VIENNA (AP) — Paula Radcliffe will get a head start of 7 minutes, 52 seconds on the Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie at a special half-marathon event in Vienna on Sunday.
Radcliffe’s advantage equals the difference between their personal bests over the 13.1-mile distance. It’s her first race of the year, four months before the London Olympic marathon.
“I hope to be able to produce a good solid run and I would be happy with a time of sub 70 minutes,” Radcliffe said Friday. “I hope it does not come to a sprint in the final 100 meters – in this case I know on who my money would be.”
Radcliffe has not raced since qualifying for the Olympics, coming third in the Berlin marathon in September.
The 38-year-old Briton said, who is seeking her first Olympic medal in London, said her training has been interrupted by an illness.
“I had a difficult past two weeks because of a bronchitis,” Radcliffe said. “There were times when I thought I would not be able to come to Vienna. It got better this week and I could train for the first time on Tuesday again. Because of this, I am not sure what I can run on Sunday.”
Radcliffe has an official personal best half-marathon time of 1 hour, 6 minutes, 47 seconds, though she once timed 1:05:40 on a slightly downhill course.
Gebrselassie, who set his personal best of 58:55 six years ago, won the half-marathon event in Vienna last year while setting a course record of 1:00:18.
A two-time gold medalist in the 10,000 meters, he hasn’t qualified for the London Olympics.
“It will be unique, but in the end it is a competition,” said Gebrselassie, who turns 39 on Wednesday. “I am a bit worried though, because I have no information about Paula’s shape.”
In the regular marathon event, defending champion John Kiprotich of Kenya will aim to improve his personal best of 2:07:08 and become the first athlete to finish a marathon on Austrian soil in less than 2:07.
“In 2011, I did not expect to win the race,” Kiprotich said. “This success was a big motivation for me to train hard to further improve. It is my goal to come closer to the best runners of the world.”
The field for the 29th Vienna City Marathon includes three more former winners from Kenya – Henry Sugut, Gilbert Kirwa and Luke Kibet.
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