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Paula Craig MBE - Embracing the Unknown - Transforming Challenges into Triumphs in Sports and Life

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Paula Craig, a passionate runner and triathlete, achieved an impressive feat of completing the London Marathon for six consecutive years, from 1995 to 2000, achieving a personal best of 2 hours and 57 minutes in 2000.

However, her life took a drastic turn in May 2001 when she was involved in a car accident during her cycle training for an upcoming qualifying race for the age group world championships, resulting in paralysis from the waist down.

Undeterred by her life-altering injury, Paula underwent a rigorous five-month rehabilitation process and made a remarkable comeback as a wheelchair athlete. Just 11 months after her accident, she competed in her first post-injury London Marathon, marking the beginning of an inspiring journey. Paula continued to defy expectations by participating in numerous triathlons as a wheelchair athlete, including three world championships, where she achieved gold medals in each event.

Recognising her indomitable spirit, Paula received the prestigious Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration in 2005. In the same year, she was also bestowed with an MBE for her exceptional services to the police.

Paula's unwavering determination and resilience continued to inspire others as she embarked on yet another extraordinary endeavour.

In 2022, she made history by swimming the English Channel as part of a six-member relay team, becoming the first person with a complete spinal cord injury to accomplish this feat according to Channel rules, which prohibited the use of a wetsuit. Her awe-inspiring swim raised over £24,000 for Aspire, a charity close to her heart that provides support for individuals affected by spinal cord injuries, enabling them to lead independent lives.

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Show notes

  • Who is Paula

  • Turning 60 in July

  • Working as a police office for 30 years and retiring in 2017

  • Her love for sport and swimming

  • Being the youngest of 4

  • Moving to London and becoming a radiographer

  • Joining the police at 22 years old

  • What it was like being in the police and being the only woman on the team

  • Her running journey and getting into marathons

  • Running the London Marathon (3hrs 23 mins) in 1995 aged 31

  • Starting to run for St. Albans Striders

  • Running the London marathon from the elite women’s start line

  • Running a sub 3 hr marathon (2hrs 57 mins) in 2000

  • The mental challenge of running sub - 3hrs and doing specific treadmill training sessions

  • Needing to average 6m 50s per mile

  • Moving into triathlon

  • Being hit by a car in March 2001 while on her bike and being left paralysed from the waist down

  • Being in hospital for 5 months

  • Deciding to do the London Marathon as a wheelchair athlete in 2002

  • Getting back into the pool and how it helped her left arm/hand to recover

  • Working with the Charity Aspire

  • Needing to sell everything

  • Moving into interim accommodation

  • Accepting what happened

  • Focusing on the future

  • How our minds can work for us to help us avoid pain

  • Back on the start line of the London Marathon

  • Placing 3rd but not going on the podium due to the minus 1 rule

  • Being the first woman to run and race in a wheel chair for the London Marathon

  • What happens to her legs while swimming

  • Having control of her core

  • Deciding to swim the channel as part of a relay team

  • Having a bone infection

  • Starting to swim more and enter swim races

  • Deciding to swim the channel on the 20th anniversary of her accident

  • Training weekends with Aspire

  • Follow the channel rules and swimming with no wetsuit

  • Needing to do a qualifier in June - 90 mins in the water - (sub 16 degrees) out for 90 mins and then back in for a 60 min swim

  • Not being able to swim due to bad weather

  • Having a 7 day window to complete the swim and then going into a queue

  • Getting the chance to go again on the 10th October 2021

  • Needing to turn the boat around due to bad weather

  • Planning to swim the channel in 2022

  • Setting off on the 4th August 2022

  • Dealing with severe sea sickness for the whole crossing

  • Getting back on to the boat using a spinal board

  • The final hour of swimming

  • Heading home and celebrating with pizza!

  • How to connect with Paula

  • Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

  • Learning to embrace and focus on what she could do


Social Media

Instagram: @paulacraig37

Aspire provides practical help to people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury, supporting them from injury to independence


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