Paula Radcliffe balances motherhood and the marathon

Maggie Hendricks
Fourth-Place Medal

Paula Radcliffe is like any mother who has to balance the demands of her career and family. She hates being away from her children, and wants to make the most out of every minute she has with her children.

The difference is that Radcliffe is one of the world's best marathoners, and her job involves training for the Olympics in her home country of England. She spoke with Fourth-Place Medal about being a mom and a marathoner.

Radcliffe, the mother of 5-year-old Isla and 16-month-old Raphael, sees the two roles working together.

"They can complement each other, if you're lucky enough, which I am, to have a really good support team. My husband is obviously very hands on, and very, very good with the children. We get a lot of support from nannies, but also extended family," Radcliffe said.

She never felt like she had to decide between motherhood and running.

"The biggest thing for me was that I didn't see my career finishing any time soon, and I always saw myself as a mother. I didn't think I have to sacrifice one for the other. I always thought the two could work together."

Radcliffe credits motherhood for helping her become a better competitor.

"Honestly, when you're happier, I think you race better, you train better, and you compete better. I'm certainly a lot happier being a mother. It takes more organization and probably a little bit more energy, but it's certainly very enriching and the two can complement each other very well."

Radcliffe will need every bit of energy as she prepares to run in London. Great Britain has high hopes for her, and she is excited for the opportunity to run at home.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any athlete to take part in an Olympics on home soil. It gives me goosebumps thinking about the support and the atmosphere we'll have and the great show that London's going to put on. I feel doubly blessed because I do have very many happy memories of running in London Marathons, and I can draw on those memories and imagine what it's like to run in the Olympic games there. There's added pressure, but it's a huge boost for athletes."

She won the London Marathon twice, but has never been able to win an Olympic medal. With Russian Liliya Shobukhova and tough teams from Kenya, Japan, China and the U.S. challenging her, winning gold won't be easy. Still, Radcliffe says that being a mom gives her extra motivation to run her best race.

"It's a huge motivation. If it's not enough for yourself to put in all the work, there are now two other people that make me really want to do the best I can every time I get out there. It's deepened my motivation. I'm also happier as well, and feel very blessed in my family life, and I think that helps."

Radcliffe knows that she is not alone in being a mother who has to juggle career, family and staying fit. She advises other moms to lean on their support systems to make the balancing act a bit easier.

"Take the support from the people around you, from your husband, from your partner, from your family so that you can get your time for your training. You talk about the sacrifices athletes make, I never really felt like I made a sacrifice for my career until I came away for a month without my kids. That was really hard, but at the same time, it was a huge motivation to make every second of the training count and make it worthwhile, being away."

She also hopes mothers will make every moment with their children count.

"Just enjoy your children. Introduce them to sports. That's why I'm excited to be working with Procter & Gamble on the commitment to youth sport. I really do think sport can do so much to benefit children. It's not just the health benefits, but self-confidence, self-esteem, working as a team, better results at school. I think that's really important for all children to have sport in their life."

Watch Radcliffe run during the London Olympics this summer, and learn more about Procter & Gamble's commitment to youth sport and the "Thank You, Mom" program here.

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