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Radcliffe vows to bow out on her terms

ESPN staff
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Paula Radcliffe was forced to withdraw from the Athens 2004 marathon mid-race © Getty Images
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Paula Radcliffe is determined to finish her career by crossing a finish line rather than giving in to her injury nightmare after the disappointment of missing out on the chance to run at London 2012.

Radcliffe still holds the world record for the women's marathon and was crowned world champion in 2005, but a barrage of injuries have plagued her Olympic ambitions, forcing her to pull out of the 2004 marathon mid-race and confining her to a 23rd-place finish in Beijing four years later.

And after pulling out of London 2012 with a foot injury, Radcliffe admits the reality of finishing her career without an Olympic medal to her name is proving to be a bitter pill to swallow.

"There's a lot more suffering in the world and people put up with a lot more than me just missing a race," Radcliffe told the Daily Mail. "But, yes, it was hard. I think I could have handled that for one Olympics and maybe for two. But for three? It just felt really unfair."

Radcliffe's injury nightmare began with the belated discovery of a stress fracture in her foot picked up in 1994. Eighteen years on, it played its role in the breakdown of cartilage between the bones of her feet, forcing her withdrawal from the Olympics just 10 days before the opening ceremony and warnings that she may never run again.

"It was hard because it was the end of the Olympics for me," Radcliffe continued. "It was hard because it was the Olympics in London. Then to see what a brilliant atmosphere it was - it would have been amazing to be able to run in that."

Extensive surgery followed, as did the announcement that she had been dropped from Team GB's elite athlete programme. But the 38-year-old resolved to end her career on her terms rather than slip into retirement.

"I said to Gary, my husband, 'That's it. I'm not going to do this anymore. It's too many times I've been kicked down'. Then I got this feeling that I have to at least finish a race.

"Even if I never manage to get back to elite level, I still want to be able to run with my kids. I've realised my potential and won world championships. It's just the Olympics that's going to be sad for me."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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