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Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 12:56 UK

Paula's understudy

By Simon Austin

Paula Radcliffe and Hayley Haining

While the rest of the country collectively crosses its fingers for Paula Radcliffe, one person could be forgiven for hoping she fails to make it to the start line for the Olympic marathon.

Hayley Haining is Radcliffe's understudy in Britain's Olympic squad and will step up if the leading lady fails to overcome injury before 17 August.

The two athletes are at opposite ends of the sporting spectrum.

Radcliffe is the golden girl of British athletics, a marathon world record holder and winner at world, European and Commonwealth level.

In contrast, Haining ran her first marathon in 2005 and her name is little known outside athletics circles.

Where Radcliffe is a millionaire, full-time athlete, Haining has to fit training in around a busy job as a clinical pathologist at the Glasgow Veterinary School.

19 May: Named in Olympic team despite being on crutches
21 May: MRI scan reveals low-grade fracture of left femur
23 June: Starts light running
17 August: Olympic marathon
As a reserve, Haining's hopes of going to the Olympics are completely in Radcliffe's hands. Indeed, the 36-year-old Scot might not discover her fate until a day before the marathon.

Radcliffe seems certain to be named in Britain's final Olympic squad on 20 July and will then be able to pull out at any point before the race.

It's a difficult situation, but one that Haining willingly accepts.

"I said I was happy to be a reserve, so I knew I would be in limbo and that it would be hard," she told BBC Sport.

"I've been told to train as if I'm going to the Olympics and that's what I'm doing. I'll be ready if I do get called up and if I don't I'll be fit for a marathon in the autumn."

She also insists she wishes Radcliffe the best - even though her own dreams of reaching the Olympics depend on the world record holder failing to make it.

"I've had so many injuries over the years that I really know what Paula's been going through and I feel for her," she said.

My dream was always to compete at the Olympics, but I had so many injuries that I'd given up hope

Hayley Haining
"I know what it's like to build up your hopes and have them thwarted and wouldn't wish that on anyone else."

Haining actually outshone Radcliffe at the start of their burgeoning athletics careers. She was the British schools cross-country champion in 1985, at the age of 13, and finished seven places ahead of Radcliffe, in seventh, at the world cross country championships in Antwerp in 1991.

Yet while Radcliffe's career then went from strength to strength, Haining's floundered because of serious injuries.

A severe foot problem meant she didn't wear a British vest for five years after her success in Antwerp and further problems then forced her to quit the sport for four years after 1999.

"When I was younger, my dream was always to compete at the Olympics, but I had so many injuries that I'd given up hope," Haining said.

"If you'd told me a year or 18 months ago that I'd be a reserve for Beijing, I wouldn't have believed you."

Haining gained her place as a reserve after finishing 12th in the 2008 London Marathon.

Her career has been on a steep upward curve since she decided to concentrate on the marathon in 2005.

And custom-made insoles and a specialised training and rehab regime have helped her to overcome her foot injuries.

Haining is currently running about 100 miles a week - 15 to 17 miles from Monday to Friday and 23 on Sundays - and will taper this down in the two weeks before the Olympic marathon.

14 July: First draft of squad announced
19 July: Second draft. Relay members eg added
20 July: Countries submit final names. Athletes can withdraw on medical grounds

In contrast, Radcliffe's preparations have been rather less conventional since the fracture of her left femur was first diagnosed.

She started her rehab by water-jogging in a swimming pool, before progressing to cross-training and then jogging on a 35,000 Nasa-designed anti-gravity treadmill.

Using air pressure, the machine can reduce body weight by up to 80%, and its effect has been described as akin to "running on a pillow".

Despite these disjointed preparations, Haining says we should not underestimate Radcliffe.

"I have cross trained for a cross country race a few years ago and was surprised at how fit I got - that shows you don't have to train just by pounding out miles on the road," she said.

"And we have to remember that this is Paula we're talking about here. She's a great athlete and her focus and determination are phenomenal."

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see also
Team GB for Beijing
01 Jul 08 |  Team GB
Radcliffe 'on schedule' for Games
20 Jun 08 |  Athletics
Radcliffe bronze still 'awesome'
26 May 08 |  Athletics
What next for Paula?
24 May 08 |  Athletics
Injury 'bombshell' hits Radcliffe
22 May 08 |  Athletics
Radcliffe out of London Marathon
06 Mar 08 |  Athletics

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