Paula Radcliffe

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Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radciffe NYC Marathon 2008 cropped.jpg
Paula Radcliffe at the 2008 New York City Marathon
Personal information
Born(1973-12-17) 17 December 1973 (age 40)
Davenham, Cheshire, England
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight54 kg (119 lb; 8.5 st)
Country Great Britain
ClubBedford & County Athletic Club
Achievements and titles
World finals1993, 3000 m, 7th
1997, 5000 m, 4th
1999, 10,000 m,  Silver
2001, 10,000 m, 4th
2005, 10,000 m, 9th
2005, Marathon,  Gold
Olympic finals1996, 5000 m, 5th
2000, 10,000 m, 4th
2004, Marathon, DNF
2004, 10,000 m, DNF
2008, Marathon, 23rd
Highest world ranking1
Personal best(s)5000 m: 14:29.11
10,000 m: 30:01.09
Half Marathon: 1:06:47
Marathon: 2:15:25 WR
Updated on 25-08-2007.
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Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radciffe NYC Marathon 2008 cropped.jpg
Paula Radcliffe at the 2008 New York City Marathon
Personal information
Born(1973-12-17) 17 December 1973 (age 40)
Davenham, Cheshire, England
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight54 kg (119 lb; 8.5 st)
Country Great Britain
ClubBedford & County Athletic Club
Achievements and titles
World finals1993, 3000 m, 7th
1997, 5000 m, 4th
1999, 10,000 m,  Silver
2001, 10,000 m, 4th
2005, 10,000 m, 9th
2005, Marathon,  Gold
Olympic finals1996, 5000 m, 5th
2000, 10,000 m, 4th
2004, Marathon, DNF
2004, 10,000 m, DNF
2008, Marathon, 23rd
Highest world ranking1
Personal best(s)5000 m: 14:29.11
10,000 m: 30:01.09
Half Marathon: 1:06:47
Marathon: 2:15:25 WR
Updated on 25-08-2007.

Paula Jane Radcliffe, MBE (born 17 December 1973) is an English long-distance runner. She is the current women's world record holder in the marathon with her time of 2:15:25 hours. She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion (2004, 2007, 2008), and won the 2002 Chicago Marathon.

Radcliffe is a former world champion in the marathon, half marathon and cross country. She has also been European champion over 10,000 metres and in cross country. On the track, Radcliffe won the 10,000 metres silver medal at the 1999 World Championships and was the 2002 Commonwealth champion at 5000 metres. She has represented Great Britain at the Olympics four times consecutively (1996 to 2008), but has not won a medal on the Olympic stage.

Radcliffe is an asthma sufferer who has campaigned against the use of drugs in sport. She is married to her coach, Gary Lough, and has two children.

Her running has earned her a number of accolades including the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Laureus World Comeback of the Year, IAAF World Athlete of the Year, AIMS World Athlete of the Year (three times) and a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). She has also been nominated for World Sportswoman of the year on several occasions. In 2010, she was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Radcliffe was born on 17 December 1973 in Davenham near Northwich, Cheshire. Her family then moved to nearby Barnton where she attended Little Leigh Primary School.[1] Despite suffering from asthma and anaemia she took up running at the age of seven, influenced by her father who was a keen amateur marathon runner and joined Frodsham Athletic Club. Her family later moved to Kingsley.

When Radcliffe was aged 12, the family moved to Oakley, Bedfordshire and she became a member of Bedford & County Athletics Club. Her joining the club coincided with a talented and dedicated coach, Alex Stanton, building the women's and girls' sections into one of the strongest in the country, in spite of Bedford's relatively small size.

Radcliffe's father became club vice-chairman and her mother, a fun-runner, managed the women's cross-country team.[2] Her first race at a national level came as a 12-year-old in 1986 when she placed 299th out of around 600 in the girls' race of the English Schools Cross Country Championships. She finished fourth in the same race one year later.

Radcliffe attended Sharnbrook Upper School and Community College. She went on to study French, German and economics at Loughborough University, gaining a first-class honours degree in modern European studies.[3]

Running career[edit]

Radcliffe's father was a keen marathon runner as a young man. He took up the hobby again in an attempt to lose weight after giving up smoking.[2] Despite suffering from asthma Radcliffe took up running at the age of seven.[4] In 1992 Radcliffe discovered that she suffers from anaemia.[2][5] Radcliffe was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma at the age of 14 after blacking out whilst training.[6] During her father's training jogs in the woods Radcliffe and her brother would often run with him for a mile or two.[7] Radcliffe attended Frodsham Athletic Club until the age of nine,[2] Radcliffe became a member of Bedford & County Athletics Club, when they moved to Oakley. There she was coached by Alex Stanton, who still fulfilled that role in her professional career.[8] Stanton started to coach Radcliffe at the age of 12 after his wife Rosemary spotted her talent.[9] At the age of 10 Radcliffe, accompanied by her father, watched Ingrid Kristiansen run in the London Marathon, inspiring her to become an athlete.[7] Her first race at a national level came as a 12-year-old in 1986, when she placed 299th in the English Schools Cross Country Championships.[8] In 1991 Radcliffe won the English Schools 1500 metres title.[10]


"I'm not looking to make a living out of it. Obviously it's nice that there's a bit of money coming in but that's not my goal. I just want to do my best and still enjoy it. I want to keep on enjoying it, keep on improving, get as much out of it as I can and put as much back as I can."

Radcliffe a week after finishing second in her first senior race.[2]

At the 1992 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Radcliffe, took the Junior title, beating Wang Junxia and Gete Wami in Boston, after recovering from a bad asthma attack in the weeks beforehand.[2][11][12] Radcliffe then went to the Junior track World championships and finished fourth in the 3,000 metres.[13] In her first senior race, in Durham at the start of 1993, Radcliffe finished second to Olympic Champion Derartu Tulu.[14] At the age of 19 Radcliffe finished in seventh place at the 1993 World Championships.[12] Radcliffe claimed back to back World Cross Challenge wins at Durham and Mallusk to start the 1994 season.[5][15] Radcliffe missed the World Cross Country Championships with a foot injury.[16] Radcliffe was initially misdiagnosed with the injury which forced her to miss all of 1994 and thought about quitting as the injury would not get better.[12] At the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo in 1995 Radcliffe outkicked Tulu to run the third fastest time by a British woman for the 5,000 metres.[17] At the World championships, Radcliffe qualified comfortably for the final of the 5,000 metres,[18] where she finished fifth.[10][12] At the 1996 Securicor Games Radcliffe ran the 5,000 metres finishing second.[19] The Olympic Games saw Radcliffe finished fifth in the 5,000 metres.[10] Radcliffe rounded off 1996 by finishing third in a cross country race in Durham.[20]

Early career[edit]

Radcliffe's early running success was in cross country events, including the 1992 World Junior title, beating Wang Junxia. She missed the 1994 season through injury, but came back with a succession of good results at 5,000 m, including fifth place in both the 1995 World Championships and 1996 Olympic Games. Although a silver-medalist in the 1999 World Championships in Athletics Radcliffe finished out of the medals at the 2000 Olympic Games and 2001 World Championships.

She won back-to-back titles in the 2000 and 2001 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, and winning a third title in 2003.

Cross country champion[edit]

On 24 March, Radcliffe won the Ostend, Belgium held World Cross Country Championships 2001 title. Radcliffe, who finished in a time of 27:49, said: "It still hasn't really sunk in". Gete Wami, who came in second place said: "No one likes losing, but if anyone deserves to win this title it is Paula. She was great."[21]

Held in March in Dublin, Radcliffe defended her title in the Women's Long Race when she won the 2002 IAAF World Cross Country Championships title for a second year. She won in 26:46.[22]

Marathon world record[edit]

In 2002, Radcliffe made the move up to the marathon, a decision that immediately paid off with victory at her debut in that year's London Marathon on 14 April 2002 in a world's best time for a women's only race (2:18:55).[23] Her time was the second quickest in women's marathon history behind the world record of 2:18:47 set by Catherine Ndereba, of Kenya, in Chicago.[24]

Later that year, Radcliffe set a world record time of 2:17:18 in the Chicago Marathon on 13 October 2002,[25] breaking the previous record by a minute and a half.

She was awarded an MBE in June 2002. She said: "It means a great deal to me, it's a great honour and it really tops off an amazing year. To come here and receive this and to meet the Queen at the end of it just finishes it off perfectly."[26]

Later the same year, she became the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, making her the first woman in over a decade to be honoured with the accolade. Paula thanked her husband Gary Lough, her coach Alex Stanton and her physio, Gerard Hartmann.[27]

Further world records[edit]

Radcliffe is the current world record holder for the women's marathon, which she set during the 2003 London Marathon in April, with a time of 2:15:25. The performance is one of the highest of score's values in terms of the IAAF World ranking points.

Radcliffe is also the current world record holder for the women's road 10k in a time of 30 minutes and 21 seconds, which she set on 23 February 2003 in the World's Best 10K in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[28]

Radcliffe won the 2004 New York City Marathon in a time of 2:23:10, beating Kenya's Susan Chepkemei.[29]

Of the seven marathons Radcliffe has run so far, she has won six and set a record in five. She has run four out of the five fastest times in history in the women's marathon.

2004 Athens Olympics[edit]

Radcliffe did not compete in the London Marathon in 2004, but was the favourite to win a gold medal in the marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens. However, she suffered an injury to her leg just two weeks prior to the event and had to use a high dose of anti-inflammatory drugs. This had an adverse effect on her stomach, hindering food absorption. She ended up withdrawing from the race after 36 km (22 mi). Five days later she started in the 10,000 metres but, still suffering from the effects of the marathon, retired with eight laps remaining.[30] Radcliffe said "You go through bad stages in a marathon, but never as bad as that", "I've never before not been able to finish and I'm desperately trying to find a reason for what happened", "I just feel numb - this is something I worked so hard for."[31]

Regarded as Great Britain's best gold medal hope in athletics, her withdrawal made headlines in the UK, with editorial stances ranging from support to negativity, with some newspapers deriding Radcliffe for 'quitting', rather than going on to finish the race.[32] Television pictures showed Radcliffe in a clearly distressed state after dropping out of the marathon, being comforted by two friends from her early running days.[33]

2005: Marathon World Champion[edit]

Paula Radcliffe leading the London Marathon in 2005, near to Limehouse in east London.

At the 2005 London Marathon, Radcliffe won with a time of 2:17:42, a world's best time for a women's only race by over a minute. The race is remembered for a notorious moment towards the end when Radcliffe, hindered by runner's diarrhoea and in need for a toilet break, stopped and defecated on the side of the road in view of the crowd and TV cameras which broadcast the incident live.[34] After the race, she apologised to viewers and explained what happened, "I was losing time because I was having stomach cramps and I thought 'I just need to go and I'll be fine'. I didn’t really want to resort to that in front of hundreds of thousands of people.[35] Basically I needed to go. I started feeling it between 15 and 16 miles (26 km) and probably carried on too long before stopping. I must have eaten too much beforehand". In November 2006, the incident was voted top running moment in history in the UK from a choice of ten 'unforgettable moments'.[36]

On 14 August 2005 at the World Championships held in Helsinki she won Britain's only gold medal when she took the marathon title, dominating the race and setting a championship record time of 2:20:57. Catherine Ndereba of Kenya finished in second place, more than a minute behind. Radcliffe said: "It pretty much went according to plan. If somebody had been with me at the end I think I could have pushed it up a bit more." She and three other British runners were also awarded third place in the team competition.[37]

Family and autobiography[edit]

Paula Radcliffe with daughter Isla at the New York City Marathon, 2007

Radcliffe took a break through the 2006 season owing to injuries and in July announced that she was expecting her first child. Her comeback was further delayed in 2007 as a result of a stress fracture in her lower back.[38]

Radcliffe chose not to defend her world marathon crown in 2007, in order to undertake further rehabilitation, but insisted she wanted to compete in the next two Olympics. She made her return to competitive running on 30 September 2007, taking part in the BUPA Great North Run in the UK on Tyneside. This was her first race in almost two years. Radcliffe finished second behind US runner Kara Goucher.[39]

Radcliffe made her marathon return at the New York City Marathon on 4 November 2007 which she won with an official time of 2:23:09.[40]

Radcliffe released an autobiography in 2004, Paula: My Story So Far.[41]

2008–09: Beijing Olympics and fitness problems[edit]

Paula Radcliffe airborne at mile 14, New York City Marathon 2007

Radcliffe withdrew from the 2008 London Marathon due to a foot injury.[42] Shortly after the London Marathon, it was also revealed that Radcliffe was suffering from an injury to her hip, preventing her from running. Originally thought to be a muscular problem, scans later revealed it was a stress fracture to her femur. In May, Radcliffe broke her left leg.

Radcliffe managed to get to fitness level for the 2008 Summer Olympics, but cramped during the marathon to the point where she had to stop running and stretch. She resumed the race and finished in 23rd place overall.

Radcliffe won the 2008 New York City Marathon, making it her third victory at the competition with a time of 2:23:56. Russian Lyudmila Petrova came in second, and American Kara Goucher took third.[43]

Following the New York Marathon, Radcliffe suffered more injury setbacks: she had to withdraw from the 2009 London Marathon due to a fractured toe. In March that year, she had a bunion removed which doctors believed was the root cause of her other injuries at that time.[44] She did not run competitively for almost 10 months, but made herself available for inclusion in the 2009 British team for the World Championships in Athletics. She announced that the New York City Half Marathon would be a testing ground for her fitness before the competition.[45]

Radcliffe went on to win the New York City Half Marathon in 1:09:45, two seconds off the course record. However, after this she pulled out of the World Championships as she felt unfit, and she missed the 2009 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham due to a bout of tonsillitis.[46] She returned to action at the 2009 New York City Marathon but failed to notch her third consecutive victory, instead fading to fourth place with knee problems.[47]

2011 onwards[edit]

Following a 19-month layoff that included the birth of her second child, she returned to action at the Bupa London 10 km (6 mi), where she finished 3rd, 55 seconds behind the winner, Jo Pavey. Radcliffe called the performance "a bit of a disaster", and indicated she was suffering from a tear in one of the discs of her back.[48][49]

She set the 2011 Berlin Marathon as her comeback venue to try for an Olympic qualifying time. She came third in the race with a time of 2:23:46 hours – getting the Olympic standard and the fourth fastest time by a European that year.[50] She was dissatisfied, however, saying: "I'm not particularly happy, either with my time or my place. I came here wanting to win".[51] She used the 2012 Vienna Half Marathon to gauge her fitness and the race was set up as a battle between her and Haile Gebrselassie, with Radcliffe received a head start of 7:52 minutes (the difference between the two athletes' personal bests). She did not perform well and was comfortably beaten by the Ethiopian, while she crossed the line after 72:03 minutes.[52]

Radcliffe pulled out of London 2012 Olympics because of a foot injury.[53] Radcliffe aims to compete in the London Marathon 2015 or a race in New York, despite her injury.[54]

Other achievements and awards[edit]


Radcliffe has frequently made high-profile condemnations of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in athletics. Radcliffe and team-mate Hayley Tullett caused controversy when in the heats of the 5,000 metres at the 2001 the World Athletics Championships in Edmonton; when they held up a sign protesting against the reinstatement of Russian athlete Olga Yegorova after Yegorova had tested positive for the banned substance EPO. The sign was made by Radcliffe's husband and read 'EPO Cheats Out.' It was eventually taken off them by the stadium officials, but not before it was streamed around the world.[59] After Radcliffe and Tullett's initial protest, team mates Kathy Butler and Hayley Yelling - who both missed out on a place in the final - protested alongside coaches Mark Rowland and Alan Storey, wearing Radcliffe masks and holding up banners with mocking slogans including one which read 'Free Paula.'[60] Radcliffe vowed to continue her fight against drugs in sport after her high profile actions in Edmonton.[61] Since the 1999 European Cup, Radcliffe wears a red ribbon when competing to show her support for blood testing as a method of catching drugs cheats.[59][62]

"We should be pleased. One of the biggest frauds has been caught. Her medals should also be taken away"

Radcliffe on Marion Jones in 2007.[63]

Radcliffe has advocated a system where first time offenders are banned for four years and any future offense for life. However she felt that in cases like that of Christine Ohuruogu, who missed three out-of-competition drugs tests, that she should be allowed to compete in the Olympics, as the BOA does not allow anyone who has served a doping ban to compete.[64] However, when Ohuruogu admitted to not trying to get to the tests, Radcliffe expressed her disappointment and hoped that it was a lesson learned.[65] When Marion Jones admitted to steroid use, Radcliffe stated that it was good for the sport that Jones was caught and that they had to keep testing and that people being caught is a big deterrent to would-be cheats.[63]

Reflecting upon the scepticism created by incidents of doping, she said "You have to accept the would be great if we could win the battle against doping and have testing that was 100 per-cent reliable, but I don't think that will happen in my competitive career." She has previously asked for the results of her blood tests to be made public, saying that she had "absolutely no objection to my test being released".[66]

Personal life[edit]

Radcliffe was born to Peter and Pat Radcliffe[67] and is the grandniece of 1920 Olympic Silver medallist Charlotte Radcliffe.[68] Radcliffe met her husband Gary Lough, a former Northern Irish 1,500 m runner, when he was her lodger at Loughborough University.[69] The pair married in 2001.[70] She gave birth to her first child, daughter Isla, in 2007.[71] Her second child, a son, Raphael, was born in 2010.[72]


Championships record[edit]

1991World Cross Country ChampionshipsAntwerp, Belgium15thJunior cross country
1992World Cross Country ChampionshipsBoston, USA1stJunior cross country
World Junior ChampionshipsSeoul, South Korea4th3000 m
1993World Cross Country ChampionshipsAmorebieta, Spain18thCross country
World ChampionshipsStuttgart, Germany7th3000 m
1995World Cross Country ChampionshipsDurham, England18thCross country
World ChampionshipsGothenburg, Sweden5th5000 m
IAAF Grand Prix FinalMonaco4th3000 m
1996World Cross Country ChampionshipsStellenbosch, South Africa19thCross country
Olympic GamesAtlanta, USA5th5000 m
IAAF Grand Prix FinalMilan, Italy4th5000 m
1997World Cross Country ChampionshipsTurin, Italy2ndCross country
European CupMunich, Germany3rd3000 m
World ChampionshipsAthens, Greece4th5000 m
IAAF Grand Prix FinalFukuoka, Japan3rd5000 m
1998World Cross Country ChampionshipsMarrakech, Morocco2ndCross country
European CupSt. Petersburg, Russia1st5000 m
European ChampionshipsBudapest, Hungary5th10,000 m
1999World Cross Country ChampionshipsBelfast, Northern Ireland3rdCross country
European CupParis, France1st5000 m
World ChampionshipsSeville, Spain2nd10,000 m
IAAF Grand Prix FinalMunich, Germany4th3000 m
2000World Cross Country ChampionshipsVilamoura, Portugal4thShort Cross Country
5thLong Cross Country
Olympic GamesSydney, Australia4th10,000 m
2001World Cross Country ChampionshipsOstend, Belgium2ndShort Cross Country
1stLong Cross Country
European CupBremen, Germany2nd5000 m
World ChampionshipsEdmonton, Canada4th10,000 m
2002World Cross Country ChampionshipsDublin, Republic of Ireland1stLong Cross Country
Commonwealth GamesManchester, England1st5000 m
European ChampionshipsMunich, Germany1st10,000 m
2004European CupBydgoszcz, Poland1st5000 m
Olympic GamesAthens, GreeceDNFMarathon
DNF10,000 m
2005World ChampionshipsHelsinki, Finland1stMarathon
2008Olympic GamesBeijing, China23rdMarathon
2012Olympic GamesLondon, Great BritainDNSMarathon

Road races[edit]

2000World Half Marathon ChampionshipsVeracruz, Mexico1stHalf Marathon
2001World Half Marathon ChampionshipsBristol, United Kingdom1stHalf Marathon
2002London MarathonLondon, United Kingdom1stMarathon
Chicago MarathonChicago, United States1stMarathon
2003London MarathonLondon, United Kingdom1stMarathon
Great North RunTyne and Wear, United Kingdom1stHalf marathon
World Half Marathon ChampionshipsVilamoura, Portugal1stHalf Marathon
2004New York City MarathonNew York City, United States1stMarathon
2005London MarathonLondon, United Kingdom1stMarathon
2007Great North RunTyne and Wear, United Kingdom2ndHalf marathon
New York City MarathonNew York, United States1stMarathon
2008New York City MarathonNew York, United States1stMarathon
2009New York City Half MarathonNew York, United States1stHalf marathon
New York City MarathonNew York, United States4thMarathon
2011Berlin MarathonBerlin, Germany3rdMarathon

Personal bests[edit]

Track400 m58.91992
800 m2:05.221995
1000 m2:47.171993
1500 m4:05.371 July 2001Glasgow, Scotland
1 Mile4:24.9414 August 1996Zürich, Switzerland
2000 m5:37.01+29 August 1993Sheffield, England
3000 m8:22.2019 July 2002MonacoBritish record
2 Miles9:17.423 May 1999Loughborough, England
4000 m11:35.21+
5000 m14:29.1120 June 2004Bydgoszcz, PolandBritish record
10 000 m30:01.096 August 2002Munich, GermanySixth best ever
Road5 km14:57+2 September 2001London, England
4 Miles19:51+
5 Miles24:47+
8 km24:05+World best
(non-IAAF distance)
10 km30:2123 February 2003San Juan, Puerto RicoWorld record
15 km46:41+7 October 2001Bristol, EnglandBritish record
10 Miles50:01+13 October 2002Chicago, USAWorld best
20 km1:02.21+21 September 2003Newcastle-South Shields,
World best
Half marathon1:05:4021 September 2003Newcastle-South Shields,
World best
25 km1:20.36+13 April 2003London, England
30 km1:36:36+13 April 2003London, EnglandWorld best
20 Miles1:43:33+13 April 2003London, EnglandWorld best
Marathon2:15:2513 April 2003London, EnglandWorld record


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  72. ^ "Delighted Paula Radcliffe gives birth to a 'gorgeous little boy'". Daily Mail (London). 30 September 2010. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Catherine Ndereba
Women's Marathon World Record Holder
13 October 2002 –
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
David Beckham
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by
Jonny Wilkinson
Preceded by
Stacy Dragila
Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Hestrie Cloete
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Olga Yegorova
Women's 5,000 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Berhane Adere
Preceded by
Catherine Ndereba
Yoko Shibui
Women's Fastest Marathon Race
Succeeded by
Yoko Shibui
Deena Kastor