Phoenix Rising

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How Charlotte Purdue turned disappointment into triumph

It feels weird to suggest that missing the Tokyo Olympics could have been the best thing to ever happen to British marathoner Charlotte Purdue. It was the moment she had worked her whole career for, an achievement that would no doubt have been the highlight of not just her sporting life but also one of the greatest moments of her life – if she made it. Of course, she didn’t.

Nic [Bideau, Charlotte’s coach] and Adam [Clarke, Charlotte’s partner] really helped with the disappointment. The Olympics was such a huge goal for me, I was in a bit of a funk for about a month afterwards. I needed to take some time away; it had been quite a stressful period.

Then the London Marathon approached Nic and they wanted me to run; they were really excited to get me to run. I spoke to Nic and Adam and refocused my goal – I had to almost pretend that this was my Olympics. After that, it was easy to focus on London; I had a great run there in 2019 so I knew I could run well there again.

The way it turned out with the London Marathon, it’s almost like everything worked out the way it was supposed to – when I look back on last year I feel like it all happened for a reason. I had my best year yet, but in March I thought it was going to be the worst year ever.

The Olympics kind of made me question whether I wanted to run for Great Britain again because I felt like they stabbed me in the back, but I've forgotten about that. Representing Great Britain is bigger than that, so you’ll definitely see me running for GB again.

Charlotte Purdue


Charlotte’s run at the 2021 London Marathon was a huge breakthrough, as she ran 2:23:26 to finish 10th, shaving over two minutes off her PB in the process. It’s the kind of catapult that marathoners are always searching for – that perfect race where they can wipe minutes off a PB. Of course, those races rarely come, and more often we see blow ups and DNFs when athletes hold their feet so close to the fire, but Charlotte has a reputation for consistently big improvements. In 2017 she ran 2:29 in London, and in 2019 she ran 2:25.

Nic actually didn’t want me to set a time goal because I was coming off injury; he just wanted me to have a good performance, to race well and focus on position. It wasn’t until about six weeks before when we were doing big marathon sessions and Nic noticed I was running good times – that’s when we realised I might be able to run a fast time.

I thought going into it I could run 2:23. I knew it would be a big jump in PBs but the training told me it was achievable. I was just so happy to do it; it was such a great feeling.


Without dwelling on Charlotte’s non-selection for the Olympics, it’s particularly cruel given how much her country obviously means to her. In 2019 Charlotte made the difficult decision to run the World Championships in Doha in oppressive heat and humidity, foregoing a significant payday if she had opted to run one of the World Marathon Majors instead. In early 2021, just before she was snubbed for Tokyo, Charlotte was on an optional Team Great Britain camp in the UAE in order to give herself the best chance of being selected.

Add to that her strong record at the London Marathon over the years and her three victories and course record at The Big Half, one of the biggest half marathons in the UK, and it’s clear that there’s a deeply held love of her country and its people.

It’s an honour to run for Great Britain. The World Championships is such a big stage; it's one of those extra things you can do as an athlete – it’s an honour. Obviously, you don't get paid at all to do it but being part of a team is a great feeling, because so much of what we do as runners is just about yourself.

The Olympics kind of made me question whether I wanted to run for Great Britain again because I felt like they stabbed me in the back, but I've forgotten about that. Representing Great Britain is bigger than that, so you’ll definitely see me running for GB again.


It’s an exciting time to be Charlotte Purdue. She switched sponsors at the start of 2021 – joining adidas after several years with Nike – and this April heads to the biggest race adidas sponsors, and perhaps the most famous marathon in the world: the Boston Marathon.

It feels something like a free swing for Purdue; there’s no pressure or expectation to run fast over the hills of Boston. Instead, it will be an old-fashioned race, a day of sitting with the pack, evaluating competitors, making and checking moves, and ultimately of being brave. Being brave enough to put your nose in the wind and say, “This is my time to go. I have to go now and see what I can do.”

I’m really excited for Boston because it is a race. I’m going into it not thinking about any time, just trying to get as fit as possible right now and then the goal is just to finish as high up as I can in the race. I won’t be looking at my watch or my splits throughout the race.

It’s exciting because it's a different way to race a marathon. I’ve done world champs like that but to do a major marathon like that will be pretty cool.


It promises to be an exciting race. With London being held in October again this year (it returns to its familiar April timeslot in 2023), there’s an opportunity for many more elites to take on Boston. As well as East Africans such as Peres Jepchirchir, Joyciline Jepkosgei and Roza Dereje, Purdue will face off against some top American talent, including Sara Hall, Des Linden and one of the most exciting names in running right now, Molly Seidel.

I won’t be marking anyone in particular or watching anyone – everyone’s a competitor, I’m just going to treat it like a World Championships style of race. I’ll have to see how it unfolds because you don’t know how it’s going to go, how people decide to tackle the hills. I’m just there to race.

But it’s not just the Boston Marathon that fuels Purdue’s training blocks. At the time of writing this, she’s in quarantine in Japan before pacing the Nagoya Women’s Marathon. From there, a trip to the US to race the New York Half, and then on to Boston. After that? Who knows – maybe the World Champs, or maybe another London Marathon. The world is still far from normal, but it’s an exciting time to be Charlotte Purdue.

It feels good to be back in Japan, it feels good to be back travelling in general and not thinking as much about COVID. It’s still around obviously but there are less and less restrictions.

The most exciting thing for me recently was being able to get back to Australia! I knew that once I could get back to Australia things would feel back to normal. So it was great to get a solid block of training in and I plan to be back in Australia in December.

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