On Sunday thousands of runners will take to the streets of Sheffield city centre for the Morrisons Great Yorkshire Run 10K.
Ahead of the race, Britain’s most successful female middle distance athlete and Great Run ambassador Paula Radcliffe has shared her top tips with The Star for those taking part.
Despite retiring from competitive athletics earlier this year, Paula still runs for at least an hour most days.
For the 41-year-old mum-of-two and six-time world champion, running is still an integral part of her life but since giving up racing she can just enjoy her running.
As well as her BBC commentating duties, the marathon world record- holder is making it her mission to encourage others, and women in particular, to take up the sport and enjoy the health and social benefits of the sport.
“The big push this year is to try to get the ratio of men and women taking part in the Great Run series to 50:50,” said Paula. “Last year it was about 42-43 per cent women and a bit higher in the Great North Run but we want to get it to half and half.
“What’s great about running is that you can use it however you want to use it and get out of it what you want to get of it.
“There are so many events now – like the Great Run series – and entering a race gives you something to focus on and aim for.
“You can use running as alone time or as social time – if you run with others and you are all building towards the same event, you can support each other through the training and help each other achieve your goals on race day.”
Paula needs no introduction. A household name, she has enjoyed a glittering career in athletics, road running and cross country, setting the women’s world marathon record of 2hrs, 15mins and 25 seconds in April 2003 – a record which still stands.
Despite never winning Olympic gold, Paula won six world titles, was victorious in the London Marathon in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and the New York Marathon in 2004, 2007 and 2008.
Like Sheffield’s golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill, Paula’s stunning 2007 victory in New York, came just months after she had given birth to her first child, daughter Isla.
Said Paula: “I’d love to be able to be competitive and I’m grateful for the fact I can still run. But it put a lot of stress on my body and I was lucky I was able to do it for a long time.
“Now I can just run when I want to and I can do the kids’ runs as well so I see a different side to it.”
In recent weeks her achievements have been marred by unsubstantiated allegations of doping – something Paula strenuously denies.
All she will say on the matter is: “It has been very frustrating. Eventually the truth will come out.
“I’m very thankful and grateful to all the people who have got in touch with me to offer their support.
“A lot of people have been very supportive and gone out of their way to contact me.”
Mass participation running events have grown in recent years with races such as weekly 5k Parkruns and 10Ks proving the ideal kick-start for novices.
The Great Run series organises events all over the country, and the Great Yorkshire Run has taken place in Sheffield for the last eight years.
Paula said: “My advice to anyone taking part is to just go out and enjoy it and use the atmosphere to help you – it’s so much more special than the training runs.
“10K is not a difficult event, and even if you’ve never run that far before it’s not too far.
“Don’t go off too fast and have a good night’s sleep the night before.
“Have a good meal on Saturday night and a decent breakfast about two or three hours before the start – try porridge, toast, and try to have a bit of protein too – so some peanut butter, chia seeds or some chopped up banana and honey with a drink of tea or coffee.
“Don’t change things up on race day – have what you would normally eat for breakfast.
“Once under way, don’t get too carried away in the first couple of kilometres, try and stick to your goal pace and use the atmosphere because it does give you energy – also don’t forget to give the other runners support and encouragement.”
For those nursing injury niggles, Paula advises seeing a professional and strapping and icing any niggles before and after.
“If it’s serious you probably need to think about postponing and setting yourself another target – it’s important to get a professional opinion.
“For anyone supporting try and get to a few points along the route and get the runner’s warm kit to them as soon as possible after they have finished. I hope some of the spectators might even be inspired to enter next year.”
Another hot tip for next year, says Paula, is Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis-Hill who competes in the Olympic heptathlon in Rio.
“Her chances are very strong,” said Paula, who saw Jess win her World Championship gold in Beijing in August.
“Heptathlon is a strong event for us. Jess showed again at the World Championships that she is a superb competitor on the big stage and she got it right.
“She proved everybody wrong – a lot of people said she couldn’t come back after the baby but she came back mentally stronger.”
“For women who run and even for women who have never run before it’s good for them to know that if they have kids they can come back stronger.
“Running gives you time for yourself and if you are happy and healthy then you will feel better when you are spending time with your family.
“Running is very much a sport that you can do as a family – in the Manchester and Newham Great Runs the kids were there supporting their parents and then they took part in the children’s events.
“The family that exercises together stays a lot fitter and healthier.”
So one final word of advice from Paula for Sunday’s runners?
“Good luck to everyone – have a fantastic day and enjoy it.”
■ Final entries for the Morrisons Great Yorkshire Run, 10k, Junior and Mini runs will be taken in the Sheffield Winter Gardens tomorrow, from noon until 5pm.