There’s a story Gerard Hartmann, the Limerick physical therapist, once told Paula Radcliffe on the eve of an Olympic Games. It went back to a conversation he’d had with Douglas Wakiihuri, the 1988 Olympic silver medallist, who told him the marathon is like a rose.
At the top you have a very beautiful flower,” said Wakiihuri. “This is the race and it can be a very wonderful sight. Yet, along the way to the top, there are very many thorns. These are all of the difficulties that must be overcome. Have you noticed, the more thorns, the more beautiful the rose?”