On a Mundane Monday morning in the middle of May 2015, I got a phone call which would change my life forever….
After answering an ad to write a training diary in the run up to the Great South Run for the Portsmouth News, I was offered the opportunity that morning. This alone would usually be enough to keep me in high spirits but then they dropped the bomb shell, was I free Thursday? and would I like to go to the Portsmouth historic dockyard for an official photo call for The Great South Run? Once again this would have been enough and would have just added to the excitement of the whole situation, but then they dropped the third bomb, Paula Radcliffe would be there and I would be posing with her for press photos and would get the chance to chat and ask her questions.
“Are you free?” HELL YES!!! Even if I wasn’t I would have made myself free! Paula freaking Radcliffe!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I got off the phone and immediately screeched to myself like a small child! This was hands down the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me, even more exciting than getting through an audition at X-Factor…we won’t go there…. lol
The next few days went by in a haze, with a university presentation I could barely focus on, and a couple of sleepless nights, it was finally Thursday morning. After a basic heat wave on the Wednesday, Thursday morning arrived like monsoon season in the tropics, the weather was positively shocking and absolutely freezing! Dolled up in my best running gear I rolled into the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard buzzing from excessive levels of caffeine and high on pure excitement! I picked up my press pass in the office and anticipated Paula Radcliffe’s arrival. I began chatting to a lovely lady runner, also there for the same reason, who began to tell the story of why she was there. Tragically she had lost her six year old daughter Sophie to a terminal brain tumour in 2012 and was raising money, as her daughter had began to, for a local hospice on the Isle of Wight in order to improve the children’s services. Sophie’s story almost brought me to tears, I was simply over-whelmed by her mums bravery and felt completely in awe of her, it made me question if I even deserved to be there at all. It was a very emotional moment for me and I had to take myself out of the situation to avoid completely breaking down in front of a busy office of people, and in particular Sophie’s mum and sister, who were being unbelievably brave at that point. Having not chosen to run for a charity during the Great South Run yet, I decided at that very moment that I would run for little Sophie, and help to raise money for an amazing cause, it just felt right.
A few moments passed, and then she appeared, Paula Radcliffe was in the building looking as pretty as ever and a lot taller than I expected! We were all ushered down to the HMS Victory to begin the photo shoot but as the weather was so diabolical we were taken to a secret balcony inside the Mary Rose Museum. Wow, the view was truly unbelievable, sea views for miles with the amazing Victory directly opposite.
I was first up for photos with Paula, I felt really sorry for her as the photographer made her take her jacket off and it was so cold, she was perfectly polite about it and just obliged like a complete professional.
We had a few moments alone to talk, the conversation itself is a blur but I remember her being absolutely lovely.
Each one of the other three runners took their turn with Paula for photos and then it was group shots. We had to act natural and “Look like we were chatting” so I obviously took the opportunity to actually chat to this amazing lady whom I would absolutely never get the opportunity to talk to ever again. I told her how absolutely amazing It was to be there and how my daughter was so excited for me to be meeting her. We spoke about her daughter and how she found it amusing that her mum was getting so much attention when she took her to a race and asked her why everyone was calling her name, It was very sweet.
In the most surreal moment of my life, Paula Radcliffe; The icon, was completely humble, utterly sweet and down to earth, she was exactly how she was portrayed on TV and exactly how I hoped she would be, there were no airs or graces and when I asked her if she would possibly sign my daughters T shirt for her she was completely happy to oblige.
There was no fakery in our shots, we all chatted casually, it was amazing to say the least.
After a crazy montage of media interviews (me, being interviewed by the media!!!!) we went back inside and were able to catch a few moments with Paula for our own snapshots and a few sneaky autographs. I opted for a Fareham Crusaders vest of course!
Unfortunately the photo call came to an end…. we said our goodbyes and then she was gone, back into the rain and back to normality, or so I thought…. Why can’t every day be like this?
I got home and immediately tweeted Paula and the Great Run to say thank you!
That same evening I went to a work event, unbeknown to me, there was a lot going on in the media world. That evening my phone battery nearly died for all the notifications I received, and when I eventually got home and was able to check my messages I was shocked to see I had been featured on the Portsmouth News website and my video interview was also on there!
Not only was I on the Portsmouth News website but also on the ITV meridian site too!
The Great South website had been tweeting all about us, so had the Portsmouth Dockyard, Portsmouth News and Naval Museum. My Twitter sphere was going mad with comments, it was very surreal.
The next day it was all over, or so I thought…
Its not everyday you are featured in the local paper, pretty damn cool if you ask me!
So, today is Sunday and life has officially returned to normal, I am now thinking about what the hell I can do to top the greatest day ever???
Until next time,