5 Things You Should Know About Me: Jo Pavey

March 13, 2012 at 11:00am EST | by Barbara Huebner

Jo Pavey's early running career was a highlight reel of national championships and a British under-15 age-group record at 1500 meters. Then in 1990, at the age of 17, foot surgery was “a bit of a disaster,” she says, and it all came to a halt. For six years, Pavey struggled to recover, lurching from one injury to the next and falling out of the racing scene. In the midst of it, she completed a degree in physiotherapy; soon after, she took matters into her own hands and made a comeback. In 1997 Pavey represented Great Britain at 1500 meters in the IAAF World Championships and was named BBC West Sportswoman of the Year. After sitting out next two seasons due to knee surgery, she came back again and made the 5000-meter final in the 2000 Olympics; she finished fifth at the same distance in 2004. In 2007, she missed a World Championships medal by less than a second when she finished fourth behind Kara Goucher in the 10,000 meters. Pavey made her marathon debut in London last year in 2:28:24, instantly putting her in the hunt for a 2012 Olympic berth at that distance, and followed that up with a ninth-place, 2:28:42 performance at the ING New York City Marathon last fall. Nonetheless, she still considers the 10,000 meters an option for the Games. Pavey and her husband/coach/manager, Gavin, are the parents of a son, Jacob, born in September 2009.

  1. Last year I raced in New York three times—the NYC Half, the NYRR New York Mini 10K, and the ING New York City Marathon. It's amazing walking around and taking it all in, the sheer scale of it all. It can feel a bit like being on a movie set, as we see New York so much on TV.
  2. The biggest disappointment and the biggest highlight of my career were from the same race—the World Champs in Osaka in 2007. I was so disappointed to miss the bronze medal by less than a second, but I was so pleased with the way I ran and with improving on my fifth place from the 2004 Olympics.
  3. In 1997, before Gavin and I were married, we went on a long backpacking trip. In Fiji, a cyclone hit while we were on a remote northern island, destroying the small harbor and all the boats. We were stranded for several days, living off potatoes and coconuts and sleeping under the bed because coconuts and branches kept pounding the roof. The locals were amused because it was named Cyclone Gavin. Then in New Zealand, one day we thought it would be a good idea to do hill reps up the side of an old volcano. It was steep and deep in ash so you could hardly move. We thought it would toughen us up but I could hardly walk for days.
  4. Before the London Marathon, Gavin had me practice grabbing drinks off a table. To make it realistic, we set a table up at a track and put loads of different types of water bottles on it, and then he ran beside or in front of me and tried to get in the way as we both collected them. Jacob decided to join in the game by throwing bottles across the track and over the fence. Getting the bottles in the race was much easier than in practice.
  5. There were serious complications late in my pregnancy and childbirth with Jacob: A membrane problem meant that every time Jacob's heart beat his blood was being pumped into my bloodstream, and he was losing blood rapidly. I suddenly found myself having an emergency C section, and Jacob was immediately whisked away for an emergency blood transfusion that saved his life. Millions of children across the globe would not have survived what Jacob went through, and millions die every year of easily treatable illnesses and diseases. Once I became a mum, it became almost unbearable to think about. So I've become involved with Save the Children, especially its Born to Run campaign, as well as Dreams Come True and Children's Hospice South West near my home in Devon.