Think of some of the best British runners in our time, and Paula Radcliffe has to be up there. The famous female athlete is one of Britain’s greatest long-distance runners, three-time winner of the London Marathon and New York Marathon, and the 2005 World Champion in the Marathon from Helsinki. Here she opens up to us about what first sparked her love of running and what advice she’d share with others. So, read on for Paula Radcliffe’s top running tips…
How did you first get into running?
I can’t remember when I first started but ever since I was young, I enjoyed the feeling of running. My dad used to run marathons and, on the weekends, we would go to drop him off a drink and snack on his long run. I joined a school athletics club when I was nine and I have been running ever since.
Did you always enjoy running?
Yes, I have, although as an elite athlete and deep in marathon training, there were times when I was tired and sore. That is when I had to go back to what motivates me; the big races and competition. Now, it is a lot easier and I really enjoy every run. Often, the hardest part of a run is the first 10 minutes, but once you get past that, you fall into your rhythm.
What or where was your favourite race?
On the track, I loved racing in Oslo, Zurich, and Monaco, as they were fast tracks for small stadiums. There would be a great atmosphere as they are cities where people really love distance running.
I fondly recall my junior cross country title from Boston in 1992. It snowed and lots of people were uncomfortable running on snow, but I loved it so was able to win easily.
I also loved both the London and New York marathons. I remember watching the London Marathon in the eighties with my dad and seeing Ingrid Kristiansen set world records, and then to finally one day be at the front of the same race and setting a world record myself felt incredible, especially as a British runner in front of a home crowd.
What advice do you have for Health & Wellbeing readers who are new to running?
New runners should not be nervous as the running community is really supportive and inclusive, they are always happy to share advice. It is worth going to a specialist running shop to buy trainers, which are suitable for your running style and gait. I also recommend signing up for some kind of race, even a small local one, so you have a goal to aim towards. Finally, find at least one running friend to help you on days you are feeling less energetic.
What tips do you have for those who have been running for a while but want to level-up?
Take yourself out of your comfort zone a little. If you have been doing 5K runs, maybe mix it up with 100-metre hill runs, and walk back down, for five or six reps. By taking yourself out of your comfort zone, it will feel easier and quicker when you go back to your normal pace.
What are your tips for runners training for marathons?
The marathon is the ultimate challenge for your body and there will always be tough moments. When you have those tough moments, try to go to your happy place; maybe that is repeating a mantra, singing to yourself, or visualising the finish line. It also helps to think about the charity or person you might be running for.
How do you motivate yourself on days that you do not feel like running?
On those days, I will run to a new place or on a new trail, I might wear some new running kit or call up a friend to run with. Sometimes I will think about a sweet treat that I can enjoy after my run. Once you get out the door and start running, you will mostly find that you actually enjoy the run.
Where is your favourite place to run?
I love running in forests and beside the sea. I love to run on coast paths but my all-time favourite would be up in the mountains in the Pyrenees. I spent a lot of time altitude training there and it is just beautiful.
What do you like to eat to fuel yourself before a run?
Before I would run marathons, I used to have porridge with honey and banana. I also like to have a couple of squares of dark chocolate before I run.
Read more about Paula’s fueling tips here.
What do you eat to replenish yourself after a run?
I try to eat within a 20-minute window of finishing a run; I have bags of salted mixed nuts and I will eat a handful of them or a banana. Alternatively, I might eat a big bowl of cereal, or something on toast with some protein like almond butter or a poached egg. If it is winter, I like to have a big jacket potato or risotto waiting for me.
Do you have any running advice for women approaching menopause?
It is really important to work on your muscles to keep them strong to reduce strain on your joints. Additionally, adding some sprints may also help to help reduce symptoms. Finally, try to eat healthily, including lots of omegas, essential fats, and collagen rich foods.
Want to hear Paula Radcliffe’s top running tips in person and run alongside her? Join Paula and other British Olympians at Anda Barut Collection for an exclusive Wellness Weekend with Olympic Medallists from 10-12 May 2024. The weekend will offer a sports-filled experience for everyone and guests will receive guidance, training, and inspiration from the best in the world.