"A Runaway Success"
Puerto Rico 10km
April: London Marathon:
Pre-race - Race report - Photos
September: Hydro Active
Richmond Park 10km
Great North Run
World Half Marathon
Dec: European Cross-Country
World Championships, Paris
Laureus Sports Awards
Cadbury's Get active
"I just love
explains Paula Radcliffe. "I
love that feeling when you run fast and you get the highs. Essentially,
all I want to do is go out there and run faster. I want to be better than
I was last year. That's the feeling that you've built with.
"I remember my grandmother once asking me when I'd get a proper job.
Thankfully she's stopped that now - I can't remember when, but I imagine
it must have been when my career took off. Really it's only a sport, but
it is something I love doing."
Now hailed as
"the fastest woman in the world",
Paula is blonde, elegantly tall and fiercely competitive. She won this
year's London Marathon - her second - and set a new women's world record
with her time of two hours 15 minutes 25 seconds. Last month, she ran away
with her third IAAF World Half Marathon victory in Vilamoura, in just 67
minutes 35 seconds.
Born in Northwich in Cheshire 30 years ago, she moved with her family to
Bedford, where she spent most of her childhood. Her father, Peter, a
brewery executive, is also a respectable marathon runner, while her mother
is the headmistress of a local comprehensive.
Clearly, Paula's initial interest in long-distance running stems from her
father, a former vice president of the local athletic club, who was
instrumental in helping to develop her awareness of the sport.
Sport runs in her family in more ways than one. Her great-aunt, Charlotte
Radcliffe, represented Britain in the 1920 Olympic Games and won a silver
medal for swimming, when her team won the 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay.
When, as a youngster, Paula competed in her first under-12s English Cross
Country Championships, she was devastated when she finished a lowly 299
out of a total of 320 runners.
The following year, determined to improve that position, she surprised
herself when she came in fourth overall. Her long-term dream was always to
run a marathon alongside her father - but that was not to be until she was
18, by which time her running career had already taken off.
Now she is a multimillionaire from earnings both on and off the
race-track. She signed a lucrative deal with Nike a couple of years ago,
as well as several small - but equally productive - deals with Vittel
mineral water and Cadbury chocolate.
"The money is
not a big deal,"
she says. "It's
winning that is more important to me."
Last year, in tribute to her achievements worldwide, BBC television
viewers voted her their Sports Personality of the with more than 600,000
votes, almost six times as many as England's football captain, David
Beckham. This year, the probability of her being selected again is just as
great, especially considering the number of world records she has smashed.
In the past she has amassed a truly impressive collection of sports
trophies, among them two successive Flora London Marathons.
She also broke records in the British and European Championships and in
the Commonwealth Games won gold medals for the 5,000 metres and the 10,000
A year ago she won the Chicago Marathon, since when she has gone on to
launch a series of seven performances where she set the world's fastest
times on five occasions over four distances.
In recent weeks she has achieved more than any other athlete of her
calibre, in spite of being sidelined from the World Games with a shin
injury and a bad bout of bronchitis.
Now her mind is set on winning yet another gold medal to add to her
already impressive collection - in next year's marathon at the Olympics in
Athens. But of all her awards so far, the most poignant was receiving the
MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace last year. As she admits: "That
was quite an occasion".
Paula is married to Gary Lough, a former international runner and physical
education and sports science graduate. They first met while studying at
Loughborough University and went out briefly together. However, it was not
until 1997 when their paths crossed again that their romance was
rekindled. They married three years later.
Her husband now acts as her agent and manager and has dedicated his life
to her success. Wherever she trains, which can entail running as much as
140 miles a week, he can often be found cycling alongside, encouraging
her. They have homes in Loughborough and in the French Pyrenees, where
Paula does much of her training.
"Gary is my
greatest support and I certainly couldn't have achieved what I have done
without him. He doesn't get the recognition he deserves for all the
training he does with me and all the organisational things. Without him I
don't know what I would do. I am somebody who likes to race quietly but
I'm lucky I have a mean and aggressive husband who is acting as a bit of a
bouncer. He needs to be my buffer."
Paula also admits
that, because of her career, she has been putting off having children.
"We both love kids and want to start a family sooner rather than
later, but plans are on hold until after next year's Athens Olympics.
"My goal is now
to win an Olympic gold. It would be a rare achievement, but that's what
I'm aiming for. There's been talk about me trying for the 10 kilometres,
but at the moment I'm only going to compete in one race in Athens - the
As for earnings, she admits she is the last one to be up to date on that
wouldn't have a clue what I've earned, but I recently bought a Mercedes
and we also have an Alfa Romeo 156 which I love driving along the twisty
roads in France. Gary gave me a pair of diamond earrings, and this year
bought me a necklace to match - oh and I do't have to get on budget
flights any more.
"But money has never been my motivation. I just love running. The
other day I looked at a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, but I would never
consider paying £400 for them. I am just happy that we are comfortable
enough to have some nice holidays and invest in the training I need."
When not in training, she and Gary like nothing more than going out for a
quiet evening with friends.
"We both like
eating out whenever we have a chance, but I also like to cook occasionally
when we are at home on our own. My favourite food is sushi. "I'm also
a great reader - the most interesting book I've read so far is The
Power of One by Bryce Courtney, which is set in South Africa and about
both sides of the Second World War. It's a wonderful read."
Whenever they manage to find the time, they both like to watch sport on
watch soccer, skiing and, occasionally, diving, swimming and tennis -
those are all my favourite sports,"
she says. "We
also like going to the cinema or watching a film on video. Sometimes when
I have the time, I find cross-country skiing a good way of relaxing and
one day, perhaps, I would love to try my hand at rally-driving."
Before a big event it is her husband who plays the crucial role in keeping
her mind focused on the immediate race and ensuring that she is not
distracted or bothered by the media or anybody asking trivial questions.
"The problem is
that I like to know what's going on, although I leave most of it up to
Gary to monitor things.
"My philosophy is that the more kids get involved in sport, the more
likely you are to find champions of the future. That is why I am an
ambassador for the Get Active fitness programme."
Paula is also a great campaigner for other causes, including the fight
against the misuse of drugs in sports - this year, she has been tested for
drugs more than any other athlete in the world.
"I want to
finish my career and say I achieved the best I was capable of,"
she says and, doubtless, that's what she will do - she has the world at
Paula set a world
record for 10km on the roads with a superb win in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 30:21 on 23
London marathon 2003
In April, 2003, Paula smashed her own World
Marathon Record by 1
minute and 53 seconds with a time of 2:15.25 in London, and
set world bests en route at 30km
(1:36:36, compared to the initial IAAF mark of 1:39:02) and 20 miles (1:43:33). She
went through 10km in 32:01 and halfway in 68:02, before a second half marathon
She did this despite arriving
in London nursing cuts suffered in a collision with a cyclist a few weeks
her first pace maker...... and is hot on the heels of the second!
At 22 miles
Crossing the line, and
Paula at the
Laureus Sports Awards 2003.
A leg and hip injury, followed by
bronchitis and tonsillitis, have prevented her competing on the track and she had
to withdraw from the World Championship team.
RADCLIFFE HIGHLIGHTS THE PROBLEMS OF OBEASE BRITAIN
Paula Radcliffe was
one of the ambassadors for the Cadbury Get Active day at the NEC in
Birmingham, which aims to highlight the problems of obesity in today's
As a nation, we are
getting heavier and obesity is increasing. The reason seems to be that
levels of physical activity, especially amongst children, have
Children's lives have become more sedentary probably due in part to the
influence of television and games consoles..
Obesity is rapidly becoming a major problem with serious implications for
the health of those affected by it. Obese people are at a greater risk of
developing diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Simply put, we're eating too much and doing too little which is seen as a
recipe for poor health.
The answer to the
problem is a balanced lifestyle that combines a sensible diet with
sufficient physical exercise and Paula Radcliffe has lent her support to a
campaign that aims to achieve just that.
The Cadbury Get Active campaign aims to educate children by encouraging
them to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle.
The company have enlisted some top sports stars including Paula Radcliffe,
Audley Harrison and Darren Gough to help get that simple health message
across to kids. Paula said: "I
am delighted to be here as ambassador to encourage kids to Get Active.
This is massively important to me and is a great message to get out to the
Over 10,000 adults and
children attended a recent Get Active event at the NEC in Birmingham,
which featured a whole range of activities designed to foster a more
active and healthier lifestyle in today's children.
It's hoped the initiative will help to educate children about the dangers
associated with obesity and hopefully teach them how to take steps towards
a healthier life.
Richmond Park 10km
Paula set a GB best
time for the 10km at Richmond Park in September. Radcliffe, making her
first competitive appearance since breaking the world record in the London
marathon in April, was beaten by only six men as she crossed the finishing line
in 30 minutes 51 seconds. Radcliffe’s
time was significantly slower than the UK all-comers record of 30:38 last year
and the world record of 30:21 she set in Puerto Rico in February. Molesey’s
Sonia O’Sullivan was the second women in 33:09 and Charlotte
Dale, a student at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, third in
33:53. Radcliffe, who ran an impressively even-paced race, passed the 5km point
in 15:26. Relief It was a welcome relief for Radcliffe, who missed last
month’s World Championships in Paris because of bronchitis and shin
After the race, her voice
was still croaking from the effects of altitude training in the French Pyrenees,
Radcliffe said: ”It’s
just great to be back.
“The main thing for me was
to have some enjoyment from racing again. I enjoyed it, but it was tough.”
The race was run in the opposite direction to last year.
Radcliffe said: “It
was tougher this way round with a long drag between 5km and 7km,”
she said, referring to the gradual uphill stretch from Kingston Gate.
Flora light women's
She then took the Flora Light
Challenge title the following weekend (14th September) in Hyde Park, where she
ran a World Best time of 14:51.
Great North run 2003
She then went on to win the
Run on 21st September in a world best time of 1hr 40 min and 5sec.
at GNR Thanks
to Getty images for pictures
at GNR Thanks
to Newsround for pictures
to Getty images for pictures
World Half marathon
Paula won the 12th
IAAF World Half-marathon championships on 4th October in Vilamoura, Portugal,
but in a slower time than the Great North Run.
She was defeated for
the first time in 16 months in the Ekiden Road Relays in Japan.
"I enjoyed it, it
was a good race, there was a lot of support from the crowd and it was a nice
course," said Radcliffe, whose 10km time of
30:42 was far slower than her best of 30:01.
"I felt very tired in
the last three kilometres, so I didn't run as well as I have to, but the other
(English) girls ran well.
"I began to feel
very tired in the last three kilometres, so I was struggling, just trying to go
when the Kenyan girl Lucy Wangui went away, but I was unable to stay with
her," added Radcliffe.
In tests on
her return Paula discovered that her magnesium levels were low.
was playing on my mind because I felt terrible in that race,"
she said. "So
I was having doubts. It's a relief to put it behind me."
This, however, did not
prevent her from taking the European cross-country title convincingly in
December in Edinburgh. As Gary Lough sprayed her with oil before the off to
insulate her from the chill, there was no hint of the drama that had gone on as
the team warmed up.
"Paula only confirmed
she was running 10 minutes before the start," Lough
revealed, and afterwards the 29-year-old Radcliffe confirmed that this had been
no routine success.
"I caught a bad cold,
and was a bit worried all week, for I knew that it would be tough,"
she said. "I thought
I'd thrown it off, but the plane journey did not help, and then after that very
hot room at the press conference, I felt really rotten. My legs felt crappy, and
I decided to warm up, and if I felt really bad I would not have run."
Abeylegesse ensured she had to work for it. The tiny 21-year-old used
Radcliffe as a shelter against the wind for much of the race and it was only
when they were going up Haggis Knowe for the final time, 800 metres from the
end of the 6,595m course, that she cracked.
Radcliffe, who won in a time of 22:04, was at the front from the start had
to see off a strong challenge Abeylegesse and it wasn’t until just before
Haggis Knowe on the fourth lap that she was able to shake her off.
"The plan was to take it steady in the early part of he race, because I
knew Elvan would be a big danger,"
"I have a lot of respect for her. She was in good shape, and I knew I
had to be 100%. I didn't want to leave it until the last 200 metres."
Even then there was a drama as Radcliffe twisted her ankle at the bottom of
the hill and felt faint at the top - due to how much she had put into her
effort - before regaining her composure to go on and win by 9 seconds.
didn't feel great on the hill on the last lap," she
said. "I jarred my ankle at the bottom,
which made me sprint to the top, and I felt a bit light-headed. On that last
hill I didn't know how much of a gap I had. I then went a bit harder than I maybe should have.”
husband was one of thousands who encouraged her, racing anxiously from point to
point on a course ideal for spectators, but he ran into a
tree and badly skinned his nose. As Paula collected the Christmas present which
she wanted, Gary looked like Rudolph!
The GB team also
managed to snatch the team gold for the first time in history!
a brilliant result to win the team title. We've had good teams in the past, and
failed. It's fabulous."
The Team Victory:
Later on the same evening
(Dec 14th), Paula took 3rd prize in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year,
behind two players from the England World Cup winning Rugby team; Johnny
Wilkinson and Martin Johnson.
In his acceptance speech for
the Golden Sports Personality award, Sir Steve Redgrave said: "I
hope that Paula Radcliffe, who had my vote, will hopefully go on to bigger and
better things next year and win that Olympic gold she deserves."