In an interview with Q magazine, Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin stated that "In My Place" was a song they had left after recording the band's debut album, Parachutes (2000).[ When the band finished recording their second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, Martin said that the album was complete. However guitarist Jonny Buckland played the song on his guitar, Martin said that now they needed to record and include the track in the album. Martin also revealed that: "That's about where you're put in the world, and how you're given your position, and the way you look, and how you have to get on with it."
In an interview, Buckland revealed that the song was hard to record, as the band had played the song live. He also commented that when they started recording the song, they did not know how the song should sound, per the band's contrasting ideas.
Coldplay released "In My Place" in the US and UK on 5 August 2002 as the album's lead single. The single was pressed with two B-side's: "One I Love" and "I Bloom Blaum".
"In My Place" peaked at number two in UK Singles Charts on 17 August 2002, kept off the top by "Colourblind" by Darius Danesh. It stayed at number two until 23 November 2002. The song reached number eighteen on Billboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks in 2002. The band were yet to have a number one single.
Critics were positive towards the song. In the Entertainment Weekly review of the album, critic David Browne wrote: "Songs like 'In My Place' and 'Warning Sign' marry lyrics imbued with deep regret and mistakes ('...You were an island / And I passed you by' in the touching latter song) with lyrical melodies and guitar hooks that twinkle and sparkle." Adrien Begrand of PopMatters wrote: "When the shimmering, pretty lead-off single 'In My Place' represents the album's weakest moment, you know you've got something extraordinary. Currently storming the charts a la 'Yellow', 'In My Place' is another surprisingly simple song, carried by Jon Buckland's chiming guitar and Chris Martin's heartfelt vocals. It really shouldn't amount to much, but Coldplay make it work very well. When Martin sings, "Please, please, please/Come back and sing to me," he totally sells it, and you buy it. And why not? The song's lovely. Amy M. Bruce of The Towerlight wrote: "With a slew of introspective rock songs like 'In My Place' and 'God Put a Smile Upon Your Face,' this album is worthy of the hype surrounding the band's first album." Jules Willis of the BBC wrote: "The second track, the first written post-Parachutes and sounding like a refugee from that album, is the grower 'In My Place'. It's a fantastic pop tune that justifies Coldplay's status as one of UK's most exciting bands."
"In My Place" won a Grammy Award in the category of Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 2003 Grammy Awards. The song was nominated for two MuchMusic Video Awards for Best international video–group and People's Choice: Favorite international group.
In 2003, "In My Place" was featured on Coldplay's live album, Live 2003. The song appeared in the 2006 episode "Saving Jimmy" on CBS' television series Cold Case. The song was used as a closing montage song about a case from 2003. The track appeared again on an episode of the television series Fastlane. The song is also featured in as playable in Guitar Hero 5 (2009).