When 43-year-old Jo Pavey retires, what will she be best remembered for? Will it be her participation in five Olympic Games? For showing that perseverance pays off, by winning her first international gold medal at the age of 40 when she took the 2014 European 10,000m title in Zurich? Or will it be for coming third later that year in BBC’S Sports Personality of the Year? Probably a mixture of all three.
For much of her career Pavey has flown under the radar, known mostly only to athletics fans – and while all of that changed with the latecareer surge of recent years, she has built a body of work since 1997 that stands scrutiny with the best: second on the all-time UK list for 5000m and 10,000m (behind Paula Radcliffe); 2006 Commonwealth
5000m silver; 2012 European 10,000m silver; 2014 Commonwealth 5000m bronze and, as of March this year, 2007 World 10,000m bronze (Pavey was upgraded from fourth place after the silver medallist, Elvan Abeylegesse, retrospectively failed a drugs test). But that is only part of the reason why she is worthy of this award. Having been honoured to have her as an RW columnist for the past eight years we have seen just how inspiring she is to runners up and down the country.
Jo will no doubt be disappointed that she never had the chance to celebrate her 2007 World Championship medal on the podium in Osaka, Japan, at the time, but she can look back on her career with the satisfaction of knowing that she now has proof she has stood shoulder to shoulder with the very best at world level. For the rest of us, that was never in doubt.