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Paula Radcliffe, former British long-distance runner, will be doing the commentary for the Dubai Marathon 2024. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

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Dubai: Former world champion Paula Radcliffe says running can be fun and the advent of Super Shoes has only accelerated the growth of marathon in recent years.

“I work with kids trying to get them involved in families into running. I started it in the UK and now I have the first Families on Track event starting in Monaco in February. So it’s really just trying to show that running can be fun and the whole family can do it together. The kids can put their phones down for a little bit and just get into that healthy lifestyle mindset,” said the 50-year-old marathoner, who is embarking on a new role in recent times.

After her retirement from professional running, Radcliffe has begun a new career in commentating on big races like the Dubai Marathon 2024, bringing the captivating battle on the streets of Jumeirah to the fans watching across the world. Some of the best marathon runners are taking part in the men’s and women’s sections of the Dubai race on Sunday, considered one of the best in the world.

Shedding fear

“Now, I do a mix of things. I commentate on major races. For me, it’s a big privilege. If I’m not taking part in the race, I have the honour of telling the story to people watching at home and to explain the nuances in the marathon race, because there are many. For me, it’s always interesting to watch how it unfolds, who is having a good run, who is using different tactics to hide, how difficult it is or going through those rough patches. And it’s fascinating to watch it to be able to have the best seats in terms of watching it and to have that honour of conveying it to people around the world. I think it is very special to me,” said Radcliffe, who ended her competitive running in the London Marathon in 2015. “It’s also a learning curve for me, so I’m getting to stretch myself and trying to improve in a different area now.”

Marathon is considered one of the toughest sport in modern era, the event that brings the curtains down on the Olympic Games. Radcliffe feels that more people have been able shed the fear about the toughest sport due to the massive upgradation of the running shoes, that helps in reducing the probability of the injuries and aids in faster recovery. Hence, Dubai Marathon organisers have set a target of around 20,000 people to take part in the run.

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Dera Dida will be defending her Dubai Marathon title on Sunday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“I do think that the shoes have opened up marathon a lot. Before there was perhaps a little bit of a fear perception surrounding a marathon, but now with the shoes, what we’re seeing is that athletes are starting to move to the marathon sooner in their career, at an younger stage. They can also race more often in the year because the recovery is accelerated with during and after the marathon. So it’s changed the concept a bit and I think it is opening up and made it more available to more people,” she said.

“And we’re definitely seeing that impact on the mass side as well. So I know the figures are looking good. We’re hoping for 20,000 people in the mass races here in Dubai and a lot of those will have invested in the shoes and they will have helped them in training and help them to stay injury free and to just enjoy their running a little bit more.”

Marathon has to be respected

Super shoes are lighter with a highly resilient midsole foam that has a curved, rigid plate often made from carbon fibre embedded within the foam. The advent of the super shoes have seen a massive reduction in times and Dubai Marathon organisers are expecting a new course record on Sunday.

However, the champion runner has a word of advice to those aspiring to run the marathon. “I still believe a marathon is the best event, but it has to be respected. You can’t just jump into it like you can for a 1500 meters or a 5,000 metres. You need to do some planning and need to have a good first experience. You also need to learn the event and all of those make it intriguing for the young athletes coming in.”

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Elite women runners who will be competing in the Dubai Marathon 2024 on Sunday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Marathon has been historically dominated runners from the African continent, especially in Ethiopia and Kenya. The success achieved by some of the legends have helped more to take up the event and the competition has only helped them get even better. The women’s run in Dubai is set to be closely contested with Ethiopian duo Dera Dida and Ruti Aga going head-to-head once again to grab the top honours.

Strong UK middle distance runners

Runners from Ethiopia and Kenya have dominated Dubai Marathon with Ethiopians winning the race 29 times, while Kenyans have won nine. Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie leads the men’s honour-board with three titles along with Kenyan Wilson Kibet, while Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia has won three titles in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

With Paris Olympics 2024 months away, the British athlete feels that there are some good talents back home and offers her guidance to those aspiring talents from time to time.

Part of culture

“Many parts of the world have different sports and marathon is high up within the culture in Ethiopia and Kenya. The likes of Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat have spurred the growth due to which there are so many athletes coming into the system. They train hard and for them a way to do well and be successful in life is through running,” Radcliffe said.

“We have a lot of promise in the UK, maybe not so much in the marathon, but certainly in the middle distance races at the moment in both on the male and female side. We have an extremely strong team and improving every time. So it’s great to see. I do the mentoring rather than a coaching input. Marathon on the one hand has changed a lot, but on the other hand, it’s still the same, the same distance and the same rules apply,” she concluded.