Athletics: Paula inspires her conqueror

Paula Radcliffe has already been on the suffering end of the Paula Radcliffe effect. In the storm-force wind and driving rain of Puerto Rico two weeks ago, the leading lady of long-distance running experienced her first defeat in an individual event for two-and-a-half years.

Paula Radcliffe has already been on the suffering end of the Paula Radcliffe effect. In the storm-force wind and driving rain of Puerto Rico two weeks ago, the leading lady of long-distance running experienced her first defeat in an individual event for two-and-a-half years.

To Lornah Kiplagat, the woman who beat Radcliffe by four seconds in the World's Best 10km road race and who will be among her rivals in the 8km long-course race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in the shadow of the Brussels Atomium next Saturday, the result came as no surprise.

While Radcliffe was busy blazing a seemingly invincible trail - leaving her nominal rivals scattered in her high-speed wake in the European Championships 10,000m final in Munich in August 2002 and finishing four minutes and 30 seconds clear of the opposition en route to her Beamonesque 2hr 15min 25sec marathon world best in London last April - Kiplagat was looking on not so much in awed admiration as in the spirit of Yosser Hughes, the Alan Bleasdale Boys from the Black Stuff character who watched the deeds of others and declared: "I can do that."

"For the past two-and-a-half years, Paula has done exceptionally well," Kiplagat reflected, speaking from her home in Groet on the North Holland coast. "She has run incredible times. But always I have said, 'If Paula has done it, in a human way, in human blood, then somebody else can do it'. What she has done has never shaken me at all.

"In the marathon I would have to say she is far, far away from any other competitor. The standard she has reached is amazing, but it has also given the rest of us motivation. It has made people realise that you can do more than you think you can. If you imagined running 2hr 15min it looked quite impossible, but Paula proved that it actually is possible. And if she has done it therefore somebody else can.

"It's all about mental things: about going for it, about taking your chance. It takes a lot of courage and training and you have to take risks. I have a lot of respect for what Paula has done. She has taught us there are no limits. The question now is: how many other people can do the same?"

The answer will become a little clearer in Brussels. Just five months down the road from the Olympic marathon, Radcliffe will be keen to rediscover her winning touch in an event she won in the mud in Ostend in 2001 and on the firm going at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin in 2002. It is unlikely to be a stroll in Laeken Park, though. The opposition includes Kiplagat, who turns 30 on the day of the race, and two strong Ethiopians, reigning champion Worknesh Kidane and Tirunesh Dibaba, the 18-year-old world 5,000m champion.

Radcliffe is also entered for the 4km short-course race on Sunday. So is Kiplagat. She is attempting the double as preparation for the Olympic 10,000m. "Cross country is not really my line," she confessed. "I have only run the world cross once. I finished 79th, I think." Kiplagat was actually 80th in Stellenbosch in 1996 - 61 places behind a youthful Radcliffe. They are certain to be closer on Saturday, when Kiplagat will be comfortably close to home. A native of Kenya, she has been a Dutch citizen since 23 July last year. In her case, it has not been a nationality of convenience.

Kiplagat has been happily settled in Groet, a small village near Alkmaar, for five years now. Her husband and manager, Pieter Langerhorst, is Dutch. The couple met at the London marathon in 1997. That Kiplagat has been accepted in Holland was confirmed when she was voted Dutch Runner of the Year - four weeks before she received her passport. She speaks fluent Dutch too.

Not that she has forgotten her homeland. Far from it. Four years ago Kiplagat used $200,000 of her earnings to build a high-altitude training centre for female Kenyan runners in the Rift Valley. She was concerned that the social tradition in Kenya was affording insufficient opportunities to women, who have been historically expected to serve the men in their families.

"My own father told me that if he caught me working for my brothers, obeying their orders, he would break my hands," Kiplagat recalled. "He told my eldest sister that she did not require to be circumcised and that was very unusual in 1954. Women who are not circumcised often cannot find a husband, but my father told her that if nobody wanted to marry her that was fine; she could stay home. She is now a veterinary graduate."

And now Lornah Kiplagat is pushing back the boundaries for her native countrywomen - like Paula Radcliffe, venturing beyond the perceived limits.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence