Paula Radcliffe - A Running Sensation
Words Elana Meyer, pics Shutterstock
There are many gifted athletes with loads of talent all over the world. Of those talented athletes you will see some that come and go, and then you get those who stick around to become the sporting icons who shift beliefs of what is possible.
For decades, the belief was that women were not physically strong enough to race over distances longer than 800 m. However, history was to change, albeit very slowly, at the 1972 Olympics, when the 1,500m was added for the first time. It took another 12 years to add the 10,000m and marathon for women. And then Paula Radcliffe came along and redefined what women are capable of when she ran the marathon in a time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds, setting the current women's world record.
At the age of 41 and after a 25-year long-distance running career, Paula Radcliffe ran her farewell race at this year’s London Marathon.
So what did Paula, undoubtedly the greatest female marathon runner ever, do to take her from good to great?
Paula had talent and did really well as a junior, however she was often beaten by athletes with an explosive kick over the last 400m. Then in 1998, Paula started working with Irish physical therapist Gerard Hartmann, who played a major role in turning her into the running machine she was.
Paula Radcliffe breaking record at Great North Run, 2003. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
But it was not just her talent and therapist that saw Paula dominate the ladies in marathons, her incredible work ethic, commitment and professionalism took her to a whole new level. The saying, “Talent will only take you so far in your journey to excellence, but hard work will separate you,” was never truer than for Paula.
Testament to this is what was said by Hartman, who has worked with many Olympics champions over the years, “I’ve seen plenty of athletes with much more talent than Paula Radcliffe. The uniqueness of Paula is that her success defies the talent. She had respectable cross-country talent, but she wasn’t your thoroughbred athlete. She needed to train at 110 percent as opposed to 90. She had to run 150 miles a week, but it wasn’t the mileage, it was the intensity and the pain she endured. Her talent, if she didn’t train hard, would have got her to 31:50 or 32:00 for 10K; to run 30-flat, 2:15 [marathon], took extraordinary will power, extraordinary mind set, extraordinary preparation, an excellent support structure, to be fastidious about every aspect of her nutrition, working with a dietitian, a homeopath, an exercise physiologist, physical therapist, osteopath, and collaborating all of that with her husband, Gary, and her coach.”
Although Paula is the holder of the ladies marathon world record, her true legacy is that she’s proof that athletes can break records by abiding by the rules. Furthermore, she is also a great example that it can take years to develop into a champion.
There are so many talented athletes (and parents) out there who can learn from Paula. Ultimately though, it is not about the talent spotted at a tender age, but rather the long-term commitment, exceptional inner drive and ability to overcome setbacks.
I salute Paula Radcliffe on a phenomenal career that we can all aspire to.
Paula Radcliffe, winner of the 2007 New York City Marathon, photographed at Mile 14. by Ed Costello from Brooklyn, NY, US
More about Paula Radcliffe
• Paula Jane Radcliffe, born 17 December 1973, is an English long-distance runner.
• She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion (2004, 2007, 2008), and won the 2002 Chicago Marathon.
• Radcliffe is a former world champion in the marathon, half marathon and cross country.
• She has also been European champion over 10,000 metres and in cross country.
• On the track, Radcliffe won the 10,000 metres silver medal at the 1999 World Championships and was the 2002 Commonwealth champion at 5000 metres.
• She represented Great Britain at the Olympics four times consecutively (1996 to 2008), but did not win a medal on the Olympic stage.
• Radcliffe is an asthma sufferer who has campaigned against the use of drugs in sport.
• Her running has earned her a number of accolades, including the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Laureus World Comeback of the Year, IAAF World Athlete of the Year, AIMS World Athlete of the Year (three times) and a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). She has also been nominated for World Sportswoman of the year on several occasions. In 2010, she was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.
• She ended her competitive running career at the 2015 London Marathon.
• She is married to her coach, Gary Lough, and has two children.
Source material: Wikipedia
Paula Radcliffe Airborne @ Mile 14. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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