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Paula Radcliffe, Great Southrun launch

Paula Radcliffe, Great Southrun launchLegendary athlete Paula Radcliffe has met Gemma Blamire – the mother of Sophie Rolf – and other inspirational women who are taking part in this year’s Morrisons Great South Run.

The marathon star, who won the Great South Run in 2008, is on a mission to encourage more women to take up running. Paula was today at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard in her role as Great Run’s ambassador for women’s running in 2015.

Since 2010 the Great South Run has been made up of around 45 per cent female competitors – and Paula is keen to see that figure rise to achieve an even 50/50 male and female split.

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Among the women Paula met this morning was Gemma Blamire, the founder of KissyPuppy: The Sophie Rolf Trust, who will join up to 25,000 people on the start line of the world’s leading 10-mile running event when it returns to Southsea on Sunday 25 October.

Gemma told Paula how she founded KissyPuppy in memory of her six-year-old daughter Sophie Rolf, who died of a brain tumour in 2013.

The charity works with the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and the local NHS to support Isle of Wight children with life-shortening conditions, and their families.

Gemma, 37, said:

“This will be my third Great South Run. The Isle of Wight is full of hills so I’m always pleased to come to Portsmouth to run as it’s a flat route! The crowd is fantastic. People come out of their houses to cheer you on, you’ve got music playing in the streets and the route is lined with people all the way round.

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“Everyone is cheering you on – no matter who you are, you get your name called out by people supporting you.

“It was fantastic to get the opportunity to meet Paula. She seemed so normal and you can relate to her – although there’s no way I could ever be as fast as her! She’s a true inspiration and it’s been a fantastic day.”

Paula Radcliffe said:

“It’s an honour to meet women like Gemma whose stories are so inspiring and will encourage women everywhere to see running as an achievable goal.

“Sometimes women feel they have no time to fit in exercise because of the demands of juggling work and family life. They don’t know where to start, but it’s true that the greatest journeys start with a single step. You don’t need expensive equipment – just a well fitting pair of trainers!

“Walking, jogging and eventually running regularly is an achievable form of exercise for most people, and having an event to work towards can be a great motivator.

“I’m hoping that people will follow these women’s examples and set themselves the goal of taking part in the Morrisons Great South Run this October.

“The Great South Run is a really fast, flat course which makes it great for runners of all abilities and it has an amazing atmosphere. It’s almost like a carnival all the way round Portsmouth and the people of the city really get behind it. That’s part of what makes it so special.

“Running past HMS Victory and through the Historic Dockyard, round the city and along the seafront is inspiring – there’s a real party atmosphere.”

The 10 mile route offers a unique opportunity to run through the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and passes HMS Victory. The course is known for being flat, and has been graced by world-class athletes such as Paula Radcliffe, Liz McColgan, Sonia O’Sullivan and Mo Farah, who won the men’s race in 2009.

The event has grown into a festival of sport in Portsmouth and Southsea, with nearly 30,000 people taking part in four events across two days, including the Morrisons Junior & Mini Great South Run and the Morrisons Great South Run 5k.

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