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Radcliffe to "pace" wired Wejo at Flora London Marathon

World's Hottest Marathon Lady Again Running From an Eager Johnson

April 1, 2003
-by Kevin Beck, a regular contributor to Running Times

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Letsrun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson will run with the leader of the women’s race at the Flora London Marathon with a laptop computer and post live reports on Briton Paula Radcliffe’s latest 26.2-mile assault to the site, sources in the runner’s hometown of Flagstaff say.

Edging ever closer to his and twin brother Robert’s ultimate aim for Letsrun.com - the seamless melding of the sport and its analytical promotion - Johnson received a surprise thumbs-up from both London race directors and IAAF officials, reportedly after two evenings of spirited discussion hosted in Kuala Lumpur by a balding, garrulous, hyper-sexed but unidentified tour guide known to frequent the site’s message board.

“With all of the male-pacing controversy surrounding Paula, the London organizers, and the IAAF,” Johnson typed excitedly in an America Online “instant message” Sunday, “everyone involved felt that this would be a real (forgive the drug innuendo!) shot in the arm for followers of the sport.”

Radcliffe, who debuted here last April with a 2:18:56 to set a new women’s world best and dusted that mark with a 2:17:18 in October at the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon - where the women’s and men’s field are combined - said she didn’t feel strongly one way or another about the decision, to which she was “not privy.” She did, however, express surprise upon learning that the man who will follow in her midst is not the same gentleman who shadowed Catherine Ndereba for 30K of the Kenyan’s then-world-best 2:18:47 in Chicago in 2001: “You mean there are two long skinny Johnsons?” she laughed incredulously. “Well, one of the bloody choirboys might give me a good go ’round the town yet.”

Johnson will carry a lightweight unit financed by an anonymous donation from an Oakland-based track standout (a gift Johnson called “a total &*(%!@# surprise”). The laptop will grant FTP access to the Letsrun.com file server via satellite linkage, allowing the site’s thousands of regular visitors - most of them male, competition-oriented morons yet to fully hone either their reservation of remote, broad-based character judgments or there grammer - an unprecedented, immediately available road show.

Trumping already existing real-time coverage, Johnson will remain within six inches and two feet of Radcliffe’s left buttock, taking care to avoid fomenting the impression of pacing the famously black-stocking-clad juggernautte or offering other assistance. “If anything, I may just get in the way,” Johnson admitted. “I’m going to be running 5:15 pace while typing, taking pictures and, hopefully, conducting a series of mid-race interviews.”

“It’ll be hard,” continued Johnson, owner of 28:10 10,000-meter time and a 2:17 marathon, “since I’m not really that great a tyipst even sittign still. But it’ll be worth the trouble - if Paula farts, not only will our visitors know if in fifteen seconds, they’ll know exactly what it smells like!”

That possibility is a real one, as Radcliffe battled not only strong winds in Chicago last fall en route to her record run, but gastrointestinal distress. But Johnson says he’s more concerned with capturing and, if necessary, eliciting the particular nuances of Radcliffe’s effort, including her thoughts on the IAAF‘s rejection of her male-pacers bid, her feelings on the latest drug cheats, and the exact reasons she failed to respond to Valentine’s Day “e-cards” from either of the Johnsons in the past several years.

Johnson says he expects to hold up for “as long as it takes to get the answers to our fans’ questions.” He added, “If she starts calling me Robert, I’ll hang on at least until she gets that much right. For some reason I hate it when out-of-breath women call me by my brother’s name in the heat of the moment. Then again, he does too.”

*Note: The above article really was written by Kevin. Many thanks.

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