Q&A #6

Which female holds the world record in the marathon?

Paula Radcliffe set a world record time of 2:17:18 in the Chicago Marathon on 13 October 2002, breaking the previous record by a minute and a half.

Paula Jane RadcliffeMBE (born 17 December 1973) is an English[1] long-distance runnerand currently holds several world records.[2]

Radcliffe's distinctive "nodding" action while running has made her instantly recognisable to viewers worldwide. She is not known for her sprint finish, and instead relies on setting a punishing pace from the start in order to pull away from her opponents and open an unassailable gap.

In 2002, Radcliffe was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year and was awarded an MBE.

Radcliffe has homes in Monaco, England, New Mexico and Font-Romeu, and is married to her trainer, Gary Lough, a former Northern Ireland international 1,500 meters runner. They have a daughter named Isla, born in January 2007 and a son named Raphael, born in September 2010. She did not take part in the 2010 London Marathon because she was pregnant with her second child.

Radcliffe trains in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Font-Romeu in France.

Early career

Her 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 seemed destined never to win a major 5,000 m or 10,000 m title, finishing out of the medals at the 2000 Olympic Games and 2001 World Championships.

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

[edit]Cross country champion

On 24 March, Radcliffe won the Ostend, Belgium held World Cross Country Championships2001 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."[6]

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.[7]

[edit]Marathon world record

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).[8] 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.[9]

Later that year, Radcliffe set a world record time of 2:17:18 in the Chicago Marathon on 13 October 2002,[10] breaking the previous record by a minute and a half.

She was awarded an MBE in June 2002, making it her sixth medal of the season. 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."[11]

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.[12]

[edit]Further world records

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. This mark is currently one of the highest scoring performances ever.[13] In terms of IAAF world ranking points, at 1307, it is higher in value than Florence Griffith-Joyner's 100 and 200 m records, Marita Koch's 400 m, and Michael Johnson's 400 m record. This score would at the time have equated to between 9.75 s and 9.76 s in the men's 100 m sprint.[14] However, now the current world record, held by Usain Bolt, is 9.58 seconds.[15]

Also, Radcliffe is 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.[16]

Radcliffe won the Great North Run in a world-best time. She completed the 13.1-mile (21.1 km) half marathon course from Newcastle toSouth Shields in 65 minutes and 40 seconds.[17]

She won the 2004 New York City Marathon in a time of 2:23:10, even though she was not fully prepared (the only occasion that a competitor came within a minute of her). After a close race with Kenya's Susan Chepkemei, her greater strength allowed her to pull away to victory at the end.[18]

Of the seven marathons Radcliffe has run so far, she has won six and set a record in five, building up a claim to be the best female distance runner of all time in her age group. She has run four out of the five fastest times in history in the women's marathon.

[edit]2004 Athens Olympics

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. The resultant lack of energy and carbohydrates in her system before the start of the race might have led to her distressing withdrawal after 36 km. Five days later she started in the 10,000 metres but, still suffering from the effects of the marathon, retired with eight laps remaining.[19] 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."[20]

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.[21] 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 who just happened to be watching at that point of the race.[22]

[edit]2005: Marathon World Champion

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

At the 2005 London Marathon, she 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 however is remembered more for a notorious moment towards the end when Radcliffe, feeling hindered by bowel discomfort 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.[23] 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.[24] 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'.[25]

On 14 August 2005 at the World Championships held in Helsinki, Finland 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 Bronze in the team competition.[26]

New Years Eve 2005 Radcliffe won the San Silvestre Vallecana, a 10 km race in the borough of VallecasMadrid, Spain. She said: "I'm okay and it is a great way to end 2005 - with a win."[27]

[edit]Family and autobiography

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.[28]

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 Olympic Games.

She made her return to competitive running on 30 September 2007, Radcliffe took part in the BUPAGreat North Run in the UK on Tyneside. This was her first race in almost two years. She succeeded in gaining second place, beaten by the US runner Kara Goucher over the half-marathon distance.[29]

She made her marathon return at the New York City Marathon on the 4 November 2007 which she won with an official time of 2:23:09.[30] She has stated that a start at the World Cross Country Championships at Edinburgh was a possibility,[31] but ultimately she was not fit enough to compete.

Radcliffe released an autobiography in 2007, Paula: My Story So Far.[32]

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

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

She withdrew from the London Marathon due to a foot injury.[33] 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.

She faced a race against time to be fit for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Radcliffe managed to get to fitness level for the 2008 Summer Olympics but the race had her in pain with a cramp to the point where she had to stop running and stretch. However, she resumed the race and finished in 23rd place overall.

Paula came in first place with a time of 51.11, setting a new British record for the 10 mile distance in the 2008 Great South Run, located in Portsmouth on Sunday 26 October.[34]

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.[35]

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 bunionremoved which doctors believed was the root cause of her other injuries at that time.[36] She did not run competitively for almost 10 months, but made herself available for inclusion in the2009 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.[37]

Radcliffe went on to win the New York City Half Marathon in 1 hour 9 minutes 45 seconds, 2 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 inBirmingham due to a bout of tonsillitis.[38] She returned to action at the 2009 New York City Marathon but failed to notch up her third consecutive victory, instead fading to a disappointing fourth with knee problems.[39]



Radcliffe married her coach, Northern Irish former international 1,500 m runner Gary Lough.[44] in April 2000 in Bedford. At age 33, she gave birth to her first child, daughter, Isla. She was born on 17 January 2007 at 9:43 a.m. at the Princess Grace Hospital, in Monaco after a 27-hour labour.[45] Her second child, a son, Raphael, was born on 29 September 2010.


1991World Junior Cross Country ChampionshipsAntwerp, Belgium15thJunior Cross Country
1992World Junior Cross Country ChampionshipsBoston, USA1stJunior Cross Country
1992World Junior ChampionshipsSeoul, South Korea4th3000 m
1993World Cross Country ChampionshipsAmorebieta, Spain18thCross Country
1993World ChampionshipsStuttgart, Germany7th3000 m
1995World Cross Country ChampionshipsDurham, England18thCross Country
1995World ChampionshipsGothenburg, Sweden5th5000 m
1995IAAF Grand Prix FinalMonaco4th3000 m
1996World Cross Country ChampionshipsStellenbosch, South Africa19thCross Country
1996Olympic GamesAtlanta, USA5th5000 m
1996IAAF Grand Prix FinalMilan, Italy4th5000 m
1997World Cross Country ChampionshipsTurin, Italy2ndCross Country
1997European CupMunich, Germany3rd3000 m
1997World ChampionshipsAthens, Greece4th5000 m
1997IAAF Grand Prix FinalFukuoka, Japan3rd5000 m
1998World Cross Country ChampionshipsMarrakechMorocco2ndCross Country
1998European CupSt. Petersburg, Russia1st5000 m
1998European ChampionshipsBudapest, Hungary5th10000 m
1999World Cross Country ChampionshipsBelfastNorthern Ireland3rdCross Country
1999European CupParis, France1st5000 m
1999World ChampionshipsSeville, Spain2nd10000 m
1999IAAF Grand Prix FinalMunich, Germany4th3000 m
2000World Cross Country ChampionshipsVilamoura, Portugal4thShort Cross Country
2000World Cross Country ChampionshipsVilamoura, Portugal5thLong Cross Country
2000Olympic GamesSydney, Australia4th10000 m
2000World Half Marathon ChampionshipsVeracruz, Mexico1stHalf Marathon
2001World Cross Country ChampionshipsOstend, Belgium2ndShort Cross Country
2001World Cross Country ChampionshipsOstend, Belgium1stLong Cross Country
2001European CupBremen, Germany2nd5000 m
2001World ChampionshipsEdmonton, Canada4th10000 m
2001Bristol Half MarathonBristol, England1stHalf Marathon
2002World Cross Country ChampionshipsDublinRepublic of Ireland1stLong Cross Country
2002London MarathonLondon, England1stMarathon
2002Commonwealth GamesManchester, England1st5000 m
2002European ChampionshipsMunich, Germany1st10000 m
2002Chicago MarathonChicago, USA1stMarathon
2003London MarathonLondon, England1stMarathon
2003World Half Marathon ChampionshipsVilamoura, Portugal1stHalf Marathon
2003Great North RunTyne and Wear, England1stHalf Marathon
2004European CupBydgoszcz, Poland1st5000 m
2004New York City MarathonNew York, USA1stMarathon
2005London MarathonLondon, England1stMarathon
2005World ChampionshipsHelsinki, Finland1stMarathon
2007Great North RunTyne and Wear, England2ndHalf Marathon
2007New York City MarathonNew York, USA1stMarathon
2008Olympic GamesBeijing, China23rdMarathon
2008New York City MarathonNew York, USA1stMarathon
2009New York City Half MarathonNew York, USA1stHalf Marathon
2009New York City MarathonNew York, USA4thMarathon

[edit]Personal bests

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