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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project