If you ask Paula Radcliffe - the former world record holder for the marathon - what she owes all her success to, her answer wouldn’t be about diet or miles in the bank. Of course, those played a role, but right at the top of the pile would be mum and dad.
As a youngster, Paula is proud to tell the story that her parents helped her set up a cross country course around her garden where she loved to race laps and take those first steps towards greatness. But today, with those record-breaking years behind now, she still has the same message for us all. Get your family running!
"#Families on Track was my idea just to try and get people enjoying running and having fun from it rather than trying to get actually competitively get something out of it." she said chatting about the hugely popular family-led running weekend, RunFestRun. "It’s pretty shocking, some of the stats,” she revealed. “Only 22% of parents are active with their children. Almost 50% will spend their leisure time watching TV with their children."
Paula has always been all about getting out there and doing it, thanks in part to her coach Alex Stanton. England Athletics has recognised what Paula was lucky enough to discover as a young athlete in that movement and learning athletic skills is hugely important in development. Which is why England Athletics' funetics' team have developed an athletics and curricular based resource to help primary school children keep active and to support learning in a home environment.
The free-to-download funetics Home School Pack not only helps you teach the fundamental life skills of running, jumping and throwing but also gives children the opportunity to practice academic skills using sport as a foundation. Go to funetics.co.uk to learn more.
Paula’s career is an inspiration to all for exactly the reasons funetics was developed in that it was pretty unspectacular early doors (she finished just 299th in the English Schools' Cross Country Champs), but with a bit of hard work, determination like you’ve never seen and parents and coaches who were 100 per cent with her in everything she did, it took her right to the top, the highlight being that simply stunning 2:15:25 she ran in the 2003 London Marathon.
These days Paula is still very much in love with running, taking to the trails near her home in Monaco, even though due to an arthritic foot injury that bothered her throughout her career, she can’t run consecutive days on the roads. “It will get achy so I keep it happy by letting it run on the surface it likes running on, which I prefer running on anyway, so it’s not that big of a sacrifice,” she says."Fifteen minutes outside Monaco there are some really nice trails as you start to go into the mountains. I can also run the coast paths which are nice out towards Italy and the other direction down into France. It sometimes doesn’t have to have any purpose than to clear my head and make me feel better. Sometimes it’s social, to run with friends and chat with them, running with the kids. Bit of thinking time, me time.”
And of course, some of her running is with her children Isla, 13, and Raphael, 9. They have acquired at least some of the competitive qualities of both their mother and father, former GB international Gary Lough. "They might want to lead on to doing that later, but this is more having fun and running the relay together as a family."
Try it yourself
At Paula’s launch event last year, families had to complete their 10k target in any combination of laps (e.g. six x 1,000m, five x 500m and six x 250m = 10k). Each leg is completed by an individual who then hands over to another family member for the next leg. Families can run in any order and run legs of any distance, as long as they complete 10k. Changeovers took place in the 'family pit lane' and when the 10k distance is reached, everyone in a family unit runs the 'Glory Leg'.