The Importance of Being Paula

How much of a shame it was that Paula Radcliffe didn’t manage to make it to the start line for the Women’s Olympic Marathon in London.

What a shame that a generation of young people will miss the exposure to arguably the greatest female distance runner of all time!  Granted, they will have had massive exposure to the world’s greatest all-rounder, Jess Ennis, not a bad role model at all by anyone’s standards but from a distance runner’s standard I believe a great opportunity has slipped into the past.

I’m not saying that the achievements of Mo Farah and Christine Ohuruogu won’t have done something similiar, in fact, I really hope that their achievements will have encouraged young people to get down to their local running clubs and give middle distance track running a go!  What I am saying is that the opportunity has been lost to show these kids how important Cross Country running is to the development of a strong and determined runner!Had Paula made it to the start line then her exemplary record, including the blighted Athens Olympic experience, would have been spread to a whole new audience.  The opportunity for those young people to see how important a progression through the disciplines is would have, it could be argued, reinvigorated the British Cross Country scene, not to mention youth participation in track events from 400m upwards.

Mo and Christine don’t have the illustrious cross country background that Paula has and so it’s going to be left to coaches (and parents) at local clubs to try to encourage their charges to run through the winter, run through the mud and grit their teeth when the going gets tough.  As the saying goes – “Champions are made in the winter” – you try telling that to a youngster who has the opportunity to play Xbox in the centrally heated comfort of home!

If these kids knew of the struggle Paula went through to gain her World Junior Cross Country title in 1992 and the lengths she then took over the next nine years to gain her Senior World Cross Country title, then maybe they would put the controller down, switch off the TV and strap on their running shoes.  Maybe it would be easier for them to see that Champions are, indeed, made in the winter and maybe, just maybe, the spark would be ignited deep down to begin the struggle for greatness during the cold, dark winter months!

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