Mark Armstrong: We could all do with a bit of the Jo Pavey attitude

File photo dated 12/8/2014 of Great Britain's Jo Pavey celebrates winning the Women's 10000m Final a

Jo Pavey celebrates winning the women's 10,000m Final at the Letzigrund Stadium, Zurich during the 2014 European Athletics Championships. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

It’s not often you get to meet someone you genuinely look up to. 

I remember in the post-match concourse at Anfield a few years ago after Norwich City had been beaten, I held open a door for Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard and it was one of the few occasions in my life I felt genuinely star struck (he smelt amazing and said ‘thanks mate’). 

But last week I had the chance to interview a Bonafide British athletics legend in Jo Pavey for the Sportlink podcast. 

Like so many others I have followed her career closely after she won the European Championships 10,000m gold aged 40, just 11 months after having her second child, Emily. 

It was an absolutely incredible achievement and something I still struggle to get my head round, even now. 

Perhaps even more impressive though is the fact she is targeting her sixth Olympics later this year in Tokyo.  

Now it would have been difficult for someone at Jo’s age to qualify in the best of time but that was before Covid struck. We know what’s happened since – the Olympics were postponed for a year but perhaps more worryingly for Jo it meant a change in the way she could train. 

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Home-schooling, trail runs from the front door, and treadmill sessions had to replace her beloved track appointments due to Covid restrictions. 

In the meantime many of her rivals for a place in the GB squad without the same responsibilities could jet off for some warm weather training at a high performance centre abroad complete with track facilities. 

If I were to be put in this situation then I think I would be pretty close to panicking but I haven’t got the mindset of a five-time Olympian. 

After speaking to Jo, she genuinely sees it as another challenge or ‘obstacle’ to overcome. It’s beyond her control so she will just make the best of the circumstances given to her. 

It is these obstacles and how we deal with adversity that shapes who we are. 

Rather seeing the fact, she is a busy mother-of-two as a weakness when it comes to her training, she sees it strength for what it has taught her during the course of her career and how to adapt. 

“When I was younger I thought I was doing everything right with no responsibilities apart from training, resting and eating at the right times,” she said. “Going from that to being a busy parent like so many people are – that was actually the circumstances that led me to achieve something that I thought I would never achieve (European Championship gold). 

“It taught me a lot and that you can still achieve things even if there are potential obstacles in the way. 

“Becoming a parent meant that instead of stressing about training, I would get on the track and train as hard as I could and not dwell on it or think about it as much as I had previously.” 

What also came through from speaking to Jo is how running isn’t a profession to her – it's a way of life that’s been with her throughout her from the very beginning. 

She genuinely loves running and there is clear excitement at the thought of being able to get on a track next week near her home in Devon to see what she can do after months of hard training on the road. 

Jo has from now until June hopefully to refine her track work when the British Championships take place and Olympics spots are up for grabs. 

Since talking to Jo last week it’s certainly brought an edge to my training. If you want it bad enough then you’ll find a way to get it. 

Unfortunately, I’m not chasing an Olympic place but it’s all relative. We all might not be able to have the same goals but we can have the same attitude and will to achieve our personal goals. 

You can listen to the full podcast with Jo below...