Happy Birthday to Paula Radcliffe, by Larry Eder

Paula Radcliffe, photo by PhotoRun.net 

Today is the 40th birthday of one of my favorite athletes, Paula Radcliffe. The current world record holder in the women's marathon, at 2:15.25, Paula was a fixture on the cross country, track and field and road racing circuits for nearly sixteen years. Her run in April 2003, where she set the current WR has never, I believe, been truly appreciated. The mark from London is Beamonesque. 
Two trail blazers, Grete Waitz and Paula Radcliffe, 
photo by PhotoRun.net (2006)

Paula Radcliffe captured the attention of fans with her tough front running in the 5,000m and 10,000 meters on the track, in World Cross Country, and finally, in the marathon, where, when healthy, she was without peers. Her love of the sport, her devotion to the sport and her focus on the sport was both the reason for her success and, in some cases, the reason that she was injured at various times in her career. 

 Paula Radcliffe, Kara Goucher, 2006 INY NYCM, 
photo by PhotoRun.net 

Paula Radcliffe is a fighter. You might not know where she would finish, but you knew that the entire field knew, that Radcliffe would fight to the very last meters of a track, cross country or road race. Her World Championship gold in 2005 in the marathon in Helsinki was well earned, after so many other medals. 

There were times, as with after her Olympic disasters, that, we understood and appreciated her need to run the Olympics, but worried that her injuries and the burden of being the world record holder, were, on some days, just too much. It was then, that we found out that Paula Radcliffe, yes, was human. She could have fractures like all of us, she could cry over lost chances, and she was, yes, human. 

Kara Goucher, Paula Radcliffe, May 2011, photo by PhotoRun.net

Paula Radcliffe has also been a fierce supporter of drug testing. Her voice, and her support of the issue has kept it in the forefront of the sport news, and continued to help  her sport show a definitive stance on the treatment of drug cheats. 

Paula Radcliffe continues to be a heroine to many athletes, young and old. Her fearless running reminds one that our sport is both art and science. With all of the training advice in the world, a fearless heart, healthy legs and feet and the ability to embrace the challenges are still the keys that give a great athlete the chance to rise above all of the rest. 

Happy Birthday to the fastest woman marathon in the world, Paula Radcliffe! 

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