Paula Radcliffe on her last London Marathon and coaching at the Great North Run
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 April 2015
Former queen of the track Paula Radcliffe will run her final London Marathon this month and is helping to coach a team of women for the Great North Run in Manchester
If you’re new to running it’s a good idea to get some tips from someone who’s already clocked up a few miles. And a group of women taking part in the Great North Run in Manchester have an expert in the field to coach them. In fact, Paula Radcliffe spent much of her athletics career well ahead of the rest of the field.
The reigning marathon world record holder and former world, European and Commonwealth gold medal winner is now a fixture in the BBC’s athletics commentary box. She will put her microphone down later this month though when she takes part in her final London marathon, an event she has won three times.
She won’t be challenging this year though. In an exclusive interview with Cheshire Life, Davenham-born Paula said: ‘It’s an honour to be given one last chance and I’m going there to enjoy it. It’s a very special race and I’ll try to do as well as I can but I won’t be on the elite start. If I commit to something I want to do the best I can but I know that my body is getting older and doesn’t allow me to do the things I used to. I am a little bit easier on myself now.’
The mum-of-two, who now lives in the south of France, still runs about 90 miles a week but she will be back behind the microphone when thousands take to the streets of Manchester next month. And while she commentates on the race, she will be looking out in particular for six women, including a hospital sister from Hoole.
Louise Green signed up for the Great North Run to help her lose weight and to raise money for Autism Aware UK after her three-year-old son was diagnosed. The 32-year-old who has never run before was chosen to be one of Radcliffe’s Great runners in the event and said: ‘Paula has given me lots of useful advice about training and diet. She also has two children and is such an inspiration for women, especially with what she’s achieved during her career.’
Paula said: ‘I love to hear about women who say they have found running and it has made a difference to their life. I want as many people as possible to feel that and I was really excited to be able to choose these six women to train for the Great North Run. Some of their stories are so inspiring and it’s wonderful to see them take these steps, achieve their goals and feel such a sense of achievement.
‘I admire Louise for her determination to change her lifestyle and she’s setting a fine example to others. Everyone can have their personal goal and reason for taking part and it’s often to lead a healthier lifestyle. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to take part. A 10k road run is the perfect entry level distance. It’s long enough to be a challenge but not too daunting for a first-timer.’
Almost 40,000 people will take part in the Great North Run on Sunday May 10 and Paula added: ‘It has been great to be involved with commentating for the last few years and to see how it has grown.
‘Running is one of the most accessible and easily taken up sports. Anyone can take it up, you just need a decent pair of running shoes and the inspiration and staying power to go out and try it. Once you get the buzz from it, it helps inspire you and if the first event goes well that can make you want to stay involved.
‘My advice to everyone would be to get up and try it. I think it’s the best sport and it’s probably the only one where you can take part in something like this with so many other people and that makes it really special.
‘Running gives me pure enjoyment and it’s something I will carry on doing. I’m not the best co-ordinated and I have no sense of rhythm. My daughter puts me to shame because she’s into gymnastics. She also does swimming, tennis and athletics and obviously she has grown up with sport. I would encourage her if she wanted a career in athletics because it’s the most beautiful sport. It has allowed me to travel to places I would otherwise never have seen and to meet people I would never have met.’
Paula was born in December 1973 and started running with her dad Peter, who took part in Mersey marathons when she was young. She and her younger brother Martin would join him on training runs in Delamere Forest, which is still one of her all-time favourite places to run.
She spent her early years in Barnton and was a pupil at Little Leigh Primary School before the family moved to Kingsley and she credits Mike Leith, a teacher at Kingsley County Primary School with introducing her to her first athletics club, Frodsham Harriers.
When she was 11, Paula’s family moved to Bedfordshire and she joined the Bedford and County Club where her talents blossomed. She was training several times a week during her teens and won schools and junior titles in track and cross-country events before graduating to senior competitions.
She married runner Gary Lough in 2000 and the couple now have two children – Isla is eight and Raphael four. Paula spent a decade at the top, winning medals, setting records and being awarded an MBE along the way, and since her retirement from elite competition, she has joined the BBC’s team of commentators.
‘The television work is something I’ve had to learn, and I am still learning,’ she said. ‘If you can’t be out there competing, the next best thing is to be in the best seats in the commentary box and to still get that buzz. I have been lucky to be able to learn by working alongside the likes of Steve Cram and Phil Jones.’
She’ll be alongside them at the Olympic Games in Rio next year and is confident that Team GB can replicate the success they enjoyed in London. ‘The 2012 Olympics set the bar for British athletics and although obviously we won’t have the home advantage next year, there is real strength in depth in a lot of areas now which wasn’t there before 2012. It is very hard to get a huge medal haul but I believe there is every chance we can do equally as well in Rio as we did in London.’
If you’re inspired to get off the sofa and start pounding the streets, here is Paula’s advice to help you get the most from your run.
‘Running is one of the most rewarding sports and probably the easiest to fit around the rest of your life and to slot in around family and work.
‘For people who are new to running I would suggest getting together with a group, even if it’s only a couple of you, you can help inspire and motivate each other. Then set goals together and when you’re having tired days, keep those goals in mind.’