Athens 2004 to honor top marathon runner

World marathon record-holder Paula Radcliffe has been invited to be the guest of honor at November’s test race on the marathon route for the 2004 Olympic Games. It could be an important opportunity to get an early look at the course for the Briton, who has been struggling with injury and withdrew from last week’s World Athletics Championships in Paris because of a problem with her shin. Radcliffe will not be running in the race. «We have invited Paula Radcliffe to be honored during this year’s marathon and start the race,» an official from Olympics organizers Athens 2004 told Reuters. Radcliffe, 29, has run only three marathon races so far. In her first race, the 2002 London Marathon, she won in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 56 seconds, nine seconds behind the then world record, held by Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba. Radcliffe took the world record at the Chicago Marathon last October, when she ran the distance in 2 hours, 17 minutes and 18 seconds. She improved on that at this year’s London Marathon, when she finished in 2:15:25, nearly two minutes ahead of the top British man. The 42.195-kilometer (26-mile) classic course mainly follows the route run by an ancient Greek soldier to Athens from a battlefield at Marathon, which gave the race its name. It goes from the east coast of the Attica region to the capital’s Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the first Games of the modern era in 1896. A major challenge for runners, apart from the anticipated scorching August sun, comes in an uphill stretch that begins around the 17-kilometer (10-mile) mark and continues for about 15 kilometers (9 miles). Local athletics officials said early knowledge of the course and its challenges would be crucial for competitors in preparing for the marathon. (Reuters/Kathimerini)

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