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Paula Radcliffe to keep marathon record

BRUSSELS -- The IAAF has decided to let Paula Radcliffe keep her marathon world record from 2003, after previously saying it would reduce one of athletics' outstanding performances to a world best because the English runner set the mark in a race with men.

IAAF Council member Helmut Digel told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the governing body will keep the mark in the books, despite an August decision to only recognize records achieved in all-women races from now on.

"The record will stay. Nobody will cancel the record of Paula. That is sure," Digel said in a telephone interview after an IAAF meeting in Monaco. "Her record will never be diminished."

The rule change is still set to come into effect next year, but Digel said Radcliffe's existing record will now be allowed to stand.

The rule change had led to several calls for Radcliffe's record to be kept since the plans were announced at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Digel said the IAAF was taken aback by the vehemence of the protests, and that the rule wasn't meant to diminish previous performances.

"It was not against old records at all," he said. "We realize that these performances were excellent performances."

Radcliffe ran a time of 2 hours, 15.25 minutes at the London Marathon in 2003, a stunning performance which is still 1 minute, 53 seconds faster than the second-best time in history, which Radcliffe also holds.

The second-fastest runner of all time is Kenya's Catherine Ndereba, who was 3:22 slower in 2001.

The issue for the IAAF is that Radcliffe ran the London race with male pacemakers, which the governing body says makes for an unfair edge compared to all-women races. Now, the IAAF is expected to work out a system where the records in mixed races could stand side-by-side with records in all-women races.

"The terminology has not been decided yet," Digel said.

Many in the sport agree that women run marathons faster when paced by men, since keeping up with men can provide a target to aim for. Running in a group of men can also be less tiring if they shield the athlete from incoming wind.