As a three-time marathon winner and women's marathon world-record holder, who better to offer running advice than Paula Radcliffe? We caught up with the athlete as she prepares to run the London Marathon for the final time to talk training, nutrition and why she wants to encourage more women to start running.
Why do you think it’s so important to encourage more women to start running?
Running has given me a lot, so for the chance to encourage women to find that out and to just enjoy running is really nice. I think there are probably more reasons that hold women back [from running] and intimidate them a little bit… If you can just introduce them to it and give them a target like the Morrison's Great Run to work towards then it really helps them to discover what running can bring to their lives.
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Paula Radcliffe is an ambassador for the Great Run Series
What are your tips for any beginners thinking of signing up for a race?
1. Just do it!
2. Go out to a specialist running store and get checked for the way that you run to see which running shoes are the best for your style of running, and make sure you're in comfortable kit.
3. Set a target to work towards, and don't increase training drastically.
4. Look at your diet, nutrition and hydration to ensure that you're supporting yourself well in your training.
5. Get together with a group - whether it's a group of friends or a local running club - just so you've got a little bit more support, motivation and encouragement in your training.
6. Don't increase your distance by more than ten percent a week.
7. Mix up your training sessions – You should have an easier run which is maybe your longer run and then some shorter, faster runs as well.
Paula Radcliffe holds the women's world record for the fastest marathon time
How should you adjust your diet to support running?
When you start training you're obviously using more energy so you need to increase the amount of carbohydrate and protein in your diet, and make sure you change the timings a little bit as well.
Ensure you eat well a couple of hours before you do your training session, and in the 20-30 minute window after your training eat something with protein and carbohydrates in to optimise recovery. That's the window when the muscles in your body are most open to taking it in to refuel and recover.
How many times do you recommend beginners to run each week?
I think you can just start off with once a week and try to gradually increase it. If you're getting ready for something like a 10km race, two or three times a week is plenty. Within that just try and do a little bit of stretching work and maybe a little bit of strength work in the gym.
Paula Radcliffe will run her final marathon in April
What is your advice for avoiding injury?
Stretching, using a foam roller and making sure that your core is strong. Try and do some abdominal exercises to support your body, because when you get tired the muscles don't fire as well as they should do.
Feet exercises are good as well; try balancing bare foot while you're brushing your teeth on one foot to help the foot muscles and get them working.
How is training going for your final marathon?
It was going ok and then unfortunately in the last four or five weeks I've been struggling a little bit. My foot had a bit of a flare up and that's affected my Achilles so I'm trying to calm that down at the moment, but I'm hopeful that it will be ok to run around.
I know I'm not going to get a PB now at this point, so for me it's just the chance to enjoy the atmosphere on race day. By no means will it be my last run ever but I think it will be an emotional day!
Paula is the 2015 Great Run ambassador for women's running - she is looking for six women who are new to running and would like her help to train for the Morrisons Great Newham London Run 10K on 19 July. Visit greatrun.org/London to find out more.