Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HEROES-Paula Radcliffe

Paula Radcliffe is a distance runner who hails from Britain. She is the first woman to ever go below 2:20 for the marathon redefining what women can do at that distance. She is also the world record holder for the marathon. Recently, that world record was stripped from her by the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF. The world record in question was the 2:15.25 set at the London Marathon in 2003. The record has gone untouched for 8 years. The reasoning of the IAAF was that this record was "assisted" because the race was run alongside men who essentially served as pacemakers for Radcliffe. Under the new rules, no woman may have a male pacemaker. The only valid records will be those in women only competitions.

The new world record for the marathon is Radcliffe's 2005 London Marathon performance which was 2:17.42. Radcliffe owns the marathon, and her performances are impressive considering that she is a white woman from England competing against an army of Ethiopians and Kenyans and an unshakable belief that those East African enjoy some sort of genetic advantage at distance running. Radcliffe shows the lie in this, and her example has inspired American runners like Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher, and Desiree Davila to elevate their game.

Radcliffe is also a mother of two, and her burning desire is to get a gold medal at the Olympics which has eluded her. It may always elude her, but she is going to try very hard to win the race at the London 2012 Olympics. Her last Olympic performance resulted in a complete meltdown and a crushing DNF for the fastest female marathoner in history. She cried and simply lost it. Some may look down her for this, but I see someone who desperately wants this last bit of recognition for her talent and her work ethic. Radcliffe lost the race because of a leg injury she had suffered prior to the event and her reaction to anti-inflammatory meds that keep her from absorbing food and caused her to bonk.

Radcliffe's other controversy dealt with a toilet break she took during the 2005 London Marathon when she had runner's trots. She ducked to the side of the course and took a shit. Then, she finished the race in what is now the new world record.

The other big controversy with Radcliffe is her outspoken stance on doping. Radcliffe is passionately against dopers and cheating in the sport. She wears a red ribbon to show her support for antidoping measures and even held up a sign in 2001 to protest the reinstatement of a doper at an event that said, "EPO CHEATS OUT." You are never going to see Lance Armstrong making a similar gesture.

Paula Radcliffe is a one of a kind runner. She is outspoken, humble, and clearly is not concerned with what the world thinks about her. You can even see it in the way she races with that head bob of hers. She is unlike any other runner out there. For myself, I can say that the IAAF was wrong to take her marathon record away. I think that ruling is bullshit. I will also be happy if she ever gets that gold medal. But if she doesn't, she is definitely one of the greatest runners in history for her performances but also her integrity.


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