Before her trip to Skopje upon the invitation of the organizer of the Wizz Air Skopje Marathon, I had the honor and privilege to make a short interview with the legendary Paul Radcliffe. I actually did the interview for the magazine Wizz Air Skopje Marathon, which this year all the participants got in their digital start packages, so if you did not open it and read it already, here it is on this link: Interview Paula Radcliffe for Wizz Air Skopje Marathon Magazine. If you don’t want to read it from the magazine, i am giving you this easier option on our site. I hope that I will bring you this extraordinary athlete closer to you, and in the next post I will share how we spent the two days with her during her stay at the Skopje Marathon and I as her proud host.
Paula, you’ve been withdrawn from professional running for a few years now (officially from 2015), so, how often do you go out and train nowadays? We see you often running recreationally at half marathons and other races, usually as an ambassador or promoter. Does the habit remain even though you are no longer a professional runner and does it often happen that recreational running ends up in a faster pace, or do you sometimes deliberately involve specific training like intervals or tempo training as to remind yourself that you still can do it? If so, do you count miles and how many do you run weekly or how long is the longest mileage you run nowadays?
I still run most days now but I never worry about the distance and rarely start my watch. I run how I feel and it helps me to feel better for the day ahead and think through things in my mind. Sometimes I might do a Fartlek or a hill session but I don’t do track sessions now. I like to jump into some recreational races to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere or to help friends achieve their goals and I love to run with my kids. I think it has made retiring from racing a lot easier because I can still get out and enjoy running every day.
You were part of the project called “Breaking2” and you were on the F1 track in Monza as a commentator. I must admit that you are doing very well in this role, what was the feeling of being part of such a great challenge and historical moment that we are not sure could happen again soon? What was it like on the track and the complete preparations for the event, since everything was organized at a very high level, almost as launching a NASA mission?
It was definitely an honour and a privilege to be there and to witness the attempt. I was so very impressed at how well Kipchoge ran. He came closer than I thought he would do and the planning and attention to detail was excellent. I only have only thought: that elite marathoners maybe only have a few maximum effort races in them and maybe he could have smashed the WR that day in eligible conditions but now we might never know that. There were only a few small things that day that meant it wasn’t record eligible, I believe he could have come close anyway. Thanks
I would like the most honest answer to this question, do you really think it is possible to run a marathon under 2 hours? Can we see it in our lifetime? I ask you whether you think it is logically realistic, not what you believe or hope. We all want to believe in miracles, it is what makes us athletes, it is what moves us forward to overcome boundaries. I am sure you have discussed is with the three athletes who made an effort and were close to the limit (Kipchoge), how logical and realistic it is to expect an under 2 marathon, even in precisely and perfectly controlled conditions, and later on a real race track?
Firstly I don’t think you can rate sport scientifically or logically realistic since there will always be natural outliers who can perform exciting and special feats because they possess a combination of attributes that are perfect for the event and at that time. So therefore I do believe that the sub 2 hours is possible at some point but I don’t think we are quite there yet. I think improvements in technology (shoes etc) and in physiology understanding (how we fuel and hydrate optimally) and that perfect storm of a human being coming along with exceptional strength, speed and endurance attributes, will mean that in the future it is possible. However I don’t believe it will happen in the next 10 years.
You have accepted the offer of Wizz Air Skopje Marathon to be our promoter due to one main reason – that you want to support women marathon running and inspire more women to join this great challenge. Worldwide, women movements are becoming more and more louder. As a marathoner and a woman who is actively involved in the IAAF, how far have we progressed in the balancing the percentage of women in this sport, especially in marathon running, but also on the track in general?
I honestly believe that Athletics is a very gender equal sport. Men and women competing (certainly in Europe and the US) are treated as equals – both in prize money and in the events available. Where there are differences (eg hurdles height, heptathlon) there are reasons and choices for this. I have never felt that I couldn’t achieve my goals or that I was a lesser athlete or person because I was female. However I am also proud that my sport leads the way and that so many women can compete, I know that the battles isn’t completely won and that there is still progress to be made in areas. To see women surpass the 50% mark in road race participation is brilliant. I love seeing women take part in events for the first time and really love it. To see them achieve their dreams and grow as people in confidence and fitness is amazing.
Wizz Air Skopje Marathon has recently published statistics on how many women have participated in the marathon races so far and the largest number was only 8 participants from our Macedonia in the 2016 marathon. It’s a poor number, how can we get to a three-digit number of Macedonian participants? How can we motivate women to be more active and accept the challenge called marathon?
I think by listening and supporting the women. By encouraging them to set the goal of the marathon, setting up training teams and motivational support. Women can perform really well in marathons when they are able to juggle all aspects of their lives in balance. So they can go and train and compete without feeling guilty for taking that moment of the day to themselves and particularly when they know they have the support of their families.
You are the mother of two children (Isla and Raphael) and wife. How difficult was it to balance motherhood and the obligations this sport implies? Even in today’s modern society, it’s still very rare for men to support their wives having great careers, as you have in athletics. This is one of the reasons why women are less represented in sports, athletics and especially marathon running. How important was your husband’s and the whole family’s support in those moment, and even today, when you are still an active supporter of marathon running, so you often travel and have to be away from home? What’s your message to all men and women in this regard?
I think I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband and family. We are a team and share goals and values and that is important. If you work as a team and have that support you can juggle success and happiness. I was able to train and compete while always knowing that the most important things (the children) were being very well looked after. They are also an extra motivation to race better and achieve more. I also genuinely believe that a happy mother is a better mother and strongly think that women should not feel guilty about making time in the day for themselves (for example to Run or whatever makes them happy) since then they are better mums in the time with the family. I also try to be the best role model I can to my children and to bring them up to know that if you work hard you can achieve your goals.
You have suffered from asthma since the earliest childhood, but still it did not prevent you to be the current world record holder in women marathon, although in our society you would be told not to risk your life and run because you were “ill”. All this makes you even more inspirational, especially for young people suffering from such or similar chronic illnesses. What do you usually advise such people, based on personal experience, since you are active in this part as well, as a motivator for young people to take up active life, athletics and sports?
When I was diagnosed (14 years old) I was lucky to have an excellent doctor who told me clearly that this wouldn’t stop me from doing my sport but that I would just need to learn to control it well with inhalers. He explained how being physically fit helps control asthma and cope with the symptoms better. So I never believed it to be a handicap and learned to know my triggers and manage my inhalers so as to be able to run as well as I could. I learned quickly that colds could easily lead to bronchitis and when I had to be very careful. Now I am Patron of Asthma UK and try to show children especially that Asthma isn’t a handicap and that you must control it and not allow it to control your life. Also that being fitter helps to cope with asthma better.