it for next time. Certainly all of the strengthening work and the core work that I had to do to get back after the injury, after the pregnancy, I think has really benefited me in other ways as well and will keep going and benefitting me.
Q. For the next few weeks, where will you be basing yourself? Specifically since your concern seems to be with the speed, what kind of changes and particular workouts to address that will you be doing?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Well, we got back here to the Pyrenees, so we're here in Font Romeu for the next two and a half, three weeks. We'll be based here.
Speed-wise, I think I've been doing the sessions, it's just a case of getting a few more weeks of doing those behind you, keeping on with the track sessions as they always are for my marathon preparations. Also I think probably a big factor will be that I will come down from altitude at least sort of 15 days before the race, whereas before the Great North Run, I only came down on the Tuesday. So that makes a difference in that you just get used to running faster times at sea level the final few weeks, which I hadn't had going into the Great North.
Q. To be totally clear on the selection for Beijing. Do you think even if you do extremely well here, you would be expected to show up? You might have your own reasons for wanting to go to London, but would you be expected to show up in London in April?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: If I ran decent in New York? I think we're lucky we're not as -- the selection criteria is not as strict as it is in the U.S. There is always a discretionary place available for the selectors, whether you run the trials or not. I think the way I'm looking at it now is to come back and run well in New York and to the luxury of choosing whether or not I need to run again before Beijing.
Q. You've always been known as such a single-minded, focused competitor. I'm wondering what it was like for you to shift priorities for a time, and maybe that was a real good mental break for your career?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: You mean while I was pregnant?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think it came naturally because it was something that I really wanted, something inside me that I really needed to look after. I think it's just part of that. As much as I have an instinct to be highly competitive and push my body very hard, as soon as I had another little thing to think about, that was also a huge priority to me. The mother's instinct maybe kicked in.
But everything was -- obviously I still wanted to do the training. I still got a lot of enjoyment from the training and the running, but it was easy for me to keep looking at the heart rate monitor and not to overstep that mark, just to look after her, keep everything safe.
Q. Do you find you've been refreshed by the mental break from not competing?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I definitely find, yeah, that I'm more fired up to compete, more likely to definitely stick with it sort of in training when I'm really, really tired, whereas before I might say, you know what, just take tonight off, I don't want to do that. I gave the example when I was up in Newcastle a couple weeks ago, we had a really bad hail storm. Gary and I got caught out in it. I think probably if that had been before the pregnancy, the stage I was at then, I would have thought, I'm not going to get so much out of a 40-minute run tonight, I'll just call it a day now. But I didn't, I carried on through that. I think that is just because I've missed it such a lot.
I have to say that as important as Isla is to me, as much as I enjoyed being pregnant, I was very glad to get my body back afterwards and be able to return to how I used to train and putting that much more into it.
Q. How do you balance your day now? Do you run at a different time of the day than you used to? Shorter? Longer?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: We're very lucky with Isla. She's very adaptable, very good, sleeps through the night totally like 8 till 8, even still 9 some days. My routine is pretty much the same as it always was. It's hard to remember what life was like before Isla.
We basically get up the same time. She has to have breakfast while we have a drink and get ready. She goes to the crèche while we do the main session in the morning and a gym session. We pick her up. She naps while I nap in the afternoon. Gary just looks after her at night. I guess the only difference is I run alone at night more than I used to or else she's there in the same area with Gary in the baby jogger but not actually running with me.
Q. Do you use a baby jogger at all with her?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I do sometimes. But Gary uses it more, to be honest, just because my runs have to be a bit quicker. She loves going faster. It's just if I was pushing it, I wouldn't be running as fast (laughter). But I guess the only difference is when you travel, just have to be a bit more organized with things for her and then sometimes sort of my suitcase is half full of her stuff as well.
Q. Coming back from the pregnancy, do you think that's going to affect the way you approach this race? Is it possible you'll be tentative, still learning about your body?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: No, I mean, I think in terms of learning about my body, my body feels pretty much there. There are some areas that I just need to work on. But generally it feels pretty much as it used to be. I think it will be sort of a step back into racing. I'm not expecting to come right back in at 2:15 shape. That obviously I want to save for Beijing. But I do want to be right in there sub 2:20 and be competitive with everyone else.
In terms of getting back into racing, I think it's just -- whatever the circumstances coming in, you're always going to be extremely excited about the race, up for the race. I think probably because I've been away so long, that will just be magnified a little bit and be a little bit more up for it, a little bit more excited about it rather than nervous because I haven't raced for so long.
Q. Is the big goal now Beijing? I'm assuming you're going to do one distance at Beijing.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, definitely just the marathon in Beijing. Yeah, that's the big goal up there now. The other goals in between here and then are still really important.
Q. You know the course from 2004. You know who's running. Can you put a time on what you think it will take to win. Obviously you'd like to win. How fast do you think you're prepared to go? What do you think it will take?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Well, I mean, it's difficult because when you have such a good field, often everyone can be watching each other and the winning time can be slower. When I ran in 2004, I probably wasn't in as good a shape as I would want to be going into it now. But I was still able to win the race and be competitive.
Gary informs me he ran it last year. He informs me it's a lot faster than everyone thinks it is, and you could be able to win it in a decent fast time.
I think with the quality of the field assembled, you definitely have to be in good shape. I would say you have to be in sub 2:20 shape.
Q. They're not going to be using pace setters in New York. Does that have an impact on you? What are your thoughts about that?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Doesn't usually. I think it's just, like I said, with the quality of the race, I think the fact there's no pace setters isn't really going to matter because it is a very high-standard race. I think women's marathoning, we're probably a little bit sort of less used to thinking about pacemakers than the men anyway because we do have that difficulty, anybody getting often to halfway in the race anyhow.
Q. I may have misheard. Paula, did you say you wanted to run sub 2:10?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I'd love to (laughter). Maybe not this time.
Q. What is your realistic goal?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: My goal is to come in and to be competitive and to win the race. I was saying I think to be there and to have realistic intentions of winning the race, I think you need to be in sub 2:20 shape. Whether that actually pans out and it's won in that time is a whole different story, but I think you need to go into it in that shape.
Q. Could you characterize what drives you to continue to want to compete at the highest level of the sport.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think because it's something that I still love and I get a huge buzz and a lot of enjoyment out of. I'm naturally a competitive person. Marathoning is what I'm best at. It's something that I've really enjoyed ever since I moved to the marathon in 2002. As I say, I think that brings out the best in me. As long as I still have the motivation to do all the training, to be able to come out and race marathons, I think I will always have the motivation to come out and race them. It's having that motivation to knuckle down to do the weeks and weeks and slogging away in training. I still have that. I found I really missed that when I was pregnant. If anything, that sort of underlined to me I'm a long way from being done yet and from wanting to step back and retire.
Q. Speaking of retirement, seems like the only thing you haven't accomplishment is the Olympic gold medal. Turning to Beijing, the heat, your asthma, the air quality, you've done a few things to start preparing for that.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: We're obviously looking at making sure that my asthma is totally under control. Going into that, I will be traveling with my Peak Flow and adjusting it as I need to. Running in the heat and humidity is something that in the past I've acclimatized pretty well to. Again, it's making sure that you're acclimatized well and cope well with that.
The other thing is just looking at other factors, other allergens and things that might be around in terms of pollen and stuff like that, making sure I'm recovered for that.
But I think, like anything else, if you're in the best shape you can be in, you handle the conditions. Yes, conditions may make the time slower, make things tougher, I think you have to make sure you're getting yourself there in the best shape you can be and as well-prepared for the conditions you can be, then just get on and race it.
But, yes, that is obviously something that really keeps me motivated and keeps me fired up at the moment, is that I don't feel I've got the best out of myself at an Olympics yet, and that's important. I equally don't see if I did accomplish everything I ever dreamed of doing in Beijing, I don't see myself retiring in 2009. I still feel I have a lot in me and it is important to me to try to carry on at least through 2012.
Q. Did not winning on Sunday play a part in you wanting to run quickly to get a victory into your system sort of thing?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: No, I don't think so. I mean, obviously I wasn't very happy to be beaten, and certainly be beaten so decisively as well. That fires me up to go back in and train harder.
But in terms of the next race, I think even if I had won, I still would be looking to move on and to probably hopefully go in this direction, too.
Q. Last week you said you were doing a hundred miles a week anyway. How much harder can you train?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Training harder doesn't mean running more miles. It means putting that little bit extra, that extra 5% effort into it, doing the sessions quicker. I won't be upping my mileage than what it has been over the last bit because that's pretty much my maximum, it's just running the sessions harder.
Q. Could you outline what you need minimum to run the Beijing marathon next year, what are your obligations?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Sorry? What I need minimum to do the Beijing marathon?
Q. What is your minimum requirement with the selectors to run in Beijing marathon?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I don't know. I think that's a question you need to ask the selectors. The way I'm looking at it, I need a qualifying time and I need to be in shape to go there. I wouldn't go myself if I wasn't in shape to go in there and to be where I wanted to be.
Q. You need a qualifying time.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I'm sure you need a qualifying time, definitely. I don't envisage not having that, though.
Q. You've opted for New York. Were you considering running Tokyo or possibly London? Would that have been leaving it too late?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: No. I think I ran London and went on and ran Helsinki afterwards. That was possible, as well. They were all options. I think because of the delays I've had getting back into this year, really the question was whether I could be ready for an autumn marathon or whether it would have to be later in the year.
Q. You spoke earlier about goals in between now and Beijing. You said you had other goals. Can you say what these might be and would they embrace the World Cross-Country next spring?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: That's definitely an option in there, I think especially because it's in Edinburgh. But, yeah, when I said that, it was very open goals because this is the only one that's really decided on at the moment. I will go into that, then I'll take a break afterwards, then I'll plan from there, where to go from there. I guess it means I'm not going to be starting back training till the end of November, I'll make decisions on where I'm going, it will be middle of December.
Q. Edinburgh remains a definite option you might consider?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yes, definitely. It depends I think on whether you do another spring marathon or not. I haven't, to be honest, looked at the difference between them if that were an option. Everything would be sort of planned to, like I say, make sure it works the best way it can do going into Beijing.
Q. New York in 2004, maybe you can reflect on what that meant for you in your career after what happened in Athens, if that personal symbolism could inspire you this year?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think it probably definitely can because I think going back in 2004, at the time I just -- when I actually called up the organizers, I think I knew a few weeks before, said, I want to come race, is it possible? They said yes. At the time I was just thinking about getting back to racing, getting back to doing something I really wanted to do. It was only when we got there and sort of did all the press premarathon, I thought people think this is a lot bigger deal. People think things are never going to be the same again after Athens. It was something that never crossed my mind. It was a race I wanted to win, a race I hadn't been able to do yet and hadn't won. So it was another one to tick off my list, plus a great competitive race, New York being a special place to me.
I think the way the race went, it was probably even more so afterwards that I saw it was actually probably a bigger deal going into New York than I had thought about it. At the same time I have very happy memories of the race, of running well there, running well there in other races, too. I think that's always a good place to start when you're coming back and looking for a race where you want to come back and run very well.
Q. Has anybody done the math on the World Marathon Majors rankings that if Paula were to win New York, what does that do to get to and Jelena?
MARY WITTENBERG: Basically what happens now is Jelena has to finish in the top three and beat Gete to win.
Q. That's regardless of what Paula does?
MARY WITTENBERG: Yes. The relevance Paula has to the race, it's another competitor in the way of winning the race or coming in second or third. One could argue it helps Gete a little bit more. Take a look at World Marathon Majors.com and you can run out the scenarios.
Q. I was hoping somebody else had done that.
MARY WITTENBERG: The basic is it's another person in the way of the win or the podium.
Q. Do you have any interest in pursuing the 2007/8 Marathon Majors title in addition to going after Beijing?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think honestly first and foremost is making sure everything is perfect, as near as it can be, going into Beijing. Having said that, I've learnt before, where I really backed off before Athens, there are no guarantees in this world, you need to just get on and do what you enjoy doing and what you want to do in terms of racing as well.
But I don't want to do anything that will jeopardize, if that makes sense, or take any risks with my performance in Beijing. Having said that, if it works out that things go well with the World Marathon Majors, as well, yeah, it's an option, but it's definitely a secondary thing to Beijing.
Q. In terms of the Olympics next year, is that the be all, end all in terms of your career? If you don't win in Beijing, will you look at your career as something is missing or will you be satisfied with what you achieved?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Oh, a difficult question. I mean, I think -- I don't even want to say.
Q. Not implying it's not going to happen.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think if you stop my career now, but I don't even think about that because I still feel I have a lot more to do. Even after Beijing, I still see that I might have another Olympics in me. It's hard because it is something that's very important to me, it's something that feels missing, but it's not something that I feel kind of every day is like a huge thing around my neck. At the same time, it's something that I really want. Is that making sense? I don't feel like it's something that totally weighs down on me. Like if you said I couldn't have Isla ever, a child ever, that would be a bit more important. But it is something that's important to me, too.
Q. I think we all remember the sign you held at the Edmonton World Championships about getting drug cheats out. Do you think progress has been, is being made in the fight against doping, if Athens was cleaner than Edmonton, and if you think Beijing can be cleaner than Athens? How much confidence do you have in the progress that's being made?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I think the key is that we are making progress. It is moving forward. I think, as most of the clean athletes are going to say to you, it's not where it needs to be yet, but we are getting there. It is moving forward. Still needs to be improvements in the testing. There's a lot more research going into it, the blood profiling they're doing is working in terms of they know a lot more where to target now. But we still need to improve of accuracy of the testing. I think there be so many things out there that apparently can be out of the system so fast, that it is a little bit hit-and-miss and you target, target, target until you catch. We have seen evidence of that happening over the last year or so, people being caught. I think that is working as a bigger deterrent. As we improve the testing further, that's going to work as a greater deterrent.
So, yes, I do see it moving forward, but I think there's a ways to go yet. I think we as athletes need to cooperate as much as possible, which is what we're trying to do on the IFF Athletes Commission. And certainly something like the Christine (indiscernible), we do still -- we do need to sort of play by those restrictions and abide by them and make sure we notify as much as possible about the whereabouts because it is very important they can test wherever, whenever.
Q. I'm guessing you would like to see more out-of-competition testing?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yes.
Q. Not just in the developed countries but all over the world, correct?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah. I mean, I think it needs to be a fair thing. At the moment if there's a lot of competition testing going on in developed countries, just because there's a lab nearby, there isn't in this country over here because they haven't got a lab nearby, clearly that's not fair. People who want to cheat are going to be motivated to do so and are going to know where to go and train, where they're not going to be tested out of competition so much. It needs to be clamped down on. Yes, out of competition needs to be something that any athlete, wherever they are, knows the next day or in the next hour someone to come knock on the door and ask for a sample.
Q. Earlier in the conversation you were talking about your pregnancy being easier than expected and coming back more difficult. You made the comment, I have learned some lessons for next time. Assume next time will be somewhere between Beijing and London?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah, you can assume it's definitely not going to be before Beijing. I don't want a massive gap either. Yeah, fingers crossed, things would happen okay. Put it this way, it's not in the planning yet.
Q. You want Isla to have a sibling that's not too much younger?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Yeah. I mean, I don't want one that's seven or eight years younger. But it is something that has to be planned into mommy's career, too. We haven't sat down and looked at anything like that now. We're just enjoying her at the moment.
Q. Can you say when you first thought about running in New York. You said you decided shortly after the recent race.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Probably about four or five months pregnant, I knew it would be an option. I was kind of then thinking maybe would London be an option. That would surely be too soon. Yeah, I think because I missed racing during my pregnancy, I was thinking of lots of places where I could come back and race afterwards. New York was definitely up there through that.
Q. I'm not sure how you can answer, but in terms of your career, being away for two years, does the commercial aspect play a part in what marathon you choose now?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: No, not really, to be honest. I think it could probably put the two things together. What I look for is a really competitive race, a very well-organized race, and I think you're probably going to find a lot of the best competitive races tend to be in the bigger big city marathons maybe because other people decide on commercial things.
But, no, for me, really it has to be a race that puts the fire in me to do the training. To be honest, the commercial stuff is just left to Gary. I sort of spring the problem on him and say, I want to do that race.
Q. What is it about New York that puts the fire in you? The setting? The whole occasion?
PAULA RADCLIFFE: I don't know. I mean, the first time I went there was to run the Fifth avenue Mile in '95 or '96. I think it was '95 even. Gary and I went a week before. I think we must have walked about every inch of Manhattan. Just the first day running in Central Park, you feel the buzz. We thought there was a race going on. It was just everybody else out on a Sunday morning in Central Park. It's just something about the atmosphere of the city that I really, really love. Then I think when you put all of the marathon runners there that have come in for the race, that builds the atmosphere even more. You can be walking around and you just know these are runners around you, but they're also really excited about being in New York as a city.
It just seems to embrace the race. The atmosphere along the route is very special, too. Like I say, it's just a city that I like to visit anyway even if I'm not there running.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you so much, everybody. We're so honored to have Paula back. Paula has become like family to me and to all us at New York Road Runners. For us, Paula is, as I said, the best women's distance runner ever, essentially the world's best marathoner. We're most excited about Paula, I think Paula is a terrific model for people of all ages, model for a way to live a life. We appreciate her commitment and her fortitude and her tremendous enthusiasm. Can't wait to have you back, Paula.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: Thank you.
MARY WITTENBERG: We'll forever be proud to be Isla's first marathon.
PAULA RADCLIFFE: She's looking forward to it, too.
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