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Paula Radcliffe

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RADCLIFFE'S NEW YORK FLYER

Britain's Paula Radcliffe set the second fastest time ever for a women's 10 kilometre road race on Saturday.

Radclife won the New York "Mini Marathon" in 30 minutes and 47 seconds, smashing the course record of 31:00 set by Norway's Grete Waitz 21 years ago.

The time has been bettered in a 10K road race only by the 30:39 run by fellow Briton Liz McColgan in Orlando, Florida, in 1989.

That Orlando course was flat, but Radcliffe's effort came on a tough course with two major climbs.

In the days leading up to the 30th running of the New York Women's Mini Marathon, much of the attention was deservedly focused on Paula Radcliffe. After all, the World Cross Country Champion has been on a tear as of late, winning six of her last eight races, and finishing in the runner up spot in the other two. Radcliffe seemed slightly uncomfortable with the attention, though, telling reporters on Thursday "It's not just me. There are many other women in the race."

But it was all Radcliffe on Saturday, pulling away from Tanzania's Restituta Joseph at two miles to crush the field in 30:47, shattering the course record of 31:00 set by Grete Waitz in 1980.

Joseph set the early pace, with only Radcliffe covering her initial move at about the 1K mark. "The plan before the race was to keep it steady and open up at about two miles," Radcliffe said, "But Restituta took it out pretty hard and I felt comfortable with that."

By the time the first mile was covered, in 4:59, Joseph and Radcliffe had a five-meter gap on Fernanda Ribeiro in third. Joseph and Radcliffe slowly squeezed down the trigger over the next kilometre, hitting two miles in 9:58 and doubling their lead on the chase pack.

Joseph, who set a Tanzanian national record in the 5,000 meters last Monday, quickly dropped a few meters behind Radcliffe soon after passing the two-mile checkpoint.

The third and fourth miles are the toughest on the course, but Radcliffe continued to build up her lead. "In the third and fourth miles I made a conscious effort to keep pace and remain relaxed and remain strong." Radcliffe said, "I just wanted to keep pace." Radcliffe had a 10 second lead on Joseph at three miles, passed in 14:49, a lead that had grown to 25 seconds by the time Radcliffe had passed through four miles in 19:58.

Further back in the chase pack, Ribeiro, who edged out Radcliffe for the bronze in the Sydney Olympic 10,000, and was expected to challenge here, was experiencing a flare up of a previous injury. She would finish in 7th place. "On the course there were so many ups and downs that I had an inflammation," she said after the race.

Up front, Radcliffe continued to extend her lead over Joseph. "It was unfortunate," Joseph said, "because Paula kept pushing, but the chase pack was not pushing, so I didn't have any help in trying to catch Paula."

Nobody could catch Paula, though, as she blitzed through five miles in 24:48, very close to the world best for the distance. Aware of her proximity to the course record, long thought to be "unbreakable," Radcliffe continued to push the pace. "I didn't want to rest on the fifth mile. I really respect Grete and I just kept pushing it and pushing it."

Radcliffe ran the final 2K in an amazing 5:59, her win netting her $10,000, plus another $6000 in incentives and bonuses. 

The mark was only eight seconds off Liz McColgan's world best set in Orlando in 1989, but David Monti, a road race statistician and New York Road Runners' Elite Athlete Coordinator, believes Radcliffe's run is stronger. "McColgan’s best was set on a very flat course," Monti said, "This is a better mark, as far as I'm concerned."

The Briton finished more than a minute ahead of Joseph, whose 31:53 was her second Tanzanian national record of the week, bettering her fourth-place finish from last year. 

Following Joseph was Florence Barsosio (32:26) and Jane Ngotho (32:33) of Kenya. 

Reigning New York City Marathon Champion Ludmila Petrova of Russia rounded out the top five in 32:36. Gordon Bakoulis, a resident of New York City, was the top American, finishing in 16th. Her finishing time of 35:02 also made her the first Masters Division (40+) finisher.

Portugal's Fernanda Ribeiro, the 1996 Olympic gold medallist and 2000 bronze medallist in the track 10,000 meters, was never in contention. She finished joint-sixth in 32:51 and afterwards needed an ice pack for an inflamed ankle.

More than 3,700 women finished the 2001 New York Women's Mini Marathon.