Never set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. And laugh a lot – it’s good for you! – Paula Radcliffe
This past weekend we said goodbye to two sporting greats as they took to the field for the last time competitively. One is AP McCoy, 20 times Champion Jockey and general magician on a horse, whose third place finish on Box Office this Saturday marked his retirement from Horse Racing. However as he is a man on a women’s sports blog he is obviously not the focus of this article. That pleasure instead falls to the mighty marathon machine Paula Radcliffe.
As the first wave of speedy club runners set off on the overcast Sunday morning, Paula Radcliffe began her last ever London Marathon. With trade mark running style she casually ran the course (carrying a slight injury) in a slow and leisurely time of 2hrs 36, putting her on a par with elite runner Rebecca Robinson (who’s about ten year’s Radcliffe’s junior). Even Denise Lewis couldn’t keep up, trying desperately to grab an interview with her colleague as she cruised past.
Radcliffe is just one of those athletes that’s always been around. She obtained some huge achievements in her career, having six world championships, seventh huge marathon wins and a world record under her belt. She’s also won Commonwealth medals and claimed gold on all different terrains, not seeming to be phased by a change from track to road to…muddy path (i’m guessing that’s what the going is like for cross country, right?) Her world record marathon time of 2:15:25, set at the 2003 London Marathon, has still not been touched 12 years later. She has basically won everything…apart from that Olympic medal and I think it is through this that Radcliffe doesn’t receive some of the credit she deserves.
Yes she is a family name, but I occasionally feel that Radcliffe’s lack of performance at the Olympics puts her down the list of sporting greats in the eyes of some, regardless of everything else she’s achieved ever ever. Maybe it’s just me, but i’ve felt sometimes that people and the media have been quick on the attack – going after her for ‘quitting’ the marathon during the Athens Olympics after 22 miles despite it being clear she was completely distressed about the decision or examining the relationship between her and her coach husband with their beady judging eyes. Which is ridiculous.
Radcliffe should be celebrated as a national treasure, not just for her stuffed to overflowing trophy cabinet, but because she has done so much for distance running in the UK and because she has seemed so natural and supportive whilst doing it. From the stories of paying for Mo Farah’s driving lessons to get him to training, to her down to earth approach when offering advice to other runners (regardless of ability), there doesn’t appear to be any airs and graces to this world-record holding champion.
Radcliffe will continue to be on our screens as part of the BBC’s athletics presenting team, where she’ll calmly commentate her way through some of the most grueling races you and I could imagine, and have a good giggle with Denise and Gabby in the commentary box. But for now, Paula, we salute you.
Image from www.belfastlive.co.uk (thanks)