Paula Radcliffe has announced that she will be making her return to competitive running at the Worcester City 10k on September 21st 2014, as she attempts to ease herself back into racing ahead of a final swansong at the 2015 London Marathon.
The event, which was set-up by British athletics legend Steve Cram following London 2012, is the first in a series that Cram hopes to introduce across some of the UK’s most beautiful and historical cities.
Radcliffe, the current women’s road 10k world-record holder, will be returning to competitive racing for the first time since she underwent foot surgery, following the Vienna Half-Marathon in 2012.
Running on a picturesque course in Worcester, which starts at the cities racecourse, the World, Commonwealth and European champion will lead out a field of professional and amateur runners.
With training starting to go back normal after an initial 8 month period where she was unable to run at all, the 40-year old is keen to use the race to test out her fitness.
“I’m really looking forward to running in Worcester,” she said. “My goal is to run the London Marathon next year and the Worcester City 10k will give me a great chance to see how my fitness is developing.”
Speaking to Vinco this afternoon, the runner said that the low key nature of the event as well it’s setting, were the main points of attraction: “Yeah that (the low key setting) and I think it’s a nice course too; it starts and finishes at the Worcester race course and takes in the city centre, the Worcester cathedral, and the River Severn. It’s also the fact that the 10k is backed up by the Worcester city run-bike-run and the young athletes’ runs that are for those aged 7-15. I think that’s important too and it’s something that I’m really passionate about; getting as many kids as possible into physical activity, interested in running and just enjoying it.”
On the importance of promoting 10k races alongside marathons she added: “I think it’s really important, the fastest growing sport at the moment is women’s running and we really need to work at promoting the sport and getting as many kids as possible introduced into it and having a variety of events is great… not everybody is going to want to build towards running a marathon.”
One notable runner in the junior run will be Radcliffe’s daughter, Isla, aged 7, who, like her mother, is member of the Monaco athletics club, where she trains at the famous Stade Louis II Stadium once a week. Although she may well be inspired by running at such a historic venue, it appears that she is still keeping her sporting options open: “She goes to athletics club once a week, she does Gymnastics about 3 times a week and also tennis and swimming so she’s got a lot of things going on and I think that’s really important at her age, just to try out different sports, enjoy them and find the one you are really interested in taking to the next level.”
Talking about own her preparation for the race and future competitions, Radcliffe revealed that she is now unable to train on the track due to the tight turns involved. However, after long career filled track sessions and racing, the 2002 Commonwealth 5,000m champion insists that she is not bothered by this: “I’ve had a long career of doing a lot of track sessions and a lot of track workouts and with having a period of time where I couldn’t run at all, It kind of made me appreciate and be that much more grateful, for what I can run and what I can do. So I can still do reps, I just do them on the road or on the grass or on trails; not being on the track isn’t really a big deal.
Perhaps a bigger hindrance to her preparation will come via her work with the BBC this summer; where she will be involved in commentary team for the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships as well as the Diamond League. With that in mind Radcliffe, who is currently training in the French Pyrenees with British Athletics Endurance team said: “I’ll be working quite a bit through July/ August for the Commonwealth Games, the European Champions and a couple of Diamond League’s commentating for the BBC so it’s sometimes a bit hard to fit training in, so while I’m here at the minute in the Pyrenees with the British Athletics team I can focus on putting some good training in and just trying to keep it ticking over through the championships. “
As well as her major championship and racing experience coming in very handily for commentary, Radcliffe has also been able to pass on her knowledge through mentoring. With her latest mentees including Jessica Judd and Laura Weightman, two athletes who will compete at this month’s Commonwealth Games.
The position is one that marathon world-record holder really enjoys: “I’m really enjoying it, I think it’s just a chance to help and give some recognition to the youngsters who are coming through and give the support. I guess you learn quite a lot of things through your career so if you can pass some of that on and then help them to learn it the easier way then they don’t have to make mistakes. They just have to come and ask you for advice and I think that’s great, it’s really rewarding to see them running as well as they are.
As for what advice she’d give them ahead of running at a home championship, Radcliffe, who ran in Manchester in 2002 but missed London 2012 through a foot injury, said: “Just go out and enjoy it! I was lucky enough to run at the Manchester Commonwealth games and it’s one of the most special memories of my career and I think it’s definitely going to inspire all of the home countries athletes to run better like they did at the London Olympics. I think it’s a really good chance to go out and savour the atmosphere and go and enjoy it.”
With regard own personal aspirations, the runner said that she was looking forward to trying to end her career on her own terms in London next year, but suggested it wouldn’t necessarily be the end for her: “I think that’s something that is always nice to do, I’m obviously very conscious that most athletes don’t get that choice, you’re kind of dictated to enjoy and to do as well as possible and then at one point you’re body isn’t able to do it anymore, but it is nice to get the chance to do that.”
“For me it’s a little bit symbolic as well, that it’s a full circle from my first marathon (Which was in London) to potentially running my last one there, but by no means is it me finishing running for definite! But I just want to keep my foot healthy so that I can still be running and enjoying it for fun for a long time.”