WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
As she enters her fifteenth year as a world-class athlete, long-distance runner Jo Pavey finds her international career at a cross-road – unsure whether her Olympic fate will lead her to either the marathon or 10,000m at the Games in London this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 38-year-old established herself as a fine exponent over the 26.2-mile distance in 2011, running a swift 2:28.24 on her debut in the London marathon in April but despite lying third on the British rankings in the event, Pavey was controversially omitted from the first wave of Olympic selections last month and now faces a dilemma.
With the official British trial to grab the third and final spot on the team - behind world-record-holder Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi - incorporated into the capital’s event this spring, the Devon-based runner is torn whether to participate or simply spectate and hope for no British woman to run quicker than her best mark.
The quandary derives from the fact that only fifteen weeks separate the race from the Olympic marathon in early August – leaving questionable recovery time in order to compete amongst the World’s finest.
Guided by her husband and coach, Gavin and mother to two-year-old Jacob, Pavey explained:
“I’m leaving my options open until the spring - I’m not ruling out running the London marathon but I would have less time than ideal to recover for the Olympics if I were selected after the trial.
“I was only just ready to race in the Bupa London 10km (which she won in 32:22 in May ahead of a below-par Radcliffe) after the last London marathon – it was a rushed recovery and we’d be pushed for time this time around.
“The situation I was in was to do my best in New York (where she ran 2:28.42 in November) as I was on the comeback trail from injury in the autumn so I couldn’t race any sooner and on an easier course.”
Pavey - who originally intended to make her marathon debut in spring of 2009 before falling pregnant – is well aware of her five countrywomen also hoping to impress the British selectors come springtime but the Exeter Harrier refuses to feel the burden
“I’ve got no hard feelings towards Paula and Mara – I don’t want to moan, I’ll just see how things pan out over the next few months in training and accept the position I’m in,” she insisted.
“Although I’m in the third qualifying spot at the moment, I’ll leave it all up to fate - the focus is getting in a high volume of hard training anyway so I don’t feel I’m jeopardising my chances by not having chose my racing path for the summer yet.”
Having competed in the past three Olympic Games – placing twelfth in the 5,000m in Sydney 2000, fifth in the 5,000m in Athens 2004 and twelfth in the 10,000m in Beijing 2008 – Pavey does not fear a potential return to the track, should she need to chase the 10,000m qualifying time in a back-up plan to making her fourth Olympic appearance:
“I’m not complacent as to my chances of selection – there’s so many girls running really well in both events,” she revealed.
“I’ve been racing on the track internationally since 1997 so I’m more experienced on that but there’s possibly only one race to chase the 10,000m qualifying time in early summer.
“My speed’s still there – I’ve not competed in a major track championships since Beijing but I still enjoy it and really wish I could do both.”
Having returned from a spell of altitude training in Tenerife in early December, Pavey hopes to contest a half-marathon in March before making her decision on the London marathon ahead of another altitude stint in the mountains of Albuquerque.
The 2007 World 10,000m fourth-placer knows that consistent, solid blocks of training are key to racing well in an Olympic year, yet perhaps not quite as vital as staying injury-free – especially after her summer was ruined by a reoccurring stress fracture:
“I’ve done two marathons now off the back of stress fractures to the left foot,” Pavey explained:
“I’m not prone to them – it’s a mechanical problem as it just got really stiff from the workload and it was really frustrating as I had to withdraw from the World Championships after being diagnosed at the end of June, so it was really pleasing to compete and run so well in New York.”
Approaching 100-miles a week in training now, the 2006 Commonwealth 5,000m silver-medallist revealed:
“Every day’s really busy but we love family life and having Jacob makes me more motivated to run well – the different priorities distract me from the pressures of running so I love the challenge of running and motherhood and also the challenge of a new event to learn and master.”
Currently seventh on the national all-time marathon list, Pavey continued:
“To have the opportunity to compete on home soil in the Olympics would be amazing – I’m really excited and hope I can get there.
“I hope to have another child in the future but the Olympics wouldn’t necessary mean my retirement – I’m still enjoying it so I’ll just keep going.
“I’m fortunate to have been to three Games but I really want to be part of London – it’s keeping me going and I will try my hardest to be there.”