Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reading and Suffering with Paula Radcliffe

Reading a sports bio. you could expect some inspiration, some positive thinking but having just finished Radcliffe's biography, I'm also thinking you need a strong stomach.

One of the fasted marathoners in history - 2.15.25 in London 2003, her list of injuries drips from almost every page; to a point where you wonder how she keeps going. Or even why she kept going.

But she does, in spite of asthma on top of all the sporting injuries. And in the end when you finish the book, you do feel inspired. As much by her determination to stay honest in a sport where cheating seems rife as by her refusal to give in to pain.

The photo below shows Radcliffe and her team-mate Halley Tullett demonstrating against the use of EPO at the World Championships in Canada in 2001.

In the book she remembers:

 "As we held the sign up, there were Russians nearby yelling at us, and we worried about what other athletes would think of what we were doing. We knew we were taking a risk, putting ourselves up as targets for what we believed in. Yet I have always said that fear is no reason not to do what you believe is right. We felt that the IAAF wasn’t listening to us or doing enough to fight doping; we wanted the public to know that most athletes were clean and weren’t happy with the way our sport was being portrayed."
But it's the physical injuries that really stand out in my mind.  Reading, you are reminded of how tough we become as we train professionally. Radcliffe describes getting knocked over by a little girl on a bike before a big race which doesn't sound too traumatic until you see the photos and realise how hard she hit the ground. Because of course she was going at speed when the collision occured.

You can read some extracts from the book on her site Paula Radcliffe but I'd recommend reading the whole book. It's well worth a little bit of sofa-time to that inspiration. 

Canada 2001


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