Jo Pavey added to star-studded Virgin Money London Marathon elite women's field

Jo Pavey

Five-time Great British Olympian Jo Pavey (handicap -1.2) has been added to an already stellar elite women’s start list for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Pavey made history last summer when she became the first British track and field athlete to compete at five Olympic Games. Now the 43-year-old will return to the London Marathon for the first time since 2011 with a double objective in mind: to run a new personal best (PB) and to qualify for the World Championships in London in August.

“I’m always looking for a new challenge,” said mum-of-two Pavey. “Last year was all about making a fifth Olympic Games and after I had done that I started to think about my next challenge. I have been thinking about doing a marathon again for the past few years and for a British athlete the London Marathon – with the amazing home crowds and the iconic course – is the pinnacle. I wanted to be sure I was injury-free and could crack on with my training before committing which I am and I’m really excited about the challenge.

“I would love to qualify for the World Championships in London. I know it’s a tough ask, but it is an exciting challenge to think about the possibility of representing my country over distances from the 1500m right up to the marathon. It’s also an event where I think I have the possibility of running a PB and that is also a massive target of mine.”

Pavey’s marathon PB was set on her debut at the distance at the 2011 Virgin Money London Marathon when she finished in two hours 28 minutes and 24 seconds. Qualifying for a place at the World Championships in August will mean she will have to run inside 2:36:00 and be in the top two British finishers at the London Marathon which again acts as British Athletics’ trial race.

“I know it’s not going to be easy,” Pavey said. “There are lots of good girls in the field like Alyson Dixon (handicap -0.4) , Charlotte Purdue (handicap -0.7), Louise Damen (handicap 3.2) and Susan Partridge (handicap 1.9) who all want the same thing.”

Beyond the battle of Britain, Pavey is excited about standing on the Start Line with one of the finest collection of female marathon runners ever assembled.

She said: “It’s an amazing line-up with runners like Jemima Sumgong (the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon winner and Olympic champion) and Mary Keitany (the 2016 New York Marathon champion), as well as someone like Tirunesh Dibaba who has been such a legend on the track you forget she has run 2:20:35 for the marathon.”

The unique London Marathon experience is also something Pavey cannot wait to experience once again.

“It’s an amazing event,” she said. “I will never forget the experience of finishing on The Mall, it was totally surreal. I had watched it so many times on the television and then suddenly you are part of it. I can’t wait to experience that again. One of the other most amazing things about the race is the fact that you able to run with thousands of others, who are all running for their own reasons, whether that’s to get PBs or to raise money for charity. It’s a fantastic event that is like no other.”

The battle for places in the men’s team for this summer’s World Championships has also intensified with the addition of another of Britain’s Rio Olympians to the elite men’s field.

Tsegai Tewelde (handicap -2.1) produced one of the shocks of the day at the 2016 London Marathon when he was the second Briton home behind Callum Hawkins (handicap -6.9) . The virtually unknown Tewelde, who came to Britain as an asylum seeker following the 2008 World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, ran 2:12:23 on his debut to gain Team GB selection for the Rio Olympic Games. But the former Eritrean was forced to drop out of the Olympic marathon and is now keen to make amends by winning a place at London 2017.

“I loved running at the London Marathon last year and I am delighted to be part of the elite field again in 2017,” said the 27-year-old. “After running so well in 2016, I hope the London Marathon will inspire me again to find my best form. Obviously, the Rio Olympics didn’t go to plan for me but I will be doing my best to win selection for the British team for the World Championships in London this summer.”

With Hawkins’s name already on the team sheet, Tewelde must finish as one of the top two British men. 2012 Olympian Scott Overall (handicap -5.6) has also joined the field and there are three athletes who have already achieved British Athletics’ qualifying standard of 2:16:00 – former European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson (handicap -6.7) , Matthew Bond (handicap -4.9) from Sale Harriers and Scotland’s Robbie Simpson (handicap -5.1).

However, Tewelde believes that with the help of the £5,000 London Marathon training grant he received following last year’s race, he is in good shape to win a second British vest.

“It will be a tough race with lots of good athletes going for the two remaining places but I am confident I will one of the first two Britons at the London Marathon,” he said. “The grant I received from the London Marathon after last year’s race has made a big difference to me. It has helped me spend more time training and to pay for travel and equipment. It has definitely made it easier for me to prepare for my races."