Jo Pavey won the first major title in her career at 40 and as a mother of two — still breastfeeding her daughter Emily during the spring when her rivals were in the midst of self-centered, focused preparation. Yet, the British veteran took the lead in the last lap to outkick two Frenchwomen chasing her and claim the gold medal in the 10,000 meters at the European championships on Tuesday.
After Olympics, world championships and Commonwealth Games failed to produce gold during a frustrating career, Pavey could not be denied to set the crowd at the Letzigrund alight and become the oldest female champion at the Euros. It would have been truly unbelievable a few months ago, when she dragged herself through sleepness nights so many young mothers go through.
“I kept plugging away. And when I was breastfeeding and going down the track doing sessions, my times were terrible,” she said. “I was lying on the floor exhausted, and I was thinking ‘how on earth will I be able to run?’”
In the end, it was with eyes closed and teeth gritted in exhaustion that she crossed the line in 32 minutes, 22.39 seconds, holding an edge of 1.19 seconds over Clemence Calvin. Laila Traby took bronze in 32:26.03. “It is funny, because I really didn’t know I would still be able to run at this age,” Pavey said afterward. “I tried so hard for so many years.”
Everyone had been counting on Mo Farah to give Britain its first long-distance title in the 10,000 on Wednesday but with the amazing already achieved, Pavey can go for the incredible with the 5,000 coming up this weekend and a long-distance double. “I know my legs are going to be sore,” she said.
She had given a sneak preview by taking bronze in the Commonwealth Games that she could not be discounted.
With many traditionally strong African nations competing at the Commonwealth Games early this month, the European championships are much more open. Now it is up to Farah to match her. Interest in Farah increased even more on Tuesday after Farah said an infected tooth and a subsequent stomach ailment forced him to be hospitalized for four days ahead of the Commonwealth Games.