Long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe, 38, is the women’s world record holder for the marathon, and won gold in the marathon at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005. She lives with her husband Gary and their children, Isla, five, and 22-month-old Raphael.
My parents never pushed me to compete and I remember only one occasion when my dad got angry with me. I was in my teens and it was just before a race. I was so nervous that I was sick and Dad said, “You’re not doing it any more if you’re going to be like this. It’s supposed to be fun!” But I was already hooked by then.
My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer just before I ran the New York Marathon in 2008. She and Dad had decided not to come and watch, which is very unusual, and Mum waited until we got home to break the news. She ended up having three operations, including a mastectomy. Throughout all of this she was so strong. When she had chemotherapy and lost her hair, her biggest worry was upsetting Isla.
I missed Isla’s birthday this year – I was doing altitude training in Kenya. She had just started school, so Gary stayed at home with her and Raphael. We had a birthday party before I left, and we talked every day while I was away.
I walked around the village, which is on the edge of the Rift Valley, showing Isla the cows and dogs and strange insects via Skype. She understood why I was away but Raphael is still so young he didn’t know why his mum wasn’t around. I missed the little things, like cuddles and bedtime stories.
A bad run used to ruin my whole day. Now I’ll come home and the kids just want to play, so I don’t have time to dwell on it. I’ve had moments when I’ve been injured and I’ve thought about giving up, but then two days later I’m back on the cross trainer. My worst moment was failing to finish the marathon at the Athens Olympics in 2004. But I had a good cry and a couple of weeks later I went for a run, and decided it was time to move on. Running is what always makes me feel better.
I am the main breadwinner, but that has never been a problem. Gary is my coach and manager, so we see it as a joint partnership. Gary takes failure much harder than me. Isla is great at shaking him out of a bad mood. She’ll say, “Daddy, you’ve got your grumpy face on. You need to sit on the balcony until you can smile.” This always makes him laugh.
Support from fans really motivates me. That’s why I’m working with Fairy to encourage families to get behind their favourite athletes and design their dishes for best wishes.
Paula is the Fairy Dishes of Best Wishes ambassador for P&G. As an official partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Proud Sponsor of Mums, P&G is using their voice to celebrate and reward all mums, and to recognise the important role they play in their families’ lives. You can create your own Dish of Best Wishes at facebook.com/fairydish.