Worldrunning.com trawls through the photo archives to find some of the most iconic images of Paula Radcliffe’s illustrious career
At just after 12.40 on Sunday afternoon, Paula Radcliffe drew her illustrious career to a close with a 26.2-mile farewell tour of the streets of London. Twelve years after setting a still-standing world marathon record of 2:15:25, Radcliffe completed the same course for the last time in 2:36:55.
We take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of Radcliffe’s remarkable international career which dates back to 1991.
1992, Boston – At the age of 18, Radcliffe raced to the junior title in freezing conditions at the World Cross Country Championships.
1995, Gothenburg – Radcliffe was quick to make an impression in the senior ranks. After finishing seventh over 3000m at the 1993 World Championships, Radcliffe improved to fifth over 5000m in 1995.
1997, Turin – Two years later, Radcliffe claimed her first senior medal with silver at the World Cross Country Championships. In a pattern to be repeated over the next few years, Radcliffe was just outpaced in the closing stages by Derartu Tulu from Ethiopia.
1999, Seville – Radcliffe ran herself to a stand-still over 10,000m at the 1999 World Championships. After leading for almost 24-and-a-half laps in searing heat and humidity, Radcliffe was outsprinted in the last 250 metres by Gete Wami but Radcliffe still came away with a silver medal, and a UK record of 30:27.13.
2001, Ostend – On her eighth try, Radcliffe finally became the world cross country champion, winning the title from Wami in the most surprising outcome: in a sprint finish!
2001, Bristol – Another global title was to follow, as Radcliffe retained her world half marathon title on home-soil in Bristol in 66:47.
2002, London – Radcliffe was quick to leave an indelible mark over the full distance. On her debut in the London Marathon, Radcliffe ran the 24th and 25th miles in 5:08 and 5:09 respectively to race to the second fastest time in history of 2:18:56.
2002, Munich – In her annus mirabilis, Radcliffe followed her London Marathon title with a Commonwealth title over 5000m and a European title over 10,000m in the second fastest time ever of 30:01.09. In the latter, Radcliffe lapped all but three runners in the field.
2003, London – After slashing 1:29 from the world marathon record in the Chicago Marathon, Radcliffe set her iconic 2:15:25 record a few months later on the streets of London. To put that mark into context, Radcliffe’s mark was the fastest time by a British marathon-runner – male or female – in 2003, and she ran the second half at sub-2:15 marathon pace.
2004, Athens – A slew of world record-breaking performances made Radcliffe the overwhelming favourite for the Olympic marathon title in Athens but weakened by illness caused by anti-inflammatories, a distraught and exhausted Radcliffe was forced to a halt at the 36km mark.
2004, New York – Radcliffe quickly rediscovered her mojo in the New York Marathon where she ended her season on a high with a hard-fought win over Kenya’s Susan Chepkemei.
2005, Helsinki – Twelve years after making her major championships debut, Radcliffe finally claimed that elusive title on a cool and breezy afternoon in Helsinki. Employing her trademark front-running tactics, Radcliffe stopped the clock at a championship record of 2:20:57 – faster than Emil Zatopek’s winning time in the men’s marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki.
2007, New York – Radcliffe was back from maternity leave and she qualified for the Beijing Olympics with a typically gutsy win in New York. Running her first marathon in over two years, Radcliffe outlasted her old adversary Gete Wami in a thrilling race.
2008, Beijing – Radcliffe’s second Olympics in succession was to end in tears. Just months before the Olympics, the world record-holder was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her leg and while she was able to get into reasonable fitness, Radcliffe was forced to stop in the last five kilometres due to cramp, and dropped back to finish 23rd.
2011, Berlin – Radcliffe qualified for her fifth successive Olympics after finishing third in the Berlin Marathon – her first marathon in nearly two years – in 2:23:46. However, a career-threatening foot injury robbed the Brit of a place on the start-line in 2012.
2015, London – Aged 41, Radcliffe was able to get in shape for a farewell appearance in a race she dominated in the mid-2000s. Opting to start with the mass ranks instead of with the elites, Radcliffe was the first woman to cross the finish-line in 2:36:55. “I knew it would be emotional and it was. I nearly lost it at Birdcage Walk, but the crowds bowled me over. I wanted it to last forever,” said Radcliffe.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images