MARATHON legend Paula Radcliffe is calling on more women to take up the sport.
The Olympic gold medallist visited Portsmouth to promore the Great South Run.
She said: ‘I would like to see women’s participation level rise up to 50 per cent from currently at 45 per cent, this will then be the same as men.’
Running since the age of seven Radcliffe has become an icon in the field and aims to share her passion with others.
‘Running has given me a lot in my life a lot of fun and enjoyment.
‘I think a lot of women are scared about the safety aspect but once you get going there are so many benefits including health and confidence,’ said Paula.
As an ambassador for Great Runs throughout the country she met five novices who are taking on the Great South Run for the first time.
‘The women are really inspiring themselves and the stories they have to tell are amazing,’ said Paula.
One lucky women who met the world record holder was Nikki Smith, 30, from Bishops Waltham.
She said: ‘Paula is the athlete that everyone talks about, she is amazing.
‘It is huge for someone like Paula to come down to Portsmouth as she is a massive inspiration to many women.’
After starting running in March 2013 before her 30th birthday Nikki has set herself a challenge to follow in Paula’s footsteps by running the London Marathon next year.
‘I wanted to become fitter before my 30th birthday, I struggled at first but just kept adding on miles.
‘10 miles is still hard but I’m sure I will be ready before the run in October,’ said Nikkie.
Paula who ran the Great South Run in 2008 praised the course and the city.
‘Getting to run through the city and see the seafront is brilliant.
‘The crowds here just get behind you.
The Great South Run takes places on October 25.