Profile Specialising in the longer distances on the track, Paula Radcliffe’s lack of finishing speed regularly kept her out of the medals until she switched to the marathon, an event in which she has rewritten the record books.
Paula Radcliffe was born in the north west of England and joined an athletics club at the age of nine. Her father ran marathons and Radcliffe enjoyed training with him and running in cross country events. Her first major international events were at the World Junior Cross-Country Championships but she soon began racing on the track.
Here, however, Radcliffe’s lack of a finishing ‘kick’ often cost her victory or even a medal as she was inevitably passed by athletes on the final lap. At the 2001 World Championships, she changed her tactics and did not set the pace. However, she still finished fourth and the following year, Radcliffe took part in her first competitive marathon in London.
And here, she ran the second fastest time ever by a woman. Six months later she broke the world record by a minute and 29 seconds in Chicago. Radcliffe then took another minute and 53 seconds off her own record when she won the 2003 London Marathon. Her pacing was unusual in that she ran the second half of the 2003 London event faster than the first.
In 2004, she was again disappointing at the Olympic Games, failing to finish in either the marathon or the 10000m, but a year later she bounced back to win the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki as well as recording her third triumph in the annual London event. Her victories in the marathons in London and Chicago have produced four of the five fastest times ever run. She has also won the New York Marathon three times with the middle triumph coming just 10 months after the birth of her first child, Isla.