Born in England in 1973, Paula Radcliffe is one of the elite runners competing today, having set and broken her own women's marathon record at the 2003 London Marathon, finishing in 2:15:25—her best marathon time to date. Radcliffe failed to place at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but did win the New York Marathon that same year. Running the marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, she suffered a muscle cramp and finished 23rd. She withdrew from competing at the 2012 Olympics.
Paula Jane Radcliffe was born on December 17, 1973, in Northwich, Cheshire, England. Despite being an asthmatic child when she first developed a passion for track and field, Radcliffe would go on to set and break her own world record in the women's marathon, and become known as one of the world's elite runners.
After winning the world junior cross-country title in 1992, Radcliffe steadily developed as a distance runner. Following years of training, she won her first world cross-country long-course gold medal in 2001. She won her second in 2002.
Other achievements include a gold medal in the 5,000 meters at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and the 10,000-meter gold at the 2002 European Championships. Radcliffe also won the Chicago Marathon (women's division) in 2002, and was victorious at the London Marathon (women's division) in both 2002 and 2003.
At the 2002 Chicago Marathon, Radcliffe set a new women's world marathon record time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 18 seconds. That same year, she was named "Female Athlete of the Year" by the International Association of Athletics Federations. At the 2003 London Marathon, Radcliffe broke her own marathon record, finishing the race in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds—her best marathon time to date—on April 13, 2003.
2004 Olympic Games and Setbacks
There were high hopes for Radcliffe prior to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Unfortunately, those aspirations were dashed when Radcliffe failed to place in both the marathon and the 10,000-meter final. She did, however, win the New York Marathon later that year.
Radcliffe shared her experiences as one of track and field's top competitors in her 2004 autobiography, Paula: The Story So Far. The following year, the celebrated runner proved that her story was far from over. At the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, she won gold in the women's marathon.
In 2006, Radcliffe learned that she and Gary Lough, her husband and manager, were expecting their first child. She continued to run during her pregnancy, but modified her usually grueling training. Radcliffe gave birth to a daughter, Isla, on January 17, 2007.
Returning to training, Radcliffe suffered a stress fracture in her back and subsequently decided not to compete at the 2007 World Championships, held in Osaka, Japan. By the fall of that year, however, she had healed and was ready to take on her next challenge. In November 2007, she won the women's competition at the New York Marathon in a grueling duel with Ethopia's Gete Wami.
In Recent Years
Citing a foot injury, Radcliffe withdrew from competing at the 2008 London Marathon. She then resumed her training in preparation for the women's marathon at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, held in Beijing, China. There, however, another injury would interfere with the runner's Olympic hopes. While running the marathon, she suffered a muscle cramp that slowed her down significantly, and subsequently finished 23rd in the race.
In 2010, Radcliffe won induction into the England Athletics Hall of Fame. The following year, she placed third at the Berlin Marathon, finishing the women's marathon in 2 hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds—the fourth-fastest 2011 marathon time by a European runner. The following year, she was beaten by Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie at the Vienna Half Marathon.
Again citing a foot injury, Radcliffe decided not to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England.
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