At Friday’s Virgin Money London Marathon’s annual lunch, our Editor Chris Macdonald caught up with running legend and marathon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe about her running comeback at this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon.
After suffering from a degenerative joint problem, which forced her to withdraw from the Olympic Games in 2012, Paula underwent major foot surgery, leaving her unable to compete.
However, after years of patience and perseverance, Paula is now in a position to compete over the marathon distance once again, running what may well be her last marathon this year.
Running the course that made her the women’s marathon world record holder back in 2003, it’s unsurprising that Paula is expecting her London comeback to be hugely emotional.
‘It will be huge,’ she told us. ‘I think I’m expecting it to be emotional and I’m probably underestimating just how emotional. It will be emotional for lots of reasons; for the fact it’s London, for all of the happy memories growing up and taking part, for all of the times that I couldn’t do it as well as the fact I couldn’t run at all. I never thought I’d be back here.’
The long period of injury and subsequent foot surgery that left Paula not only unable to compete, but run at all, is central to the emotional response she anticipates will overwhelm her in April.
She adds: ‘To have the special memories, the really special memories that I’ve got from 2002, 03 and 05 and then to have not been able to do it as well in later years because of injury… I was training and preparing and then had it taken away from me in 2006, 08 and 09 and then for the Olympics in 2012. For all of those reasons, it’s really special and really emotional.’
Building herself back up, Paula began by aqua jogging before training with a Nordic Ski machine and eventually an anti-gravity treadmill. Whilst, at first, Paula was unable to follow a set training plan and simply based her training around how her foot was feeling each day, she now follows an eight to nine-day evolving schedule in preparation for April, consisting of a tempo run, hill session, rep session and a longer run.
Though Paula accepts she doesn’t have the same running mechanics she used to have, she remains competitive for London. ‘I’m always a competitive person,’ she says, ‘so even though I know and I accept I’m not gong to be faster than I have been in the past, I still want to be faster than I have been since my surgery, so I just want to be the best that I can on the day.’ That said, Paula admits she is more focused on enjoying a ‘pain-free’ experience than targeting a specific time.
Paula will start with the British championship runners behind the elite field which, she agrees, is ideal.
While there is talk that this may well be Paula’s last marathon, she hasn’t ruled marathons out completely. When asked if it was going to be her last, she says: ‘This is something I will have to assess afterwards when I see genuinely how my body reacts. Seeing how it copes, maybe, in the future I’ll be able to just go and run, run because there is still a lot left on my bucket list to do.’