Following her remarkable year, Jo Pavey spoke with Dominic Bliss about combining motherhood with running and her hopes for the 2016 Olympics
Thanks to a glittering 2014, which saw her take gold in the European 10,000m and bronze in the Commonwealth 5000m, Jo Pavey has become something of a household name. Add to that the fact that she has two young children and is into her fifth decade, and you realise what an amazing woman she is.
No wonder the awards have been coming thick and fast, adding extra strain to her mantelpiece. This year accolades included British Athletics athlete of the year, British Athletics Supporters’ Club athlete of the year, inspirational celebrity at the Inspiration Awards for Women, and most famously, third place in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. She also claimed a hat-trick of wins in the AW Readers’ Choice Awards after receiving the most votes in the British female, British masters and moment of the year categories.
Pavey lives and trains in Devon with her coach and husband Gavin and her two children, Jacob and Emily. Despite the family commitments she now has her sights firmly set on competing in the 5000m or the 10,000m, or perhaps both, at the 2016 Rio Olympics when she will be nearly 43 years old.
Athletics Weekly: What are your plans for 2015?
Jo Pavey: I haven’t got plans to do serious races this winter. My main focus is to get fit for the next track season. I’d like to qualify for the World Championships in Beijing, and ultimately qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
This winter it will be about getting a solid winter’s training in. It’s unlikely I’ll do any serious racing in the winter because it’s been a lot busier than expected after my last season. My aim now is to do some early-season track races to get some qualifying times, then some road racing in the spring. Then the summer track season. Nothing is set in stone at the moment.
I won’t be going away on any training camps. At this stage in life my main priority is being a mum. Since I had Jacob, my first child, I haven’t been on any training camps at all. I find being based at home in Devon and training consistently there, is good for me.
I’m not complacent about how difficult it is to qualify for the Olympic Games. For Rio it’s more likely to be the 5000m or 10,000m I’ll be trying to qualify for. One would be really nice. But if I was to qualify for both … The 10,000m qualification tends to be earlier than the 5000m, so they are different qualifying phases. I find it quite hard to decide which event is my best. In distance running it’s so tactical.
“I’m not complacent about how difficult it is to qualify for the Olympic Games. For Rio it’s more likely to be the 5000m or 10,000m I’ll be trying to qualify for”
AW: You’ve talked about competing in the marathon.
JP: I haven’t entered a marathon at this stage. But it’s something that’s in the back of my mind. I’d like to do a better marathon PB. It’s something on my to-do list: try to run a quicker marathon before I ﬁnally retire. But with the marathon you have to get so many things right on that particular day. It’s always tough. My current PB is 2 hours 28 minutes.
AW: You will be nearly 43 years old at the next Olympics. Do you feel old?
JP: I don’t really feel old. I don’t treat myself as old. But one benefit of being older is that I have years of experience. I know what targets I have to hit.
Also, I find that endurance improves as one gets older. Maybe athletes retire too soon. Particularly in longer distances. But what I’ve found interesting is that I’ve seemed to be able to improve my finishes this year – and the finish is a speed-based thing. Maybe it’s just taken me a long time to learn how to race.
It sounds crazy, but I feel mechanically better now. Maybe it’s years and years of running – my body getting more used to the movements. I used to have inserts in my shoes to correct my foot position. A few years ago I took them out and decided to run more naturally. I found I was able to get more up on my toes and that helped me. Inserts are very good for some people. Not for me, though.
“I don’t really feel old. I don’t treat myself as old. But one benefit of being older is that I have years of experience. I know what targets I have to hit”
AW: How has being a mother changed your outlook on athletics?
JP: Being a busy mum, my priorities have changed. I didn’t know if having my second child would mean I’d retire. Fortunately the situation works for us as a family. I’m enjoying my running more now.
Before I had kids I got to a point in my career where I wasn’t enjoying my running because I desperately wanted to be a mum. Now I have two lovely children and a supportive husband, I feel my running can be just what it wants to be. I’m training harder than ever but, in between, I feel happy because I’m busy.
I deﬁnitely worry less. I used to dwell on hitting targets. Particularly if I had a track session in the evening, I’d be stressing all day about eating right, and hitting the targets. Whereas now I go to the track and still push myself to the absolute limit but I don’t worry about it. If I’m tired from running round with the kids all day, and my times aren’t what I hoped they’d be, I don’t worry because I know I’ve still put my full eﬀort in, and I have the effect of the training.
Now I’ve got two lovely little children I’m probably in a happier place and have a better balance in my life and that has enabled me to run better.
» Jo Pavey is an ambassador for the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run, a 10km on Sunday February 1. See londonwinterrun.co.uk