Marathon legend shines in humility

Muscat, Oct 29 – It is not everyday that one meets Paula Radcliffe and it is not everyday that one interacts with the fastest woman to ever run a marathon. Humility is a rare thing in professional sport and at the highest level, it is not a common sight. The legendary Radcliffe has this amazing quality in abundance and it is her biggest drawcard. Radcliffe is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005) and New York Marathon (2004, 2007, 2008) and also won the 2002 Chicago Marathon. The British athlete set a world record at the 2003 London Marathon where she set a time of 2:15:25s that stands to this day.

Reminiscing about the finest moment of her career, Radcliffe’s humility comes through quite evidently even while emphasising the significance of the occasion. “I was really, really lucky. I ran my first marathon in 2002 and that went amazingly well. I was close to the record and I knew I was capable of getting it and got it. But what I really wanted was to set the world record in London in my hometown. We worked really hard and came to London in good shape and in marathon you need a bit of luck, good conditions and weather. I had tremendous support and had a lot of support, it was my most overriding memory. I was lucky it went according to plan, it was wonderful while I was about to finish. The marathon is special because of the long distance and I knew I would set the world record in the last mile or two,’’ a beaming Radcliffe revealed.
Radcliffe never quite thought about the world record as such going into the 2003 London Marathon.
“All I wanted was to make sure I run faster than Chicago and improve, I didn’t have a specific time but in Chicago my rough mile splits were 5:13, so I was looking to run less than 5:13. In my head I was constantly calculating, it was quicker,’’ she stated.

In a glittering career spanning over two decades, Radcliffe managed to capture the imagination of the world with her exploits at the major city marathons and world championships.
The only missing link in her illustrious career has been the one medal that is most sought after by every professional athlete: Olympic medal.
Radcliffe was constantly troubled with injury problems before Olympics and during the event as well and that hampered her plans.
“All I focused on was on being the best that I could be and to see how fast I could run. Some things work out, some things don’t. I think particularly for the marathon, it’s a lot of training and stress. For a long time my body was able to take a lot of stress and it could withstand things. Unfortunately, sometimes I would have a breakdown and especially at the Olympics but I would never swap the Olympics for the world record but it was not that I never didn’t try, maybe I tried too hard at the Olympics,’’ Radcliffe explained.
When asked if where her priorities lay when it came to the Olympics and the major big city marathons and world championships, Radcliffe was forthright.
“I worked hard for both, to be honest. I would have liked to give my best at the Olympics and I did put on my best shows in the 10,000 metres but it was not good enough for a medal. In marathon, I got injured,’’ she added. No marathon conversation is ever complete without the mention of the greatest ever, Eliud Kipchoge.

Kipchoge’s smashing world record breaking performance at the 2018 Berlin Marathon where he timed a mind-boggling 2:01:39s, shaving off a minute and 18 seconds, has been the talking point around the world. Radcliffe delves into the topic and feels it is a step up for the sport.
“I think he moved it forward with a big leap this time. Maybe, now for a while the record will stand. It is true that records are meant to broken. There are some records that are small steps forward each time and there are some records that we will see that don’t happen more often, like the men’s marathon. For other people, it will take some time to break that but Eliud just showed what a phenomenal athlete he is,’’ Radcliffe said.

Amazing Oman
The world record holder is all praise for Oman on her first visit to the country and is taken in by the beauty and heritage of the Sultanate.
“It’s my first time in Oman, I really enjoyed it. Omani people are so friendly. Oman has such a wide range of culture, mountains and sea,’’ she said.
With Paula Radcliffe being the brand ambassador for the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon in January 2019, Radcliffe is all excited about the event.
“I’ve heard so much about the Muscat Marathon. I know they are doing a lot in building the event. Starting out with a few hundred runners and now having 10,000 runners is creditable. There is something for everybody. What is really nice to see is it is encouraging women and kids to get into running and runners sharing experiences, it brings people together. It showcases the amazing country,’’ Radcliffe stated.
Radcliffe also mentioned about her meeting with Oman’s tennis star Fatma al Nabhani.
“I met the famous tennis player Fatma and I know your football team is good,’’ she added.

Haridev Pushparaj