Jo Pavey was in Glasgow for the Great Scottish Run in October – photo Jeff Holmes
She has her heart set on a fifth appearance at the Olympics next summer – but Jo Pavey has already revealed how she plans to give something back to athletics when she hangs up her spikes in a competitive sense.
The Englishwoman who captured hearts in 2014 with medals at the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships as a forty-something mum isn’t planning to slow down quite yet.
But, as she told scottishathletics for our quarterly magazine, one-club woman Jo knows exactly who the real stars are in our sport: volunteers.
‘I can definitely see myself helping out as a coach or a volunteer in the future,’ said Pavey, 42, who has already served Exeter Harriers for almost three decades.
‘I am so grateful to volunteers. If it was not for them I would never have had a running career like I have.
‘If it was not for volunteers, coaches, officials, starters, groundsmen, people making tea and coffee – the list is endless. Without them it simply does not happen.
Actually, if I think back 25 or 30 years, and try and calculate the people who have officiated at events I’ve been involved in or been a marshal at a run I’ve raced in, then it would be a pretty big number that’s for sure! An infinite number, probably . . . in the thousands, certainly.
‘Without them, I could not have done it. Even when I was at school, they said to me ‘you are quite good at running, you should join a club’ and I was just fortunate that there was an Exeter Harriers for me to go to. There would not have been, but for volunteers.
‘I have always been with them and I am still in touch with my first coach.
‘I go along from time to time but with young kids it fits better for me to train at the track early in the morning. The family routine and getting them off to bed doesn’t work yet with training nights.
‘But I am sure that will happen in the future. I want to do that more and remain part of the club after I take a step back from championships and competing at a high level.’
Rio is firmly on the radar, though, and deciding against competing in Beijing last summer may yet prove a sound decision.
‘I am still enjoying my running,’ beamed Jo, when asked why she still takes on a tough training schedule while mum to two-year-old Emily and six-year-old Jacob.
‘I think in 2014 I was convinced that would be my final year. At the start of that year, I never thought I would make the GB team for the Europeans.I did want to try and make it one last time but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a gold in Zurich.
‘After that, I found it could still work for me as a busy mum with two young children. We can still get quality time together and fit in training as well. My husband Gavin is my coach so that helps us juggle things.
‘We make training a family affair – we go to the forest or the canal or even the track and my little boy goes on his bike. Sometime he does eight or nine miles like me! Making it part of family life has helped me.
‘Also, having surprised myself and shocked myself in Glasgow and Zurich, now I have this massive goal of making a fifth Olympics. That is what is keeping me motivated. It is a bonus to still be doing it at a high level because I thought I would be retired a long time ago.
‘The Olympics is a big goal. I am not complacent. It is tough to make the GB team. There are good young girls coming through. If it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen.
‘I decided to take 2015 summer off after a busy year of championships 12 months earlier and it worked well with school holidays and so on. It was right for me to sit out Beijing.’
While Pavey is passionate about the need for the sport to be cleaned-up – from top to bottom – and the dark cloud of drugs dispersed, she’s adamant parents must be encouraged about the multiple benefits of the sport.
‘The drugs issue would not stop me taking my own kids to athletics – definitely not,’ she said.
‘That is a dark cloud and these issues must be addressed so young athletes have a level playing field and a clean sport in the future. That’s why it must be tackled.
‘But I prefer the positive messages that I’ve enjoyed – working to personal goals, meeting people, travelling, the team spirit I’ve savoured at club and international level. There are so many brilliant things about the sport that have enriched my life that I’d recommend it to any parent or any youngster thinking about trying it.
‘I want my two kids to try things and see what they are passionate about. They can decide but they love being fit and active and they are only two and six. I won’t be a pushy parent but if they want to run, I will encourage them and support them.’
Our Jo Pavey interview in the current edition of PB