Fast Running’s Gill Bland spoke to one of Britain’s longest serving Olympians, Jo Pavey, about lockdown and goals for the future. 

The overwhelming sense you get when speaking to Jo Pavey is that she’s a woman who knows what she wants and is not about to be distracted from her goal. Her mantra – have a plan, but be flexible.

Covid-era training has tough one for Pavey, like so many athletes – especially those who use a track. Based in Devon, she’s not had the setup that more urban-based athletes might have access to.

Her local track is still closed and Pavey talks about how “one night I drove an hour to what I thought was the nearest open track, only to find that it was closed too. By the time I got home it was dark and I was frustrated, so I got on the treadmill and did a session while my daughter sat on the sofa next to me looking at me like I was a madwoman”.

Plans change and a good athlete adapts

Speaking to Jo at the launch of the Saucony Ride 13 shoe, she should have been running the Antrim Coastal Half Marathon just days later (13th) but instead she was preparing to sit in the commentators box.

She had initially planned to take part earlier in the year but 6 days beforehand lockdown happened and the race had to be postponed.

She was pumped for the season ahead and “had been getting down the track multiple times a week – I was really excited”.

So after having it all pulled out from underneath her it must be tempting to join in this time around, just to get some racing action. After all, she admits that “it’s hard to keep fitness levels when there is no competition” to drive it.

Pavey has a plan

She wants to become a 6 time Olympian and to do that she needs to qualify for team GB in the 10,000m.

But Jo knows it’s not that simple –  she’s a good deal older than the other athletes vying for a place and while experience counts for a lot, age brings with it the need to be careful.

So the plan is flexible. After a summer where she’s not been able to do her standard and much-loved test sessions of 400s but instead has been homeschooling and dealing with lock-down family life, the experienced athlete knows she needs to build carefully and not overload herself.

A niggle picked up mountain biking on a family holiday was the final nail in the coffin for the race in Antrim, though she’d already decided that she wasn’t really in race shape.

Be patient until the time is right

For now Pavey is focussing on maintaining carefully until it’s time to build for the 10,000m trials next year.

It’s a situation that in a lesser form, a lot of us are in at the moment. We’re carrying on running but with no hard goals to aim for until next year.

So perhaps it’s time to learn from the master. Jo embodies that ability to keep on churning away at the training without losing the love of the sport. As she reels off her favourite go-to sessions of 6 x 1mile, 90,60,45,30, 2x 15 tempo etc. you can hear the joy in her voice.

The Saucony endurance star talks of how she always likes to include a “fast bit” at the end of any workout and you can imagine just how that steely determination would kick in.

Finding new training routes at home

Like the rest of us she’s had to find new training routes that start from her back door, to avoid unnecessary travel. She laughs that “I discovered there isn’t more than 20 seconds worth of flat near where I live – I’ve done a lot more hill work over lockdown than ever before!”.

Jo Pavey talked to FastRunning at the launch of the Saucony Ride 13.

A “dynamic, lightweight but cushioned shoe”. Jo noted that because she has been unable to get to the track, the shoe has been ideal as it is responsive enough to do a workout but protective enough to be used all the time. Saucony provided FastRunning with a sample of the Ride 13 so we’ll let you know soon what we think of it.