Belfast Telegraph

A London marathon finish for Paula Radcliffe

By Billy Weir

Just when you say goodbye to one sporting legend another one comes panting along, her head waggling from side to side and like AP McCoy, proving that sporting excellence isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

I have to say Paula Radcliffe's achievements are a bit like her socks, long but pale into insignificance in comparison with McCoy's, but it was fitting that her last tilt at the London Marathon, or not as the case may be, dominated proceedings on Sunday.

Hours of coverage on the Beeb started and ended with Radcliffe, Gabby Logan (pictured) reaching levels of simpering never witnessed before, and in between times some of the main runners got the odd mention or two. And Chris Evans.

I love marathon running. Hold on, let me just clarify that, I mean the concept not the actual running bit as the last time I ran with any intent Snickers wasn't even on the horizon, but what's not to love about a sport that has some of the best names on the planet.

Pick any four east African athletes, men or women, and they will sound either like a bowls rink from north Antrim or Nairobi Presbyterian Women's Association on their way to a tray bake convention, and thus it came to pass on Sunday as the main protagonists in the men's race were Wilson, Dennis, Stanley and Emmanuel (Uel to his chums) and Edna, Mary, Florence and Jemima. Oh, and don't forget Paula.

Just once it would be nice to see a Tiffany Tufa or a Jamie Kipchoge, and you wonder is the Mombasa Marathon dominated by people from Chingford and Hackney?

The main thrust of the day though was to pay homage to Paula, who has inspired thousands of people to run, but given the state of British athletics, it's just a shame she couldn't inspire them to run a bit faster, with few east African runners turning up dressed as Spiderman or a dinosaur.

"The days of British athletes contending are long gone," admitted commentator Steve Cram.

"I wonder if we'll ever see those days again?" mused Brendan Foster beside him, and the simple answer is 'no' because of those pesky Africans.

They are simply a class apart, they live for their sport and don't get half the plaudits they deserve, given that very few of them get the pampering that Britain's finest get, and yes, I may make fun of their names that hark back to dark colonial days but until our sports administrators stop mollycoddling (and she isn't a runner) athletes then the Paula Radcliffes of this world will be the very rare exception. Rant over.

"She made it acceptable for women to get out on the streets, get a bit sweaty and work hard," concluded Cram as minds boggled across London, and he then cast a small hand grenade by saying she was, "arguably Britain's greatest ever athlete".

That's a debate for another day. "It's been all about Paula," finished Logan as we said goodbye.

Oh, and for the record, the races were won by Tigist Tufa and Eliud Kipchoge. Tiffany and Jamie couldn't make it.

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: Robbie Savage and Alan Shearer displayed some of the worst bickering between two grumpy old men on a Sunday night since Waldorf and Statler were in their pomp on the Muppet Show. Mind you, it’s unlikely Jim Henson would have created something as horrible as Savage and Shearer, although at least we know what the ‘M’ stands for in MOTD2 now.

THE BAD: I have yet to have the pleasure of watching a whole episode of ITV’s new sporting panel show Play To The Whistle but I caught the start on Saturday night when presenter Holly Willoughby introduced Frank Lampard as a Man City legend. His face was a picture. I dread to think how she described Harry Redknapp.

THE UGLY: I haven’t watched vast amounts of the World Snooker Championships but unless a player makes a 155 break there is nothing that will surpass Shaun Murphy’s red suit and gold waistcoat combo. It looked like Crucible Loyal Sons of King Willie Thorne Flute Band were a member down for a parade through Sheffield.

Belfast Telegraph


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