Marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe has been named as an official ambassador for the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships, Cardiff 2016, the local organisers announced on Thursday (30).
Radcliffe, a three-time winner of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, becomes the first official ambassador of the event taking place on Saturday 26 March 2016.
It is set to be the biggest half marathon ever to be held in Wales and the most significant athletics event hosted in the country since the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
Radcliffe remains one of the world’s most recognisable athletes having retired from competitive running at this year’s London Marathon. She still holds the women’s marathon world record with 2:15:25, which she set at the 2003 London Marathon.
She won the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships three times in four years between 2000 and 2003, including the second time it was held in the UK in Bristol in 2001.
Illness forced her to pull out of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships the last time it came to Britain, when it was held in Birmingham in 2009, but she is looking forward for the prestigious event to return to British soil in Cardiff in March next year.
“It is a race that is very close to my heart and I am sure Wales and Cardiff are going to do a great job of hosting it,” said Radcliffe.
“Hopefully we will get a great turnout of spectators because a brilliant atmosphere will make such a big difference, especially to the athletes representing Great Britain.
“It is also a rare chance for people to run alongside 25,000 other runners and go through the same experience and all the emotions of elite athletes.
“The IAAF World Half Marathon Championships was my first major title and was a huge pick-me-up after the disappointment of not winning a medal at the Sydney Olympics. It could be a real springboard for our athletes ahead of the Rio Olympics and we have seen what excellent shape Mo Farah has been in this summer after doing a half marathon in the spring.
“Wining on home soil will give extra motivation to our athletes and it would be great to see a strong turnout for the British team.
“I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to be a part of such an important event.”
Radcliffe will also be a speaker at the inaugural IAAF Road Running Seminar which will be held the day before the championships on Friday 25 March.
The prestigious IAAF World Athletics Series event will bring more than 300 of the world’s best athletes to Cardiff’s flat, fast and iconic course, as well as hosting a mass participation race for up to 25,000 amateur runners from around the world.
Entries for the mass participation race are expected to sell out before registration closes at the start of 2016. Runners can sign up via www.cardiff2016.co.uk.
“Paula is loved by the running community all over the world and we are delighted to welcome her on board as an official ambassador for the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships," said Matt Newman, CEO of the local organising committee.
“She used the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships as a springboard for even greater success in her career and we would love to see Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s brightest athletes do the same in 2016.
“Cardiff 2016 is going to be a special event for Wales and the rest of the UK and we would urge anyone thinking of signing up to come and run in the footsteps of champions.”
Cardiff 2016 LOC for the IAAF