Clitheroe looks beyond London Olympic dream

 

Istanbul

It was a picture of domestic bliss, 8,000ft above sea level on the slopes overlooking the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. Outside a modest brick-built chalet at Lornah Kiplagat's High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, two pairs of red-dusted running shoes were propped against the doorstep and a selection of vests, shorts and socks were hanging from the washing line.

For four weeks before Christmas and four weeks after, this was home for Helen Clitheroe and her "roomie."

"Yeah, we had a cosy little room, sharing a wardrobe and not much space," Clitheroe said. "I've known Paula for a long time and it was great to get to know her even better. She's somebody I look up to in athletics."

Six weeks after the completion of the Great Britain training camp, Paula – Paula Radcliffe – is in Albuquerque in the United States preparing for next month's Vienna Half Marathon, her selection for the Olympic marathon assured. Clitheroe is here in Turkey, seeking to reap the reward of all those hard yards at high altitude when she runs in the 3,000 metres at the World Indoor Championships tomorrow and on Saturday and Sunday.

A year ago, after two stints in Iten, the Preston Harrier emerged as the unlikely British hero of the European Indoor Championships in Paris, winning the 3,000m at the age of 37. In the process, she opened up the prospect of a career as an outdoor 5,000m runner and making the Olympic grade – like Radcliffe – as a 38-year-old.

Clitheroe now has an Olympic 5,000m qualifying time in the bag, having made the World Championship final last summer. An Olympian as a 1500m runner in 2000 and as a 3,000m steeplechaser in 2008, the former lifeguard is closing on her dream of a home Olympic appearance. She is doing so as one of the unfunded heroes of the British track and field team.

Clitheroe's European indoor 3,000m victory earned her the inaugural Inspiration Award at the British Athletics Writers' Association's awards last autumn, but when it came to the UK Athletics hierarchy deciding the recipients of Lottery money for 2012, "it was disappointing not to be back on funding," she said. "But I'm just carrying on doing what I've been doing."

Supported by her husband, Neil, a PE teacher, and guided by her coach, John Nuttall, Clitheroe is quick to acknowledge the benefit she has gained from being included in the altitude training camps jointly funded by UK Athletics and the London Marathon.

"It's had a massive bearing on my changing fortunes over the last 12 months," she said. "It's the cumulative effect. It really has worked for me."

Given the strength of the East African opposition – not least from Ethiopian Meserat Defar, who will be chasing a record-equalling fifth world indoor crown – it would be expecting a lot for Clitheroe to make the podium in Istanbul. Still, she is one of the leading non-African entrants and she is not only looking to those home Olympics, but to another lease of running life beyond.

"I'm not thinking of London as the finish line," she said. "I'm thinking of trying a marathon."

Which would set the inspirational Lancastrian off down a path well trodden by her celebrated "roomie".

Suggested Topics
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before