Radcliffe, Coe, Tergat - The Big Interview!

When Nike brought Paula Radcliffe, Paul Tergat and Sebastian Coe to the Flora London Marathon Exhibition, they exclusively invited runnersworld.co.uk members to add their own questions to the official line-up.

Here's what they had to say...

Sebastian Coe

>>From Jon – As a peer, how are you steering the Government’s attitude to hosting the Olympic games in London?
>>Sebastian Coe I’m afraid I don’t have a massive influence over the Government! But I’m obviously very solidly behind any bid to bring the Games to London. I’ve been to Athens and seen the effect that the preparations for the Games are having on the city. They’re building 75km of new roads and upgrading a further 55km of old roads, plus there’s a new light rail link between the airport and the city centre. And, of course, after the Games the athletes' village will become homes for 10,000 underprivileged people. As the plan is for the London Games to be held in an area of the capital that is ripe for regeneration, I don’t see why we shouldn’t tap into such enormous potential. To be honest, the Capital really is falling behind. Even on a national scale, cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle all have big strategies for sport and London doesn’t. This is something I really don’t understand.

>>From RichardM – What are your feelings on the decline of male distance running in Britain in the last decade or so? There’s a real chance that Paula could beat our fastest man on Sunday!
>>Sebastian Coe It is rather odd isn’t it, but there’s no easy answer. When I was an elite athlete, there were so many British athletes running world class times, but now we can’t even find three men to represent Britain in the 800 metres at the World Championships. We’re doing really well at events up to 400m, but there just isn’t the same level at the longer distances. I think it’s partly a lifestyle issue. When I was younger, athletics was a really attractive proposition, but now it has to compete against football, and I’m afraid football hoovers up a lot of talented lads who could also be successful at athletics. This is something that UKA are certainly aware of, and they know that we have a problem. Perhaps we need to start developing relationships with the football clubs. They take in a lot of young talent, and of course not all of these guys actually go on to play at the top level. We could get feedback from the football clubs if they found a kid with a ‘fantastic motor’ who they don’t think is going to make it, and perhaps direct them towards running instead. Certainly I remember a lot of guys at my club, Harringay, who were good footballers and made the choice to take up athletics instead. I think we could pull in a lot of kids from the sport.
As for Paula, that’s an interesting thought. I was looking over her stats from the summer and they’re simply incredible. She was running faster than Emil Zatopek did at his peak! And then there’s the question of the male pacemakers. Every male pacer she’s used has run a personal best! But the situation with male distance runners is one that we really shouldn’t have allowed to happen. It hasn’t just crept up on us, the writing has been on the wall for quite a while.

>>From Velociraptor – In what ways, if any, has the training philosophy for middle distance running changed since you were at your peak?
>>Sebastian Coe Well, it’s hard for me to say as I don’t stand around at tracks watching people training all the time! But I have worked with guys like Hicham El Guerrouj and it’s not that different. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of his stuff is modelled on what my old man was doing in the 1980s. Training isn’t about recreating the wheel, there’s a lot to be said for looking back at what we were doing 20 years ago. I have a laugh with Steve Cram about this, but a lot of people come up to us and say ‘you guys must have been superhuman to run as quickly as you did.’ We weren’t of course; others can do it. At the time there was a wealth of talent, but we really were ordinary guys who trained hard and came up through the club system. There were guys like me, Crammy, Peter Elliott, Steve Crabb and Tom McKean – it was a struggle to get into British teams!

>>From The Bobolink – What was harder, being a Tory MP or an international athlete?
>>Sebastian Coe [Laughs] Well, there is a similarity between sport and politics in that you can incur injuries in both. Mind you, in athletics they’re rarely inflicted by your own side!

Paul Tergat

>>From Monique – Are you currently in possession of a full set of toenails?
>>Paul Tergat Ha ha ha. That’s a very funny question! I think this is one of the reasons why it is so important to make sure you always have the right shoes for you. The right shoes can make your feet a lot happier and nicer to look at. But even so I don’t think any of us, particularly the elite, ever have perfect and complete sets of toenails!

>>From Velociraptor – Many legal supplements are promoted as potentially improving running performance. Which do you take, and do you feel they make a difference?
>>Paul Tergat For myself, I don’t use any. I think there are so many things that you have to be very careful with. But for other people I think they can be useful if they need more energy.

>>From RichardM – Do you think the African dominance of male distance running is because they are prepared to train harder and longer, or is it down to genetics, or both?
>>Paul Tergat This is a very difficult question for me. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself I try to concentrate on training properly all the time. I don’t think about the genetics. Instead you have to be prepared to work very hard and run many miles. That’s what counts for me.

>>From Sparkles – Can you hear the crowd as you pass?
>>Paul Tergat I think that the crowds are very important for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are elite or not. You definitely do hear them. For me, especially after halfway, as the race starts to get harder, their shouting pushes you on. I’m always very glad that they’re there.

>>From Jeremy Hawke – How do you stay motivated to cover the massive weekly training mileage? I quite often get down in the dumps about an easy four-mile flat run on a nice day.
>>Paul Tergat There are two parts to this question. I think it’s very important to have goals, it gives you a reason to be out there, and you can have smaller goals along the way. But I’m also always looking to see how I’m improving. I think if you look back and see that you’re going faster or that maybe you cover the same distance in the same time as before but it feels easier and so you know you can try a little harder, then that gives you the confidence to keep on going.

Paula Radcliffe

>>From Pumped Full of Vitamin C Fruity Reindeer – How do you feel about the way the sport has been allowed to decline in schools? [Dickenson then adds] What advice would you give to youngsters just starting out in their athletics career?
>>Paula Radcliffe I think the biggest thing is that we need to get as many children as possible into sport, trying all different sports, just having fun at everything and finding out what they like and what they want to take a bit more seriously as they get older. The big thing we need to do is just get the base of the pyramid bigger and get as many kids as possible out there and doing active sports. So instead of worrying about diet and health it’s coming naturally, because they’re having fun.

>>From The Dogwalker* – I’m always intrigued by the ice-cold baths. Do you ever step into them thinking ‘will the good that this freezing cold bath will do for me really justify the pain?*(Paula, in reaction to name: 'I kick them…')
>>Paula Radcliffe Yes, probably every time! No, I usually get in with a hot cup of coffee on the side of the bath and a jumper on my top half

>>Paul Dickenson – What’s the logic about it?
>>Paula Radcliffe Just that it stimulates the bloodflow to the muscles so that after the race it’s taking down any inflammation and little micro-tears in the muscles. And before the race it’s stimulating the bloodflow a bit like a light massage, just to get your legs awake and ready to go. I’ll be having one the night before the marathon, and then a warm shower afterwards so that I can get to sleep. And then after the race I think I’ll probably have about three. I think last year I remember getting up the next morning at 6am to get into one because my legs were so sore. I couldn’t sleep any longer anyway so I thought ‘I may as well get up and have the ice-bath now!’

>>From Velociraptor – You are my daughter’s favourite role model. Who was yours when you were growing up?
>>Paula Radcliffe One of my first memories was of watching Ingrid Kristiansen running the London Marathon, and also watching the LA Olympics and seeing the Zola Budd / Mary Decker race there. I have memories from different people; I don’t have one specific role model; I think I look to a lot of people. I used to enjoy watching Steve Cram run because he always used to seem to have fun, and Liz McColgan because she was so tough and dedicated to it.

>>Paul Dickenson – That’ll make Steve feel very old, I’m sure. I’ll tell him that on Sunday.

>>Paul Dickenson – Do you ever go into a race thinking about the opposition, or do you just stick to your own plan? You’re not afraid of anybody, are you?
>>Paula Radcliffe No, I’m not afraid of anyone at all, but I need to be aware of the way people run and who my main rivals are. I need to have respect for them in the same way that I think they’d have respect for me. You always need to do that. But the only thing you can control is yourself and the shape that you’re in.

>>From Jonathan Fleck – Is the pacemaking an important part of your strategy? [Dickenson: I see you shaking your head already]
>>Paula Radcliffe No, I’d say it’s not at all. I mean, I haven’t spoken to anybody about pace yet, because I don’t know how I’ll feel until I’m in the race. I think that when the opportunity was raised of a mixed race I thought it was a good idea because it means you don’t have to discuss pace. You can just slot in with the guys around you. Nobody wants to say before the race what pace they want to run at; they want to keep their own ideas to themselves until they see that everything is 100 per cent on the day. Definitely I’ll be doing that. I’m more concerned with winning the race than I am about thinking about times.

>>Paul Dickenson – Do you ever get to a race, look at the conditions and think ‘It’s a nice day, therefore I think I can run X in terms of time?’
>>Paula Radcliffe I never really think about the end time. I think about how I’m going to run the race. So yes, if I stand on the start line thinking it’s a nice day, I feel great, why would I not just run hard and see what I can do? But I don’t think in terms of hitting exact split times. I find that very restrictive during the race, if you’re watching the clock the whole time. I prefer to relax and run according to my instinct and how I feel.

>>Paul Dickenson – You ran fast here last year then of course you ran even faster in Chicago. Do you think London is capable of a fast race?
>>Paula Radcliffe Definitely, I think it’s a very good course, and I think we’ve got a lot of support the whole way along the course, which is great. I mean, last year I ran fast here but I didn’t really start running hard until reasonably late in the race. From Chicago I went from the start. Between the two courses I don’t think there’s a big difference, and there are definitely better crowds for me in London

>>From Sparkles – Do you ever hear the crowds, are you conscious of them?
>>Paula Radcliffe I’m definitely conscious of them and I definitely pick up on the energy, I think, more than specific things. I mean, sometimes I’ll pick out a specific voice, but mostly it is just the noise and the energy that you pick up on. I was watching the video of last year’s race again just to get the course fresh in my mind, and every fast mile split came when there were a lot of people around me. I don’t think that’s a coincidence – you pick up on that, and you pick the pace up without even thinking about it. Birdcage Walk was amazing. I imagine it’s what running through the crowd at Wembley stadium would be like.

>>From Monique – Do you feel nervous?
>>Paula Radcliffe Definitely. I think if you don’t feel nervous, then what are you doing it for? Because it’s only when something is really important to you that you get those nerves. And I think that when you’ve worked and prepared and done all the training, everybody’s going to be nervous, and crossing fingers with all that anticipation that it’s going to go right on the day.
I think nerves help your performance, because they build up the adrenaline and make your body that much more alert. It’s going to perform that much better; it makes you more careful and your concentration sharper as well.

>>Paul Dickenson – Any last-minute advice?
>>Paula Radcliffe Definitely make sure you eat well the night before and the morning of the race, and make sure that you’ve got enough fluid inside you. And keep warm at the start; take some old kit that you can throw away because your kit will have gone on the buses to the finish

>>From Velociraptor – What would your advice be about supplements?
>>Paula Radcliffe I think the big thing is that if you’re training for a marathon you’re putting your body through a lot more stress than a person going through everyday life. You need to be taking in more vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrate than the normal person. You can do that through your diet or you can do it with supplements. If you can eat that amount of fruit and vegetables then that’s probably the best way to do it, but if you can’t, then I think basic vitamin supplements which have nothing else added to them are a good way to do that. It’s very confusing for everybody at the moment, because you have to make sure your body is healthy enough to support all the training and recover, but at the same time you don’t want to be taking any risks with supplements. I would just say you should stick to things that are tried and tested and other athletes use. That’s what I do.

>>Paul Dickenson – What are your racing plans for the rest of the year?
>>Paula Radcliffe At the moment I haven’t made concrete racing plans past Sunday. First I’ll take a break, and holiday to let my body recover and see how I get back into training. The only main thing that I have pencilled in is the World Championships 10,000m in Paris. I want to race more on the track this summer than I did last summer, but it just depends on how I recover and get back into shape. I don’t think I’ll run another marathon before 2004. I’ll take three weeks complete rest, but I’ve been pushing my body hard since November. Last year it was hard because mentally I came off the race on a big high and I wanted to carry on running, but at the same time the body needed to recover. I felt recovered in a few days, in fact, but it was nice to be able to have the lie-ins and go out at night and have the odd drink and just do the things you can’t do when you’re training. Then you get back into it feeling a lot fresher and a lot more eager to train hard. I needed that, and still when I did get back into training I could tell I’d done a marathon three weeks earlier, and it probably took me another two or three weeks of training before I really felt like I was totally recovered.