People were very impressed with the way Paula Radcliffe bounced back from having a baby. However, as far as I can tell, she hasn’t been the same runner since.
In 2002, Radcliffe set her first world record (2:17). She ran the still-standing record a year later – 2:15. In 2004, she had an off year due to performing poorly in Athens, most likely. Then in 2005, she nearly equaled her first world record, running 2:17 again. She didn’t race a marathon in 2006 due to her pregnancy. In 2007, after her daughter was born, she won the New York marathon, leading everyone to conclude she’d recovered amazingly well from giving birth. Edit: She ran 2:23 in 2007 and in 2008 in New York. The following year, she ran 2:29, again nowhere near her performance prior to giving birth.
My conclusion is that Paula Radcliffe, greatest female marathon runner in history, essentially ended her glory days of running by having a child. She’s just given birth to a second child, and I’ll go out on a limb and predict she’ll never run under 2:20 again. (2:20 is sort of the bellwether, in my opinion, of a great race by a female marathoner. Several women have done it, many more than once, but it’s always an achievement.)
Edit: Sarah pointed out that the time I had for 2007 was wrong, so I withdraw my earlier conclusion. I’d copied down 2:33 instead of 2:23. 2:23 is still not a stellar time on an absolute scale, but it’s a good time in hilly NY. It is certainly not as good a time as 2:15 was in London, but I don’t know if she was paced, either, in NY as she was in London, which is a big factor.
Winning the NY marathon as she did is certainly a great achievement, but it is not anything like running the extraordinary world records she ran in London and Chicago.
Women’s marathoning is on life support right now. It’s been a long time since Paula Radcliffe blew us all away. I wish someone else would come along and start running some great times.