London Marathon: Clague strides out of Paula's long shadow

After 14 frustrating years, forgotten woman of British distance running can fulfil dream

It has taken her 14 frustrating years, but Jenny Clague is finally starting to play catch-up with her arch-rival from her teenage running days. As 18-year-olds, they both had the look of future world-beaters. On one weekend in February 1992, Clague smashed the British junior record in an indoor 5,000-metre race in Birmingham. Paula Radcliffe finished five seconds behind her. A month later, Radcliffe won the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships in Boston. Clague finished fourth. It was to be the pinnacle of the Liverpudlian's athletics career.

Until now, perhaps. At the age of 32 (old enough and experienced enough on the sidelines to have been appointed last year as manager of the England women's cross-country team), Clague has re-emerged on the national scene as a marathon runner gaining serious momentum.

Since making her debut at the 26.2-mile distance in Shanghai in November 2004, she has reduced her personal best from 2hr 48min to 2:38.04. In the absence of the injured Radcliffe, Clague lines up as the third fastest of the élite female British entrants for the Flora London Marathon today, behind Mara Yamauchi and Birhan Dagne.

If she can maintain her improvement and make it across the finish line inside 2hr 35min, the forgotten young woman of British distance running would be a thirtysomething debutant in major championship competition at the European Championships in Gothenburg in August. She would also, more than likely, be a Great Britain team-mate of Radcliffe for the first time in 14 years; Radcliffe has yet to declare her intended plans for the summer, though a defence of her European 10,000m crown would seem likely.

"I saw Paula just a year ago, actually," Clague said. "It was in the lift at the hotel before the London Marathon. [Radcliffe won in 2hr 17 min 42sec; Clague, in only her second race as a marathon runner after a decade of injury problems, finished 20th in 2:41:21]. We had a little chat. It was a bit weird, because obviously we were main competitors when we were younger. I beat her once or twice, as well."

So what had it been like for the Liverpool Harrier, being out for so long after rupturing an Achilles tendon in 1993 and watching her old rival establish herself as the leading lady of world distance running?

"It was very, very hard," Clague confessed. "I rem-ember the first few years I couldn't watch the races; it got me so upset. But I did come to terms with it. Yeah, it's disappointing that I didn't fulfil my potential, but I think there's a lot of luck in sport and I was just injury-prone.

"I lost a lot of confidence when I got back again after the injury, so I didn't perform as well as I should have. I've got a lot more confidence since I started training for marathons. I had a couple of good results and I thought, 'Maybe I can be OK again'. I ran 2:48 in Shanghai in November 2004, then 2:41 in London last year. That got me a British vest for the Kosice Marathon in Slovakia last October, and I finished second there in 2:38:04.

"I'm hoping to get the European qualifier in London: 2hr 35min. They're taking a team of five, so I've got a better chance of getting selected than I did for the Commonwealths this year... That's a bit of a sore point."

It has good reason to be a tender topic, though the chuckle that accompanies mention of it tells you that Clague is far too affable a soul to harbour any smouldering bitterness. Her time in the Kosice race put her third in line for selection for England's Commonwealth Games team, only for the powers that be to limit their selection to just two runners.

"That's been the biggest blow, if only because it took me 14 years to get back [to being] that fit again," Clague said. "To make the qualifying time [2hr 40min], to be in a position where you think you're in the team, and then to get told you're not going because of the funding, when I've funded myself through everything... it was a bit of a bad time.

"But I've run better since then, because I got a bit angry about it, I think. I've had the best winter season I've had for 14 years. I've won the Northern title this year and I won it 14 years ago. I've run under 34 minutes for 10km on the roads for the first time. So it's not all been a waste. I've obviously got myself into good shape. I'm quite confident I can do 2hr 35min. It all just comes down to the day now, doesn't it?"

That day has dawned finally for the woman who has managed to fit in her marathon-training mileage while holding down a full-time job as a sports development officer with Liverpool City Council - and who has beaten the clock before, of course. The indoor 5,000m time she recorded in Birmingham 14 years ago, 16min 11.61sec, still stands as the fastest ever by a British junior. The second fastest, 16:11.10, still stands to Paula Radcliffe.

The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster