WORLD marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe lines up in London on Sunday for what will almost certainly be her final attempt at the distance.

She acknowledges she will not be competitive at the sharp end, but the race owes her nothing. It has made her a millionaire many times over. Her first two victories, in London and Chicago in 2002, earned her $535,000, excluding appearance fees and sponsors' bonuses.

Victories in her first seven marathons included a world record and world title. Her world mark of 2:15.25 was the best by any Brit, male or female that year - in an event from which women were once prevented from running. Hundreds of female athletes now make a living from marathons. Liz McColgan was paid a reported £450,000 appearance fee for running in three editions of London.

So today we pay tribute to Paisley's Dale Greig, who made it all possible.

It is almost 51 years since she recorded 3.27.45 in the Isle of Wight race - the first world marathon best officially recognised by the International Amateur Athletics Federation.

Speaking from her home in Paisley yesterday, and now 77, she spoke of her admiration for Radcliffe.

Greig spent much of her life in a house she bought from the council, but is adamant: "I am not envious. We ran just for the fun of it. I never made a penny, and I was proud to be an amateur. That's not say I would not have liked to make a living as a runner, but I believed in the amateur code, and actually gave away my prizes. Now it's professional and completely different. Drugs are terrible. What pleasure can they get?"

The Women's AAA and Southern Counties AAA reprimanded the host club. Women were not allowed to run marathons. "But they had broken no rules. I started four minutes ahead of the field, so I wasn't officially part of the race."

Her challenge was simply to last the distance. "I never considered myself as championing women's rights. I ran because I loved being outdoors."

The race had been run in 80-degree heat, and she was followed round the course by an ambulance as 19 of the 67 male starters abandoned.

Dale had little doubt she could stay the distance. Training involved setting out from Paisley at 7am, and heading for Largs via Bridge of Weir. "I'd stop there for an ice cream cone and walk while I ate it. By the time I'd got to Largs I'd done nearly 30 miles. I would have a swim in the outdoor pool. I'd hire a towel but I carried my costume in a pocket of my wet-suit top. Then I would go for a cup of tea and a scone in a cafe and return along the coastal route, along the shore of the Clyde by Wemyss Bay and Inverkip. If I got thirsty I'd just drink from a stream, or sometimes I might stop for a coffee and a wee cake before finishing in Gourock. I'd go to a friend's for a bath and then catch the train and be home by 3:00 pm. The total run was just over 50 miles and I did it quite a few times."

Greig was Scottish Universities 440 yards champion in 1956, won four Scottish cross-country titles and represented Scotland on the country for 13 successive years. She was the first female to complete the Ben Nevis race, the Isle of Man 40-mile race over the TT circuit, and the 53-mile London to Brighton. She ran with a map in her hand because she did not know the route.

And at 37 she won the inaugural women's marathon at the world veterans' championships in Paris, but cracked bones in her feet in a swimming pool accident in the early 1980s. "I haven't run since."

There was no ladies club in Paisley, so she formed Tannahill Ladies AC, after the Tannahill Weavers and the street where she lived. She was its sole member.

She was honoured by the London Marathon, one of 19 Brits who had held a world record or won a major title. Jim Alder and Joe McGhee, whose funeral is today in Edinburgh, were the other Scottish members.

But she dismissed a lobby who thought she deserved an MBE. "I have worked at being anonymous, and been reasonably successful at it," she said last night. "I'm a wee shy person and don't look for plaudits."

The women running in the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday should salute the woman who opened the road for them.