On Sunday, it’s the London Marathon. It’s kind of special to me for a few reasons. I’m British. I lived in London for seven awesome years. Many of my friends have run it and I’ve spent fantastic days cheering them on. And mainly because it’s my one and only marathon. (A hugely late race report is here).
This year, it’s particularly special to me because Paula Radcliffe is running it and it will be her last marathon.
I’m not one for celebrity running heroines although I am TOTALLY inspired by Emelie Forsberg and Stevie Kremer and may (MAY) pretend to be Emelie when I’m running trails. But I am more inspired by people like you – my running friends IRL or online who do amazing things and inspire me to want to run better. Cheesy I know, but totally true. But road marathon runners just don’t inspire me – it’s just not my thing.
Paula is the exception.
I started running in 2001, 14 years ago. I was living in Muswell Hill, in North London, with my two best friends in a house in a primary school. I had this awful boyfriend who dumped me one Spring. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but obviously it didn’t feel like that at the time. I remember very clearly thinking I could either eat chocolate or I could start running. I chose running and I never really looked back.
As I started running, Paula reached the peak period of her career winning the London Marathon in 2002, 2003 and later in 2005. She won New York in 2004. She set her first marathon world record of 2.17.18 in Chicago in 2002 and then, in London in 2003, she broke it again and set it at 2.15.25. It was a pretty heady time to be a British runner. It felt like we were winning everything, it was just so exciting to be part of this running phenomenon.
I never met Paula but I think I ran past her at a 5k in Battersea Park once – she was starting the race clearly, thus she was stood still. Injury has dogged a lot of her later career and I was pretty gutted for her when she failed to win Olympic medals. But it’s been amazing career.
In the UK, this week, the hashtag #thankyoupaula has started trending in preparation for Sunday’s big race, which I believe she will run as more a lap of honour than a balls-to-the-wall effort. I love this – I love that the British running community is publicly thanking their greatest ever female runner, someone who inspired so many people to run faster and harder and longer.
Check out the Evening Standard’s amazing front cover.
Seriously…Brits don’t get this sentimental about nothing!
Nike did it perfectly, as usual. Darn them and their awesome marketing.
I wanted to be part of it too and to pay tribute to a running heroine. So here’s my bit.
Thanks for representing Great Britain and British sport so well. Thanks for inspiring millions of women around the world to try harder and to get into running and sport. Thanks for standing against drugs. But most of all…thank you Paula for inspiring this slightly overweight, newly dumped, total rookie to start running, to run a marathon and to fall madly in love with this wonderful sport.