World Champion runner to cyclist: Preparing Paula Radcliffe for RideLondon

GCN’s Manon Lloyd provides tips and pointers for the former marathon world record holder

Clock20:30, Saturday 25th November 2023

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Paula Radcliffe was the best female long-distance runner in the world. Her dominance spanned multiple disciplines, from the cross-country to the marathon, and seven world titles. After breaking the marathon world record in 2003, the British athlete was over three minutes faster than the next quickest athlete, and her time of 2:15:25 is still the sixth fastest of all time.

Radcliffe retired in 2015, but like many former athletes, that thirst for a challenge never dried up and the 49-year-old recently decided to turn her attention away from running and into the world of cycling. With the help of Let’s Do This, who she is an ambassador for, the Brit has set her sights on RideLondon, a 100-mile ride which is challenging even for seasoned cyclists.

As Radcliffe knows too well, preparation is key to conquering any goal, so she asked GCN’s Manon Lloyd for some tips and pointers as she embarks on her next adventure. Equipped with Pinarello bikes, the pair headed out for a ride, but first Manon caught up with the former world champion to find out more about her cycling background and what has motivated her to take on RideLondon.

Check out the interview below and watch the full video above to find out how Radcliffe fared on her ride with Manon.

Manon Lloyd: Have you done much riding in the past?

Paula Radcliffe: Not a huge amount. A lot in the gym for cross-training throughout my career. When I was a kid we used to bike a lot. I used to bike backwards and forwards to school. We did a couple of holidays with all the little tents in backpacks and in panniers on the bike, so we kind of did a family biking holiday like that.

When I was in university I was biking in and out of lectures. I biked one morning in the frost and came off and split my head open, a week before a big race. That kind of scared me for a long time. That was why then, through my career, I stayed in the gym, but it’s a good cross-training aid.

Did you do a lot of cross-training when you were running?

Yes, biking and elliptical trainers are a great way to still get the cardio turnover, in a recovery-type session, but without the impact. So, I used to use that quite a bit and obviously feel a lot safer doing that.

Since I’ve retired, I’ve done a couple of challenges on Zwift, which I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve seen myself improve a lot, seeing the benefits of using cleats on the bike when I’m doing that.

When my dad died, I took one of his bikes back home and put that on the turbo trainer. That’s kind of my way of being close to him, which is nice. I also ride now with my mum, because they rode together all of the time. It’s company for her, she really enjoys it.

What’s the furthest you’ve ridden so far?

On the Zwift challenges, I’ve done a couple of hours. Outside, with stopping and starting, I might have done two to three hours.

What bike do you own?

I think it’s a Trek bike, it has drop bars and it was my dad’s bike, so I think it’s a good bike. I’m pretty much the same height, so that worked out really well.

I did take his cleats off and I’ve put a little toe box one on instead when I’m outside, and I use the cleats in the gym.

Do you have any big challenges that you want to take on on a bike?

I’m a bike believer in setting goals. I think that, if you’re going to take up a challenge, it’s a good idea to have a goal that really motivates you to work towards.

I think if I was going to do it, I would pick one that would be a huge challenge for me. So something like RideLondon that’s 100 hundred miles. I know that that’s going to be a lot of time preparing and a lot of time on the bike. But again, it’s a challenge that can motivate you through those days when maybe you don’t really feel like going out on the bike.

Need more inspiration? Check out more of our challenge-related content on the GCN website, linked here.

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