LITTLE BIG PORTRAIT of PAULA RADCLIFFE
This week we have the real privilege of meeting with the running legend Paula Radcliffe. A part from being a world class track athlete, she is also a highly successful cross-country runner and perhaps most famously, a marathon champion. Indeed, it is rather impossible to overstate Paula's achievements in winning 6 marathons, setting a record in 5 of them and most impressively setting the women’s marathon world record in London in 2003. Her time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds, remains unbeaten until this day.In recognition of her incredible sports achievements she was awarded an MBE by the Queen in June 2002.
It is over a cheeky glass of rose at the Monte Carlo Bay hotel that we had the pleasure of talking to Paula who has been living in Monaco for over a decade with her husband Gary Lough, a former 1500 runner who is also her manager, and their two children. We talked about running, her latest projects and why Monaco is “home” to her and her family.
Running is a privilege
Paula started running at a young age to follow the steps of her father who was an amateur marathon runner. She started running shorter distances such as 1500 m and 5000 m and soon took up cross -country running, the "great British traditional sport” which still remains close to her heart. After a few years of winning several international cross-country races, Paula decided to turn professional, inspired by the famous Norwegian runner Ingrid Kristiansen. In 2002 she ran her first marathon in London, which she won. Later that year, she broke the world record in Chicago, and the year after she broke her own world record with that incredible time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds which no woman has been able to beat since over 14 years.
Asked about what it takes to become a professional runner, she admits being “very competitive, but not necessarily with others - with myself. Always striving to do the best I can” a value that she is keen to pass on to her children. “Both my children do quite a bit of sport, but my son is the one that enjoys running the most”, she says.
Despite her obvious strength, both mental and physical, Paula comes across as a very gentle and serene person. She smiles a lot and demonstrates a very positive attitude which no doubt must have been an extra asset in her career. In fact, when we ask her about the sacrifices she had to make for such a long and successful career she replies: "I see running as a privilege, not a sacrifice” and adds: “I also think I am lucky. I am lucky to have a career doing something I am passionate about. I also feel very lucky to have been able to travel to so many places with my family to attend competitions”. When we point out that working so close with her husband can surely be difficult at times she answers with the same positive attitude: “It is actually a great advantage as he knows me very well and I know that I can trust him 100%. But it is equally important to have a very open communication and make sure that you express anything that bothers you to avoid any tension at home”, she adds with a smile.
Life after competition
Even though she retired in 2015 her world still evolves around sport and running. She is an Athletics commentator for the BBC and she is also working part time for the Athletics Integrity Committee which was recently set up in Monaco and tasked with combatting all threats to the integrity in sports such as doping, bribery, corruption etc.
Paula has also been involved for many years with Peace and Sport, a global initiative created in 2007 under the High Patronage of Prince Albert II. “Peace and Sport tries to harness the power of sport to raise funds to help conflict areas and also to actually bring people together in peace, to take part in sport”, she explains. She also takes part in many local and international charities, such as Asthma UK and the Princess Charlene Foundation and this year she organised a sports day where 300 lucky children from various schools in Monaco ran for Global Running Day. Considering this and the fact that she is always a very present mother to her young children, it is fair to say that Paula Radcliffe is very busy woman indeed, though her positive attitude surely helps!
OUR QUESTIONS TO PAULA RADCLIFFE
Which place do you find the most inspiring in/around Monaco?
I love the park by the Plateau de la Justice, on the Grande Corniche near Col d'Eze. You have inspiring, motivating and beautiful scenery and a spectacular view of both the sea and the mountains. I love the way it mixes mountains and coast and to run and spend time in the park feels like you are totally at one with nature and far removed from cities and daily life. I love to escape there for my run and then attack the rest of the day feeling relaxed and happy.
Your favourite restaurants ?
I love the Maya Bay restaurant, also the Buddha Bar, Avenue 31, Quai des Artistes, La Salière and Beef Bar. For beach restaurants, I'd say my favourite is Miami Plage, they have great food and always friendly service and the kids love it too.
A secret to stay in shape ( A part from running!)
Try to do at least one thing every day that makes you laugh and smile. I believe when you have fun and are happy you are in better shape physically as well as psychologically. Also be sure to get a good refreshing sleep at night and walk rather than drive whenever possible (this is easy in Monaco). Take the stairs when you can too. Eat well and balanced and don't calorie count- just stay active.
One of your daily pleasures?
A few squares of good dark chocolate. A good glass of wine (any colour), a cuddle and story time with my kids. Coffee with friends, a run..I have a lot of daily pleasures!!
Local artists you admire?
Not sure! My daughter is a promising one though and I really admire her as I am probably the least artistic person you could find!
Your secret addresses to share with our Little Big Monaco readers?
Definitely the park by Plateau de la Justice. The Sentier des Douaniers coastal path around the headland into Menton is also a unique place to really appreciate the gorgeous area we live in.
If I have time to really escape then Bormes les Mimosas is a beautiful area that I recently discovered as my parents camp there every year. With it's sandy, unspoiled and uncrowded beaches and stunning scenery around, it really makes it a great weekend escape. Also the bike trail along the coast in San Remo is great for a day out with the kids, we can all bike there as a family and eat at the restaurants and have fun together.
For gym training I like the new 39 gym- it has altitude rooms set up, great equipment and facilities as well as a great restaurant for afterwards.
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