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Kastor sets up epic clash with Radcliffe

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Apr 23 (Reuters) Olympic bronze medallist Deena Kastor today broke her own American record in the London marathon to set up a potentially epic clash with Britain's world champion Paula Radcliffe in New York this November.

Running with metronomic precision in the absence of the injured Radcliffe, Kastor clocked 69 minutes 48 seconds for each half of the 42.195 kms race on a cool, damp morning for a total time of two hours 19 minutes 36 seconds.

New York City race director Mary Wittenberg, a prime mover behind the world marathon major series which combines the London, New York, Boston, Berlin and Chicago events, said she would do everything in her powers to arrange a Kastor-Radcliffe showdown.

''It will be the biggest marathon between the Olympics if we can get them together,'' Wittenberg told Reuters.

Kenyan Felix Limo, running in London for the first time, outsprinted defending champion Martin Lel to win the men's race in 2:06:39 to add to his wins in Rotterdam, Berlin and Chicago.

The male race was also staged without the world record holder after Paul Tergat pulled out with a calf muscle injury.

His absence apparently left the way clear for his great track rival Haile Gebrselassie to make a serious attack on the world record.

However, Gebrselassie who beat Tergat over 10,000 metres in two Olympic and two world championships finals, faded to ninth after suffering from hamstring and calf muscle strains.

The 33-year-old Ethiopian had been the 2-1 race favourite after setting world records over the half marathon and 25 kms this year.

''I finished the race at 25 kms,'' Gebrselassie told a news conference.

SELECTORS CRITICISED Despite his impressive pedigree in big city marathons, Limo has yet to be selected for an Olympic Games or world championships.

Today he was critical of the Kenyan selectors who he said had lost several medals through their faulty selections. Asked if he would like to run in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Limo told a news conference: ''Of course.'' Any chance of breaking Tergat's world record of 2:04:55 vanished between 30 and 36 kms when the field slowed appreciably and Limo said he realised he would have to push the pace.

''The world record wasn't on my mind because I wasn't prepared for it,'' he said.

Limo, whose foot was splattered when a spectator threw an egg at the leading group, said he realised he would win the race when he edged ahead of Lel in an explosive sprint finish.

''We practise sprinting over the last kilometre,'' he said.

Kastor's five kms split times varied by only eight seconds.

The women's race was effectively over at the 30 kms mark when the American pulled steadily away from Susan Chepkemei, who had formed an early breakaway group with Kastor and Kenyan team mate Salina Kosgei.

She is now one of only four women, including Radcliffe, who have held both the Chicago and London titles at the same time.

Kastor, who stumbled into the drinks table at 35 kms, said she had planned to run under two hours 20 minutes and was conscious how she had slowed down before winning last year's Chicago race.

''I knew the last 10 kms would be successful, I kept doing the math,'' she told a news conference.

Kastor, 33, a former track runner, ran her first marathon in New York five years ago. She clocked her previous best of 2:21:16 when she finished third in the 2003 London race and in the following year she became the first American to win an Olympic medal since Joan Benoit finished first at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

She now plans to concentrate on the track and reduce her 5,000 and 10,000 metres times before thinking about a marathon in the northern autumn.

''I'm very excited about the marathon majors,'' Kastor told Reuters. ''I would love to run a fall marathon.'' Reuters SHB DB2241

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