Paula says she’ll never run a sub 2.15 again but that fighting sprit and love of running remains. She talks to Fiona Bugler about training and nutrition, juggling a busy life of family and work – and of course, running…
You are running the Worcester 10K in September and the Marathon in the Spring – how’s the training going?
My weekly mileage is dictated by how my foot feels and my workload. I’m working with the BBC, and I’m a Nike ambassador, so I’m juggling. During The Commonwealth Games, for example, it’s hard to train twice a day, so I’ll take it as an easy week and just get out once a day. When I can, I get my head down and enjoy being able to train.
What are your must-do weekly sessions?
A couple of faster sessions in the week (but because of my foot I avoid the track and run on grass) and then a long run at the weekend. I do free weights three times a week, but if I’m away working for a week, I’ll leave them out.
Priority for marathon training – is it a long run?
It’s consistency. The long run is the most important session for marathon training – but it wouldn’t work on its own. It’s better to get three to four shorter sessions in a week than just do one long run a week.
Does mental toughness come naturally, or do you train your mind?
A lot of it is natural but a lot comes about because of training. You put yourself in a disciplined mindset all the time so it becomes inbred and a habit. However, I think that my natural tendency is to always try to run faster in races and attack times.
Do you ever switch off from that elite athlete’s mindset?
Sometimes I can go and just run and enjoy it and not look at the watch… but most of the time I’m checking to see where I am at each stage of my run.
Do you ever wake up and think – I can’t be bothered today?
I think everybody does. But I as I missed eight months when I couldn’t run at all (because of the foot injury), I appreciate it much more now.
Of course there are times you have to really listen to your body. It knows better than you and a day’s rest isn’t going to harm you. The more experienced you are, the better you become at judging the difference between knowing if you’re being lazy or really needing rest day.
Do you think you would you have run 2.15 if it had been a woman’s only race?
Yeah, I do. I was in great shape that day. In 2005, I wasn’t in as good a shape and I’d still run 2.17.42 with a stop in the middle. When I ran the World Record, I was really conscious of the fact that we were running with the guys, and I didn’t want people to say I was getting artificial aid or drafting (running behind them) so I ran alongside them the whole way.
How does it feel to be at that peak – can you get back to that?
No, if I’m honest I don’t think I’m going to run sub 2.15 again. But at the same time I think I can get back to that level where everything’s clicking and flowing well – just not at as fast a pace.
Do you think back to your past times when you’re training now?
If I’m struggling, I use visualisation to remember the time when I was really in control and feeling good in a race. I use the techniques and basic training blueprint, too. But I don’t want to kid myself. I’m older now and if I were to try to run the sessions that I was running pre 2.15, I’d get injured. Focusing on now means I gain in confidence as I progress, and see myself getting quicker, rather than looking back to how far away I am from my best.
Paula Radcliffe was an ambassador for the Standard Chartered Great City Race 2014. The race aims to raise vital funds for its official beneficiary, Seeing is Believing – a global initiative which helps tackle avoidable blindness www.cityrace.co.uk @GreatCityRace