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How to follow in Paula's footsteps
Paula Radcliffe celebrates winning gold at the World Championships
Medals galore and a whole lot more for Paula

If you want to emulate Paula Radcliffe, be prepared for a huge amount of hard graft.

She's one of the finest ever long distance runners, winning golds at the Commonwealths and European Champs and she has run the three quickest marathons ever for women.

Paula has a huge team behind her - physios, dieticians, weights instructors and Gary Lough - her husband and manager.

And then there's her coach Alex Stanton, who has been putting her through her paces since she was a fresh-faced 12-year-old and how you can follow in her footsteps.

A STAR IS BORN

I started coaching Paula when she was 12. But it was my wife Rosemary who first spotted her talent.

I was already working with three very good girls and I needed a fourth.

Rosemary saw something special. I'm not very good at picking out these sort of things!

Paula runs cross country early on in her career
The start of a very successful running career

She saw a gleam in Paula's eyes. And she came across as being someone who just loved running, both track and cross country.

Paula was asked to do an extra night's training and it started from there really.

But I don't think she was winning everything from the word go! Far from it.

She was just one of the girls in the team. She wasn't even the best in the group. Her progress was slow but it would come.

THE DREAM BEGINS

Success certainly did not happen overnight for Paula. She didn't win a major race until her late teens.

But she was always a very organised girl. Her whole life was organised.

And that really helped her in her preparation for progressing up to the top.

Paula Radcliffe in action
It's crucial to take things very gradually, Paula's strength and speed has been developed over a number of years

She never got behind on anything. And that included everything like her homework at school.

She knew exactly where she was going. And she just worked incredibly hard.

She first won the world cross-country championships in 1992 in her last year at school. It was at Boston in America.

That race is now six kilometres but back then it was four. So it was a little bit easier for Paula!

Our preparation was thorough. We knew what times the opponents would be running.

And all we had to do was make sure that Paula could run faster than anybody else!

Paula had just won the English Schools and we knew she had a great chance of winning.

She did exactly that, which was the beginning of it all. All her training just gradually built up slowly over the years after that.

THE DREAM BEGINS

If you want to be a good athlete you are going to have put in a huge amount of work.

But as Paula has shown, it can be all worth it. The main thing to remember is, whatever you do, you've just got to enjoy it.

If you want to take up running then find a club. Get on the UK Athletics website and find your nearest one from there in the "getting involved" section.

Try not to set your mind on "I'm going to be a good runner".

That's OK but it's so important to try other things at the same time. Some of the runners at Bedford will go to a meeting and do their own event.

But they will also do things like the shot put or jumping.

Some long distance runners end up sprinting or throwing, some go the other way round and do the longer distances with me. It just depends on what you enjoy.

Paula Radcliffe shows off her Worlds gold medal
The hard graft has its rewards...

It's also crucial to take things very gradually. Paula's strength and speed has been developed over a number of years.

So try not to over-train. All your development will all add up in the end.

If you really push yourself too hard too early you'll burn out, you will not have the energy when you get older and you might even injure yourself.

So just take your time.

PREPARE TO SUCCEED

Paula is now a superstar famous across the world, but she hasn't changed one little bit since all her success.

She's the sort of person you would still want as a friend.

Whether she ran or not she's just a lovely person. But obviously she's a completely different person when she races.

Most athletes will focus solely on the race and that's what they've got to do. But as soon as the race is over they go back to what they were like before.

Paula Radcliffe in action during a cross country race featuring lots of thick mud
If you get it all clicking together you are suddenly in a position where you are going to make great times

As I mentioned, she's a great organiser and she's a great one for preparing.

All doubts about anything will have been sorted days ahead of a race. Be it injuries, personal problems or whatever.

When she gets down to that start line, she'll have two or three race plans sorted in her head.

Mind you, she won't always run to them!

Most runners don't take the pace up in a race and Paula is one of those who likes to get on with the job from the front.

But if someone else jumped in and took the lead, Paula would have another plan up her sleeve to deal with that.

Being mentally tough is important and Paula's never had any problems with this.

Some of you might think it can get a bit boring running round a track a few times but if you can set goals like breaking personal bests it can be great fun.

And there are always plenty of friends to help you through the good and not so good times.

MORE FIREWORKS

Paula's had a phenomenal couple of years but she deserves everything she's got.

She trains so hard, she gives up so much. She shuts herself away at her home in the mountains in France and just train.

Paula Radcliffe and husband Gary Lough embrace
Paula's husband Gary plays a crucial role in her success

Nothing else matters to her and her husband. It's not a glamorous lifestyle up there. All you do is get up, train and then go to bed again!

She's got a great team working with her though. Physios, fitness instructors, people who sort her food.

And if you get it all clicking together you are suddenly in a position where you are going to make great times.

Everything has to be dead right to make the right times. And although Paula's done these great times and won all these races, she's as hungry as ever.

But she would pack it all in if she wasn't enjoying her running. She will not go into a race knowing she's not dead right.

You are not always going to win but she'll never run half-hearted.

Many people ask if Paula can run even faster. Well, if it's the right course, with the right weather and in the right company, then Paula can go faster.

Enjoy your athletics everybody! Perhaps one day you can be running like Paula.


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