World record-holder draws curtain on her magnificent marathon career by running 2:36:55 in the British capital

Paula Radcliffe bade farewell to her competitive marathon career on Sunday as she made an emotional 26.2 mile journey through the familiar streets of the British capital in the Virgin Money London Marathon.

It has been 12 years since Radcliffe clocked her 2:15:25 world record to take the women’s marathon event to another incredible level and 10 years since she last raced in London, running 2:17:42 to set the also still-standing women-only world record. Her return to the event to run behind the elite fields with British championship runners was filled with smiles and tears, and despite not aiming for a specific time after an injury-interrupted build-up, the 41-year-old ran 2:36:55 which included time spent waving thanks to the crowds and joining hands with a club runner in the final straight to give recognition to Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen’s hand-in-hand finish at the first edition of this event 35 years ago.

“I knew it would be emotional and it was so emotional,” she said. “I nearly lost it at Birdcage Walk … I wanted it to last forever.

“I was looking to finish holding hands with someone. I always wanted to run with my dad but never managed it so I did it in spirit instead,” Radcliffe added, the three-time London Marathon winner having watched her father run the course as an 11-year-old.

Describing the atmosphere and the support of the crowds, she said: “I thought it was loud when I raced in 2002, 2003 and 2005 but I’m sure today was even louder.

“I felt the Achilles twinge at seven miles but it was okay except for uphills and downhills or twists. I think there’s a magic about it (the London Marathon) that helps you to get more out of yourself than you thought possible.”

After a first 5km split of 17:27, Radcliffe passed half way in 77:03 before going through 30km in 1:50:22 and 40km in 2:28:25.

“I came in underprepared,” explained Radcliffe, who had been enjoying a positive build-up to this weekend’s action before suffering an inflamed Achilles while training in Kenya. “I know I set out too fast but I just wanted to savour it and enjoy it. It was so special and I’m going to really miss it. I’ve been so lucky to have a career that is also my hobby. This is not the end, I will still be out running but not competitively.”

» See the April 30 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine for more on Paula Radcliffe’s marathon farewell together with reports, news, results and photographs. An online report covering the men’s race action can be found here, while a women’s online race report is here