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Paula in the ripe mood for Big Apple...

Byline: BY DAVID MARTIN

PAULA Radcliffe today contests her first race since the Olympics confident it will help provide an inspiration to defend her New York Marathon title next weekend.

Radcliffe has deliberately chosen the Bupa Great South Run - which with almost 20,000 entries is one of the world's biggest 10-mile races - including some world-class opposition capable of closely challenging and even beating her.

Australian Benita Johnson - like Radcliffe a former world cross-country champion - Great North Run runner-up Magdalane Mukunzi and fellowKenyan Martha Komu, who was fifth in the Olympic marathon, will fully test the Briton.

Radcliffe has recovered from the injuries, which wrecked her Olympic ambitions in Beijing where she finished 23rd, but she is under no illusions she faces a real battle over a totally flat course in Portsmouth.

But it is exactly the preparation she wants before bidding for a third NewYork crown.

The 35-year-old will defend the title she won 12 months ago following her initial success three years earlier when she also made a quick return to racing following the Athens Games.

Radcliffe, who has been running around 140 miles a week since returning to full-time training three weeks after Beijing, is adamant she has finally put her injury woes behind her.

She admitted: "The training has been structured towards the marathon, but there is no reason why I cannot come out and run really well over 10 miles." Sharpen-up Radcliffe, running her first professional 10-mile race, added: "Success will be to win the race, feel good and blow out the cobwebs, race-wise.

"It is a bit of a sharpen-up, essentially using it to replace my last tempo run in training."

Radcliffe, well aware losing to her overseas rivals is a strong possibility, insisted that would not detract in her bid to triumph in the "Big Apple" next Sunday.

"I cannot think of any reason why it will affect next week, it should all come together, and hopefully it will be a good one here and a better one there.

"Next week is the bigger of the two - but this is still important,"

Radcliffe insisted, aware she will almost certainly need to beat Jill Boltz's UK record of 51minutes 41seconds if she is to win.

Radcliffe claims chasing the record is not on her agenda but an attack will be bolstered by the fact that when she ran the world's fastest half-marathon five years ago in the GNR, she went through 10 miles in an unratified time of 50mins 1sec.

That performanceis 48seconds quicker than Lornah Kiplagat's world-best mark achieved by the Kenyan-born star who now represents the Netherlands, two years ago in Zaandem.

Radcliffe said: "This week isn't about breaking records - it's about sharpening and tuning up for next week. I just want to go and have a really good run-out."

World marathon record holder Luke Kibet will defend his title with fellow Kenyan Bernard Kipyego and Jose-Manuel Martinez, the runner-up for the last two years, his biggest rivals.

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BACK IN THE RUNNING: Paula Radcliffe competes in the Great South Run today
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 26, 2008
Words:511
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