I’ve idolised you for quite some time now. While I was at university I suffered from an eating disorder. I started exercising more and more and I remember seeing photos of you in a women’s fitness magazine (I can’t remember which one). I was immediately struck by how lean you are and decided that, if I wanted to banish myself of my hideous, flabby body, I should start running like you. I tore the photo out of the magazine and I kept it with me. Run run run and maybe you’ll look like Paula.
As time went on, my little fascination with you grew. I wanted to read more about you, how you trained and what you ate. I was determined to look just like you.
One day, when I was reading an article about you in Runner’s World. I read that when you’re in training you eat around 5,000 calories a day. I was shocked. That was 10x more than I ate, at least. The article continued; you ate for energy and power, fuelling yourself to accomplish great things. Food was not your enemy. It was your ally.
Over the next few weeks I digested this information. 5,000 calories. 5,000. The number followed me around in my head. I had started to enjoy my running, as opposed to seeing it as an exercise in reducing body mass, but rarely had the energy to run particularly far or fast. It started to occur to me that maybe I could allow myself some food if I made sure I used it all up running.
I started small. I’d read that you ate bananas and rice, so I started adding these to my diet in small quantities. I entered a 10km race and added banana to my half bowl of oats and water. I’d have sweet potato for dinner before heading to the gym for an evening weights session. Bit by bit, I started getting stronger.
In this time, my admiration for you changed. While I still think that you are beautiful, I now admire your strength and grit. I love that you are vocal in promoting causes that you believe in, like anti-doping and increasing female participating in sport. I love that your marathon world record remains untouched. I love that you are so talented, yet so down to earth.
I know that you have inspired me to be more and to seek help when I was struggling. To focus on my health and fuel my body. To dream of achieving great things.
Thank you Paula.