Paula Radcliffe on the Olympics, mum mishaps and that 27-hour labour

Marathon runner Paula reveals her 5-year-old thought every mum runs, her toddler can chant with the best sports fans (well, we think so) and how her body worked against her in labour

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Paula Radcliffe, the world’s fastest female marathon runner and mum to Isla, 5, and Raphael, 18 months, may be busy preparing for the Olympics, but she managed to find time for a chat with MFM. She tells us how she wants to be the best mum she can be, why not to feel bad about ‘me-time’ and whether she really had a 27-hour labour…

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How does an Olympian tackle being a mum?

“I’m very motivated in sport, I want to be the best. It’s the same for the kids. I want to be the best mum I can be. I’m not obsessive, it’s good to let children learn and play. Although I keep an eye on what they eat, how they’re getting on at school and how much they sleep.”

Are you a pushy mum when it comes to sport?

“Isla and Raphael are both still quite young. Isla’s 5 and Raphael’s 18 months. But Isla’s very active. She loves biking, running, gymnastics, rollerblading and playing on her scooter. I want them to find a sport they enjoy. But I’m not desperate for them to be in or not be in sport. I want to support them whatever they do.”

Do you think it’s up to parents or schools to encourage kids to play sport?

“I think it’s both. We should all be supporting kids’ exercising. There’s a lot of evidence of kids performing better when they exercise and there are so many health benefits. It’s in all of our interest to make sure kids are active.”

Are Isla and Raphael aware of what you do?

“Isla’s a lot more aware of what I do. She understands what I’m getting ready for. She knows it’s ‘mummy’s job’ and likes to run a little with mum and pass me my water bottle. Although she did just assume everybody’s mum ran. Raphael doesn’t know as much, but likes to shout, ‘olly, olly, olly!’ He’s been wearing his Pampers nappies with the GB print every day – he’s aware it’s the same as mummy’s kit. Isla knows that it’s the flag.”

Are your kids active toddlers?

“Having toddlers, it’s easy to believe that cruising babies make as many steps as a marathon runner in 24 hours!”

Do you think the London Olympics will encourage kids to get involved in more sport?

“I think so, definitely. I have really early memories of the LA Olympics. I was already running but I was definitely inspired. I think kids will see and be interested in sports you wouldn’t expect and will say, ‘Mummy I want to try that.’ They’ll see such a great variety of sport and be inspired by iconic moments. I’m passionate about kids being active and staying active.”

We read that you had a 27-hour labour with Isla. Is this true?

“Yes. My body really worked against me. My muscles didn’t relax.”

Has Isla’s determination not to arrive quickly been reflected in her personality?

“Isla’s very determined and tenacious. Although my labour with Raphael was much shorter and he’s the same. They’re besotted with each other. They fight for attention – Isla’s always saying ‘look at me’ – but they get on very well. I woke up today and Isla was in Raphael’s crib teaching him what noises animals make.”

Have you had any mummy mishaps?

“Raphael’s got no fear. He tends to run off into lifts and press all the buttons. He disappeared once and Gary [Gary Lough, Paula’s husband] had to run around trying to find which floor he’d pop out on.”

What would be your tip to other mums?

“Go with your instincts. I spent a lot of time reading books before I had a baby and worried about what it all meant and whether I’d know what cry meant what. But you just know. Trust your instinct. Don’t feel guilty about having ‘me-time’ either. I’m a better mum when I factor in some time just for me. It’s normally running for me. That’s my stress relief, my time to figure things out.”

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Paula’s working with Pampers on its ‘Pampers Little Athlete’ campaign to help parents celebrate their child’s play in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. To celebrate your baby’s unique spirit of play, join Paula and Raphael on Facebook.

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