Sport13th October 2013

An Insight into Paula Craig MBE - inspirational speaker

Paula Craig was the first woman to compete in the London Marathon as a runner and wheelchair athlete. Read her story here.

by Simon Deacy OBE

In its pursuit of speaking to inspirational people, SL First has been given an exclusive opportunity to talk to Paula Craig. Paula is a Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police Service and in 2005 she was awarded an MBE for Services to the Police in the New Year Honour’s List. In addition to her policing career, Paula is also an inspirational speaker. With 26 years policing service, Paula considers that she has had a great career, but it has been far from straightforward. 

Paula joined the Metropolitan Police Service in 1986, having worked for two years as a qualified radiographer at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. She joined the CID in 1992 and, in 1996, was posted to the National Crime Squad.  A keen amateur runner, Paula ran the London Marathon 1995-2000 with a personal best time of 2hrs 57 minutes in 2000, placing 48th female overall. 

Paula competed in triathlon in 2000/2001 but, whilst training for a World Championship age group qualifying race in May 2001, she was hit by a car whilst out cycling, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. “It was devastating at the time,” Paula recalls, “but life moves on. People rallied around me, and a senior officer came to see me in hospital. He told me if there was anything he could do for me, just ask. So I did, I asked for my job back, and he was good to his word.”

Paula spent 21 weeks in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and a further 6 months convalescing at home before returning to work on the Flying Squad in April 2002, the day after competing in the Wheelchair London Marathon, less than a year after the accident. In completing the course, Paula became the first female to complete the course both as a runner and a wheelchair athlete.

Paula Craig competing

One of life’s tough cookies, Paula completed the Pembrokeshire Olympic Distance Triathlon (1500m sea swim, 40k hand-cycle, 10k ‘run’) in June 2002, and 10 days later, completed the Bournemouth Olympic Distance Triathlon. In Aug 2002, she competed at the Triathlon World Championships in Cancun, Mexico winning the gold medal for Athletes With a Disability (wheelchair category). She went on to compete at both the 2003 and 2005 World Championships winning the gold medal at each.    

Paula also competed in the 2003 and 2004 Wheelchair London Marathon coming 3rd and 2nd respectively, and took part in a number of other International marathons. Paula’s determination and tenacity received recognition in 2003 when she was honoured with the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration, at the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards.

A series of bone infections has meant Paula has been unable to compete since 2005, although she still swims and hand-cycles for fitness. Unsurprisingly, she has not ruled out the possibility of another London Marathon as she has a determination to make it to 10! “Life is all about goals and ambitions,” she says, “they are what drives me as an individual, and gives me a sense of achievement.”

In her professional life, Paula was promoted to Detective Sergeant in 2003, and to Detective Inspector in 2005 She considers herself to be fortunate to have spent the past 10 years working within Homicide and Serious Crime in both proactive and reactive roles. “Being able to maintain my professional career is testament to how far the Police Service has moved in its management of, and approach to, disability,” she explained. Not one to rest on her laurels, Paula is currently undertaking a degree in Psychology Studies with Criminology as a distance learner with the University of East London.

Olympic Park London 2012

Through her life experiences and policing connections, Paula has been given the opportunity to address a wide range of people at different events across the UK. “I like nothing more than speaking at schools, colleges and young people’s events. They are always polite and respectful, taking great interest in my story, and quite often thanking me for inspiring them at the end of the talk.”

In addition to achieving her personal goals, Paula is keen to undertake far more speaking engagements. She has joined a new management company run by veteran Paralympian John Harris and SL First’s Simon Deacy, to help her secure those opportunities. “John and Simon are straight-talking, no-nonsense professionals, who will make a great success of their speaking agency business. I have known John for years, and the fact that he is going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 68 and in a wheelchair, tells you all you need to know about him. Whilst I seek to inspire others, John inspires me,” proclaimed Paula.

If you would like to discuss booking Paula for an event or enquire about her availability please call 01600 729180 or email:

Article by Simon Deacy OBE

posted in Deaf Sport / Sport

13th October 2013