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'I forget how old I am' – Pavey, 45, targets record sixth Olympics

Jo Pavey at the Olympics in 2000, 2004. 2008

British runner Jo Pavey is targeting a record-equalling sixth Olympic Games next year, when she will be 46.

That would match javelin thrower Tessa Sanderson’s six Olympic appearances by a British track and field athlete.

Pavey was the oldest woman to win a European Championships gold when claiming the 10,000m title in 2014 aged 40, just 11 months after giving birth.

“I forget how old I am. I’m not complacent but I will attempt to make my sixth Olympics,” she told BBC Sport.

Pavey made her first Olympic appearance at Sydney in 2000, has qualified for the British team at every Games since, and now wants to earn a place in Team GB at Tokyo 2020.

“I need to get a good qualifying time this year, and really want to start racing in early spring, but I enjoy the challenge,” she said.

“It’s a difficult ask, I’m totally aware of that, but something that’s fun to try. I love the ups and downs of the journey.”

The mother-of-two will first bid to win a place in the 10,000m at the 2019 World Championships in Doha in September en route to going for the Games in Japan.

She entered the 2017 London Marathon with a view to qualifying for the marathon at that year’s World Championships in London but had to drop out at 16 miles and then saw her bid to qualify at 10,000m ended by injury.

In 2018, she finished third at the Vitality London 10,000 behind fellow Briton Steph Twell.

‘We’ve never had a day’s nursery for the children’

Pavey, who is coached by her husband Gavin, takes her children Jacob, nine, and five-year-old Emily, on training runs to help ease the stress of athletics.

“I just love running – it’s such a boost to physical and mental health. Getting out with the kids and keeping active as a family has been a great motivation,” said the Devon athlete.

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“My husband has been really supportive and it’s very much a team effort. We have been able to have that family time, have never had a day’s nursery for either child, and we feel very, very lucky.

“When you are just focusing on running, you can get quite stressed and dwell on it.

“Having that pressure lifted gave me a mental freeness. It taught me a lot about being happy in life. I like to think age can be used as experience.”

Jo Pavey – on track for success
Born: Jo Davis, 20 September 1973 in Honiton, Devon Studied: Physiotherapy at Bristol University, graduating in 1995
Married: Gavin Pavey in 1995 after the pair met at Exeter Harriers Children: Jacob and Emily were born in 2009 and 2013
Honours: World: 10,000m bronze 2007; European 10,000m: gold 2014, silver 2012. Commonwealth: 5,000m: bronze 2014, silver 2006 Age: At 40 years 10 months and 23 days old, she surpassed Russia’s Irina Khabarova (40 years and 27 days) as the oldest female European champion

Pavey’s Olympic Games record

A medallist at world, European and Commonwealth level, an Olympic medal has eluded Pavey, although misfortune has had something to do with that, and she is hoping for a trouble-free run this time.

  • 2000, Sydney – 12th, 5,000m (Had been sidelined for two and a half years after complications with knee surgery in 1997)
  • 2004, Athens – 5th, 5,000m (Tore calf muscle three months before)
  • 2008, Beijing – 12th, 10,000m (Food poisoning on eve of the race)
  • 2012 London – 7th in both 5,000m and 10,000m (First European, and non-African, in both events)
  • 2016 Rio – 15th, 10,000m (Qualified for the Games very late in the process)

“I loved being on the team in Rio with people who are 20 years younger. It was loads of fun and has always been an honour to represent my country,” she says.

An exhausted Jo Pavey lies on the track in Osaka

Getting a medal – 10 years late

At the London 2017 World Championships, Pavey finally received her first world medal – a retrospective 10,000m bronze from the 2007 championships in Japan.

She was upgraded from fourth at Osaka, after Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse had her result chalked off for an in-competition doping offence. Pavey was originally beaten to bronze by American Kara Goucher, who was upgraded to silver.

“It’s frustrating to miss that moment on the podium at the time,” she said.

“To receive it in front of a home crowd was nice – the children could come and watch, when they weren’t even born when the race took place.”

If you have been inspired by this story and want to get into running, check out our activity guide here.

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BBC Sport – Athletics

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