A Humble Champion – Jo Pavey at Swindon Festival of Literature

8 May

LitFest_18050701_Jo_Pavany_Running_0008If ever anyone was able to brag about their achievements it would be Jo Pavey: World Champion, mother of two children, and author.

Instead she is Jo, an honest down-to-earth individual who admitted to only raising her arms halfway up in 2014 at the 10,000m World Championships, due to her disbelief in having won and her fear of being judged when wearing running gear on the school run.

Jo speaks as freely as she runs, her responses and stories at times emerging at the same pace but absorbing nonetheless. A runner since she was 13 years old, Jo never voiced her desire to pursue athletics professionally. Born into an active but not sporting family she was recommended to an Athletics Club by her PE teacher, with a neighbour assisting with the transport due to her parents caring for younger siblings.

Love, irrespective of discipline and circumstance, never leaves. Jo continued to run throughout her studies in Physiotherapy at Bristol University and a six-month backpacking trip around the world with her future husband, Gavin. Silently continuing her training and pursuing her desire to become a professional athlete, Jo ran through the sights as opposed to walking: ascending volcanoes, passing through fields of kangaroos, and stopping at sports fields in New Zealand for impromptu training sessions.

Her efforts were rewarded on her return with a trip to the World Championships in 1997. One that led to injury, rather than success, caused Jo to reevaluate her training schedule and learn quickly that it is not just training that needs adjusting but the mindset.

It is this attitude and unconventional approach that has chartered her success and will continue to do so: adjusting the balance of training to fit her life, as opposed to the reverse; knowing when to take a break; and that obsession does not always naturally dictate results.

Jo does not see age or circumstance as a barrier. If anything, she uses them as to her advantage.  She believes that her medal success had greater value later in life because she was able to share them with her husband and children – bringing meaning to the term ‘what is a success if you have no one to share it with?’.

Or is this a polite response to an audience members question on athletes doping and the lost opportunities of medals? I very much doubt it. Anyone who selflessly chooses two ‘squeeze in a run’ around family opposed to visiting training camps aboard is to be admired.

Jo is an encouraging force of nature, a mum, and a pillar of the running community. Not just an everywoman but every person; with a contagious positive outlook that was visible with all the smiles that left the room on the audience’s departure.

LitFest_18050701_Jo_Pavany_Running_Talk_0001

Words by Emma Smith. Pictures (top) Jo joins runners for the Freedom Run around Lydiard Park, and (bottom) Jo addresses the literature festival audience with festival director Matt Holland. Images ©Fernando Bagué

Jo Pavey appeared at Lydiard House, 7 May 2018, as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature.

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