Paula Radcliffe Doc of the Week

Paula Radcliffe

A fascinating insight into the life and career of the former British marathon runner and her trainer/husband Gary Lough. Amongst other things, the world record holder muses on the pain and pleasure of distance running, her often troubled relationship with the media and reveals the motivation that took her to the very top of her sport. eir sport 1, Mon, Jan 8th 21.30

Paula Radcliffe is one of the greatest long distance athletes of her generation. After years plying her trade on the track, she came into her own in the marathon where she smashed the world record at the 2003 London Marathon, knocking almost two minutes off the previous best which she herself had set a year earlier. Her time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds still stands today and is likely to remain the benchmark for many years to come.

Born in Cheshire in December 1973 to two amateur running enthusiasts, Radcliffe was always destined for a life in athletics. Despite suffering from asthma and anaemia, she took up running at the age of seven. Her family moved to Bedfordshire when she was 12 years old where she joined Bedford & County Athletics Club. It was here that she first trained under up-and-coming coach Alex Stanton with whom she continued to work well into her professional career.

After significant success at junior level, she made her senior debut in 1993 and managed a very respectable seventh place in the World Championships 3,000m final that year. She then finished fifth in the 5,000m in both the 1995 World Championships and 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Renowned for her distinctive head-bobbing running style and courageous racing strategy, she quickly established herself as a firm favourite with athletics fans all over the world.

Star performer

The following years saw her achieve remarkable success in cross-country, road and track athletics. She won six medals, including two golds and three silvers, in the World Cross-Country Championships between 1997 and 2002, retaining the title in 2002 in Dublin following her victory the year before in Ostend. She won the European Cross-Country title in both 1998 and 2003.On the track she won silver in the World Championship 10,000m in 1999 and gold in both the 2002 European Championships 10,000m and Commonwealth games 5,000m. The only prize that eluded her was an Olympic medal.

Despite her huge success on the track and in cross-country, her greatest achievements came on the road in the marathon and half-marathon where she was the dominant force for the best part of a decade. She won World Half-Marathon Championship gold three times between 2000 and 2003 and also claimed gold in the marathon at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. She also won the London Marathon in 2002, 2003 and 2005, the Chicago marathon in 2002 and the New York Marathon in 2004, 2007 and 2008.


While also covering her many successes, the documentary also deals with the most controversial moment of her career – the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The pre-race favourite in the marathon, she was forced to drop out after 20 miles due to illness. The same illness also forced her out of the 10,000m final five days later which led sections of the British media to brand her ‘a quitter’. Only two years on from being awarded an MBE and winning the BBC Sports personality of the Year Award, the vicious treatment she received still rankles, particularly with her husband, while Radcliffe herself states her disappointment that her entire career is too-often judged by the events of that terrible week.

The latter part of her career was dogged by injury and she announced her retirement from racing in 2015. She is still closely involved in the sport as an anti-drugs campaigner and TV pundit. Filmed just before her final race, this documentary reveals a steely, determined character who, despite her soft-spoken demeanour, was always able to give as good as she got in her battles both on the track and with the media.

Images: Getty

There are plenty of great documentaries to watch out for on the eir Sport pack every week. From football to golf, GAA, rugby, athletics and beyond, we’ve got something for everyone. Watch out next week for another fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sporting world or go to for more sports news and stories or to find out more about how we're setting sport free.

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