Freya Murray To Replace Paula Radcliffe In Olympic Marathon

Freya Murray, shown here at the NYC Half, ran her first and only marathon this past spring in London, posting an impressive mark of 2:28:10. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The 2:28 debutante is ready to step in and race next Sunday’s Olympic Marathon. 

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

LONDON — The big shoes left empty by the ailing Paula Radcliffe at next Sunday’s Olympic Women’s Marathon are likely to be filled by a tiny Scotswoman who has a former world record holder for a coach, and who has been training for this race as if she had originally made the team.

RELATED: Paula Radcliffe Out Of Olympic Marathon

Freya Murray, who lives in Heaton, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, but often trains in Boulder, Colo., under Welsh legend Steve Jones, will be nominated by the British Olympic Association and U.K. Athletics to replace Radcliffe under the Late Athlete Replacement policy, U.K. Athletics announced here today.  Murray, 28, was designated the alternate for the British women’s team after making a solid marathon debut at the Virgin London Marathon last April where she finished 13th in 2:28:10.  She was the second British woman in the race, finishing two places behind Claire Hallissey who earned her Olympic berth that day.

“I am just so excited about this,” Murray said through a statement provided by her manager, Brendan Reilly.  “It’s not been very nice for Paula the past few days, with rumors running rampant in the press, and I really feel bad for her.”

Although not yet official, it is nearly assured that Murray will be allowed to join the team.  She had previously been designated the alternate and easily met the Olympic Games “A” standard of 2:37:00 with her run in London.

Murray is a solid track athlete, with career best times of 15:26.5 for 5000m and 32:23.44 for 10,000m.  She represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in 2010, finishing fifth in the 10,000m and seventh in the 5000m.  She’s dabbled in road racing the last four seasons, but began to approach the half-marathon and marathon more seriously late in 2011 when she made her half-marathon debut at the Great North Run clocking a credible 1:12:44.  She improved that time slightly at the 2012 NYC Half last March (1:12:32), a race she ran as a tune-up for the London Marathon.

“I really want to thank everybody who has supported me, and mainly my coach, Steve Jones, my fiance, Michael (Ross), and the people at adidas,” Murray continued.  “I feel I’ve been so lucky the past few years. I hardly ran in 2011 with the injuries, but Steve made me believe I could do the marathon well, and London was my focus this Spring.  We’ll see how the race goes. I’ve done some long runs this summer, with two hours yesterday, and I’m happy to have that under my belt. I’m just looking forward to running in the Olympic Games.”

Jones, whose 2:08:05 at the Chicago Marathon in 1984 broke the world record by 13 seconds, had the challenge of keeping Murray motivated to compete in an important race she would likely not start.  He said today that his athlete was ready.

“Freya is ready to run and she will be on the start line healthy,” said Jones in a written statement provided to Race Results Weekly.  “One of the most significant things is that they [UK Athletics] are willing to put a young and upcoming athlete into the mix to help build for the future. This is all part of the journey for Freya.”

Jones confirmed that he was buying a ticket and would be in London to support Murray.

For Radcliffe, who initially had trained well for these Olympics but was undone by osteoarthritis in her left foot, today was one of sadness.  The multiple world record holder and world champion whose spectacular 2:15:25 world record at the 2003 London Marathon may never be surpassed said through a statement: “From the day when it was announced that London had won the bid, taking part and performing well in the London Olympic Games has been a major goal in my life. The goal of a fifth Olympics in my home country, what better? The chance to make amends to myself for bitter disappointments at the previous two Olympics. Through a lot of tough times it has kept me fighting, motivated and focused. That is why it hurts so much to finally admit to myself that it isn’t going to happen.”

Mara Yamauchi is the third member of the British women’s marathon squad.  No British woman has ever won an Olympic marathon medal.

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