News Archive

News Archive

Olympic Running Events (X): Marathon with Paula Radcliffe


She has always set a standard for others to follow. Her first international

success was in 1992, when she beat Chinas Wang Junxia on a snowy Boston Common

to win the junior title at the World Cross-Country Championships in the USA.

The following year it was Wang who was making headlines as she and the other

Chinese women under the tutelage of the controversial coach Ma Junren set world

records and took gold medals at the World Championships in Stuttgart.

"right" />In contrast to the Chinese women, the history of probably the best

female long distance runner ever is a perfect example of careful development to

the present day, when she, as world record holder for the marathon, stands on

the brink of the Olympic pantheon.

If the 30-year-old goes to the startline of the Olympic marathon on August

22, will she find the role of favourite too tough to bear? Judging by her

career so far, the answer must be an emphatic "No." But there will be

strong opposition: the Kenyans Margaret Okayo and Catherine Ndereba plus the




The Radcliffe running team was founded from the start on a solid base. She

was being advised by the husband and wife team of Rose and Alex Stanton even

before she reached teenage and in recent years her husband Gary Lough, a former

international class middle distance runner, has played an important role as

training partner and manager.

Radcliffe runs, as she has always done, for Bedford and County. The club is

based in a town some 80 kilometers north of London. Good team spirit with the

emphasis on cross-country in winter and track and road in summer is the key.

Thanks to the Stantons, she had a classical education in track and field and

did just as well academically, graduating from Loughborough University with a

first-class honours degree in Modern Languages (French and German). In the late

1970s a certain Sebastian Coe also studied at Loughborough, but he read

Politics and Economics.

Failure can give you the chance to start afresh. Does it sound too harsh to

say that Radcliffe before the spring of 2001 had experienced more of the former

than success, when it came to championship medals? On the track she had the

reputation of the eternal runner-up, or third or fourth-placer etc. Only in the

1999 World Championships in Seville did the plot produce a different outcome,

when she took silver behind Ethiopias Gete Wami. Otherwise she lacked the

killer finish over the final laps. Fourth in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and

the same result a year later in Edmonton seemed to sum up the limit of her

track potential.

The change came with her first World Cross-Country victory.

That was in March, 2001 in Oostende in Belgium. A year later she retained the

title in Dublin and within three weeks had made history as the fastest ever

marathon debutant and second fastest runner in history: Radcliffe won

in London with an astounding 2:18:56.

She had found her true distance!

She was also in imperious form in the summer track season: first she won the

Commonwealth 5,000 m title in Manchester, then triumphed at the European

Championships in Munich, winning the 10,000 m in 30:01.09; only Wang Junxia,

that old adversary from ten years ago in Boston, has ever run faster.

Her most brilliant performance to-date came in the Flora London

Marathon 2003 when she took almost two minutes off her own world record with


Since then thereve been some hitches, she had to withdraw from the World

Championships in Paris last year, not feeling sufficiently recovered after

illness and a hip injury. There was a defeat in 2004, beaten in the World Best

10 km on the road in Puerto Rico by Lornah Kiplagat, the former Kenyan now

running for the Netherlands. Shortly afterwards she underwent minor surgery for

a hernia but came back in the best possible style, running the third fastest

5,000 m ever at the European Superleague final at Bydgoszcz in Poland in


Who can beat Radcliffe in Athens?

The course is hilly, there shouldn be any world records run and the heat will

make it that much harder. If she decides to run the marathon, Lornah Kiplagat

might have a chance, especially if she has retained her form from the spring.

Catherine Ndereba could win a medal, as could her Kenyan team-mate Margaret

Okayo, the winner in London this year. The Japanese triumvirate of Reiko Tosa,

Mizuki Noguchi and Naoko Sakamoto have shown themselves to be runners of the

highest quality. But if Radcliffe is in form, Great Britain will be celebrating

their first Olympic marathon champion.