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).

London Bridge Source
London Bridge
(Photo from the interwebs)

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.

Me, so long ago.
Me (and my gorgeous friend) so long ago.

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. 


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Love her. In addition to being an *incredible* athlete, she also really just seems like the nicest, most genuine person in the world. I just read a really great interview with her (can’t find it now but I’m sure it’s google-able) & it was so inspiring & heartbreaking at the same time.

    (Also I went to her podiatrist once who is in Palo Alto, so that is my Paula Radcliffe connection!)

    1. Cathryn says:

      I think she sounds lovely too. I know I’m biased but she seems very humble and down to earth. I like that in a superstar!

  2. Mike says:

    Cannot WAIT for this London Marathon! And look forward to running the race myself someday. This is a great opportunity to reflect on just how sick an athlete Paula Radcliffe really is. She holds not only the fastest but the TWO fastest women’s world marathon times ever. And nobody else has come within THREE MINUTES of her 2003 London time. Can you TELL I get very EXCITED when talking about her?

    It’s stunning that in this day of high-tech training tools, East African dominance and even rampant PED usage, nobody has come close to breaking Paula’s world record. She’ll be sorely missed, but hopefully she stays close to the sport and continues to share her expertise and lessons learned. We could all benefit. #pleasedontgopaula

    1. Cathryn says:

      You should def run it – it was an amazing day. I’m so excited YOU’RE excited about Paula, I wondered if it was just a British thing. I think I’m going to read her book too. You should follow the #thankyoupaula hashtag on twitter – it’s really moving! She inspired so many people. It really struck me. Running is kind of silly, if you think about it, and it’s very unimportant in the grand scheme of things but she really made a difference to people’s lives, making them better. That’s an incredible legacy to have.

  3. Nic J says:

    Couldn’t agree more! She is, and will always be, a legend! She even managed to single handedly flummox the marathon’s hugely experienced commentators by executing the most graceful emergency wee ever not seen on TV (under the bridge, out of sight of helicopter cam). Classy and brilliant!
    I will be recording the marathon this year, as will be doing the Southampton half the same morning. I well up even just hearing the theme music, so much crying expected tomorrow! Good luck to everyone doing it, and especially good luck Paula. #thankyoupaula 😃

    1. Cathryn says:

      I believe it was actually an MRP and I love her a little more for that.

      Good luck tomorrow! (Today, I guess, for you!!)

  4. bt says:

    Awesome post. Thanks for sharing your love of Paula. I think all women runners adore her, but I have to assume that the Brits have an extra ounce of love.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’ve been surprised at how many people have commented and said they love Paula. I think I assumed it was a British thing. How lovely.

  5. ErinAMG says:

    She is just so cool. I couldn’t agree more. It was hard not to cry on Sunday morning when I was reading my twitter feed 🙂

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