Paula (not Radcliffe)

JANUARY 2020: Paula Chessell is a longstanding member of RunBrighton. She is also on the Brighton & Hove parkrun core team as volunteer coordinator and regular tail-walker.

RunBrighton, as official training partner of the Grand Brighton Half Marathon, organises their pace team, and  I was chuffed when Paula recently agreed to be one of the team for the 30th anniversary of the event, 23 February 2020.

She’ll be pacing 3hrs, alongside Brighton & Hove AC’s Rich Carter.

Paula, thanks for agreeing to be on this year’s pace team for the Half. What made you say yes?

I was really surprised and excited to be asked to join the team. I enjoy encouraging and inspiring runners and I think it’s great to have pacers up to 3 hours; it makes it an all-inclusive event. I’m looking forward to encouraging runners on the day.

How did you originally get into running?

In the mid-90s, I joined the gym at Queens Hotel in Brighton, which was managed by Matt Bartsch. He encouraged me to begin running/walking on the treadmill. Soon afterwards, Matt opened Riptide, under the arches of Brighton seafront and, from there, I began running outside, along the prom. That’s where I caught the running bug, and my goal at the time was the Race for Life 5k.

You’ve trained with RunBrighton, each of the last 6 years. What do you enjoy about it?

I originally joined RunBrighton, to train for Brighton Marathon (my first marathon).

The weekly long runs with ambassador Daz, and the runners in my group, made me believe that I could run 26.2 miles… and I did! And Daz waited for me at the finish line to give me my medal.

The ambassadors and runners are all so supportive and motivating. And it’s great to see new runners join each season and watch them change, over the months, to become half and full marathon runners.

I have learnt so much about training, fuelling and hydration, from the ambassadors, my fellow runners and yourself, Mike.

I know you’ve run lots of races now, including a few marathons. What motivates you?

I got such an awesome feeling after completing my first marathon and, in the process, found that it’s the longer distance runs that I prefer. I really enjoy trail running and have completed three Beachy Head Marathons, in addition to my three Brighton Marathons.

And I’ve raised money for two charities close to my heart… Cancer Research UK, in memory of my Dad, and Alzheimer’s Research UK, in memory of my mother-in-law, who, in her confusion, thought I was Paula Radcliffe and had won London Marathon!

I understand you travel a lot with work. I guess that means you get to run in some interesting places?

I am long haul cabin crew. In 1996, I decided that I needed to find a way to get fit, to help me cope with the demands of long, night flights, time changes and jet lag, and that’s when I met Matt Bartsch.

Since then, I’ve run in many countries around the world, including Australia, USA, Egypt and elsewhere.

Whenever I’m away, I try to fit training runs in. A couple of memorable ones include a 2hr45 run on a treadmill in Singapore, staring through the window at the top of a palm tree, and 14 miles of running laps around the outside of Disneyland.

It’s all character-building, so they say!

I have also attended parkruns in Singapore, Ireland, Boston USA and San Francisco.

What would you say has been your best running experience to date?

Without a doubt, my first Brighton Marathon is my best running memory. The awesome feeling lasted for weeks, and I carried my medal with me, wherever I went.

As you know, I always encourage our runners to incorporate Strength & Conditioning into their weekly schedule; what do you enjoy about the regular classes you do with Matt?

I’ve noticed my strength and stamina has increased, since I joined Riptide.

Also, Matt has a method called ‘keeping your shield on’, which I engage, whilst running, to keep my posture correct.

Do you have other running goals beyond the Brighton Half?

My main goal, this year, is to complete Giants Head Marathon, in June. The course is brutally hilly, over 27ish miles of Dorset countryside.

What advice would you give to anyone taking on their first half-marathon and perhaps joining your sub-3hr pace group?

Before the event, follow a training plan, and get fitted with trainers that are right for you.

On the day, make sure you are hydrated and have eaten properly beforehand, carry your fuel of choice, and have fun!

Paula, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I’m delighted you’re going to be part of the Half pace team. Have lots of fun! And good luck with your preparation for Giants Head!

By Mike Bannister