Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe is one of the finest athletes to have ever graced the sport. The Brit offers three pieces of wisdom learned from her long career at the top.
1. Never stop learning
“It is never too late to learn something new about your event. I am curious full stop. Even when I was a little kid I just wanted to know everything and how everything worked.
“My coach, Alex Stanton, was very much like that. He pored over a book for hours and hours in an effort to pick up nuggets of information. If he didn't know something, he was never afraid to ask for advice.
“A big moment in my learning experience as an athlete came in 1995 when I first went up to Font Romeu to do altitude training. It was a big learning experience for me in terms of what it took to be a full-time athlete. I learned the importance of getting the right amount of rest and recovery between quality training sessions.
“Another important part of my learning came when I started to use my husband Gary [Lough] as my training partner in the late 90s. He very much showed me the importance of getting me to run easy on my easy runs, which was previously hard for me to do because I always liked to run really fast.”
Radcliffe won marathon gold at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships. She also won a hat-trick of World Half Marathon Championships titles (in '00, '01, '03)
2. Don't limit yourself
“It is important not to set limits on your performances. When I think of the marathon I respected the distance, but I was never afraid of it. I would never aim to run a certain time because what then if you are ahead of schedule, are you then going to slow down? For me, it was about being the best that I can be and not set a limit on that.
“The two times I set a world marathon record I didn't go in with a plan to run a certain time. The plan was to run a negative split and see where that took me. I just wanted to run as many miles under 5:30 as I could.
“Having more specific times in mind can hold you back. Sometimes you need to go into the unknown to find out what you are capable of and not set a limit on yourself. This then allows you to produce your best.”
This April Radcliffe bade farewell to competitive running at the London Marathon, where 12 years earlier she set a world record 2:15:25
3. Stay true to yourself
“If you don’t believe in what you are doing and stay true to yourself, then it is all for nothing. I believe you are a stronger person if you live by your morals and ethics. You are then a stronger person when you compete because your mind has that faith and that strength. For me, this is really important not just in sport but in life.
“My grandma, Olive, used to tell me that every so often you need to take a step out of yourself and look back in. If you are happy with the person that you are and what you are doing then that makes you a stronger person. My grandma and I were really close. I was born on her birthday. I shared the same lucky number and a lot of her characteristics.”