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UK Athletics

Jo Pavey leads UK PB charge at Great North

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Jo Pavey GNR
Jo Pavey plans to review her good weekend's work in Tyneside, starting by working out what went wrong towards the end of her brave half marathon debut at the 26th BUPA Great North Run from Newcastle to South Shields on Sunday 1 October.


She ran so strongly that her time of 70:42 places her 7th in the UK all-time rankings and earned her 4th place in the high-class race behind three of the world’s current most successful endurance runners, Berhane Adere (Ethiopia), who won in 70:03; Benita Johnson (Australia), 2nd in 70:17; and Susan Chepkemei (Kenya), 3rd in 70:22.


But Pavey ended in such a groggy state that, after two hours in the medical tent, she emerged to tell concerned reporters that she felt as if she had consumed two bottles of wine rather than copious amounts of water.


Her first 13.1-mile race took her through the realms of determination normally found only by old-fashioned fighters slugging it out toe to toe in the middle of a boxing ring.


Three times it looked as if Pavey – the 5000m specialist stepping up hugely in distance after a relatively short period of training – had been dropped by her three more experienced rivals. Twice she dug deeply enough to claw her way back into contention.


But on the third occasion, on the steep downhill section with the finish in sight, there was to be no comeback as Adere surged to her first GNR victory at the fifth attempt, after previously finishing 14th, 2nd, 5th and 5th.


Pavey said: “I was really disappointed because I wanted to do better. I feel really puzzled by it. I was enjoying the race and looking forward to the flat bit on the seafront. All of a sudden, with 5 or 6 minutes to go, it was like flicking a switch: one minute I was all right, the next I was gone. With 800 metres to go I didn’t know whether I was going to make it. I felt completely delirious, out of my body, and didn’t know where I was. Even now I feel like I have had two bottles of wine.”


Pondering on advice from Paula Radcliffe – whose vantage point was the BBC TV commentary box – that she needed to review her pre-race diet, Pavey said: “It was interesting speaking to Paula; I’m used to racing in the evening and eating through the day. I think I was more interested in not getting an upset stomach than anything else. Maybe I should have eaten more before the race and drunk on the way round. It wasn’t like my legs were getting more and more tired. They felt really fresh. But my body suddenly packed up. I want to find answers to why that happened. Once I have addressed it, I would love to come back and try it again.”


She will address the situation with her coach and husband Gavin, who was by her side throughout her post-race ordeal, and with the UKA Performance Manager – Endurance Alan Storey, whose vast experience includes guiding Sonia O’Sullivan to, among other things, double victories at World Cross Country Championships and Mo Farah to his successes this summer.


Not too distant in her wake, there were more performances to cheer UK supporters who packed the finish area at South Shields. Chief among them were big personal bests by Hayley Haining, Hayley Yelling, Tracey Morris and Pete Riley.


Haining (Kilbarchan AAC) finished 5th in 71:42, a PB by 45 seconds. Even more spectacularly, Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) powered home 8th – almost catching one-time leader Sally Barsosio (Kenya) – in 72:11 to carve 2 minutes 41 seconds off her previous fastest, which she ran 2003. And 39-year-old Morris (Valley Striders) finished 12th in 73:10, a PB by 34 seconds.


Haining was delighted with her PB at the age of 34 as she prepares for the Dublin Marathon at the end of this month. “It’s been great,” she beamed. “I’ve just been warming down with Tracey and she is chuffed as well. I’ve been running for two years without serious injuries; I’ve had probably only 6 weeks out in that time.”


Yelling, back working as a school teacher and aiming to bid for a second European Cross Country title this winter, said: “I am quite pleased because I’ve been ill for the last three weeks with food poisoning then ‘flu – but that’s school kids for you, eh? I just wanted to take it easy and enjoy it. My watch batteries ran out before the start, which was good because I didn’t have a clue how I was going. So I just stayed relaxed and treated it as a training run.”


In the men’s race, Riley (Leigh Harriers) took a giant step towards recovering his confidence by leading home the home contingent in a contest won by Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) in 61:04 with Berhanu Dejene (Ethiopia) 2nd in 61:23 and Dathan Ritzenhein (USA) 3rd in 61:26. Riley was 9th in 64:10, an improvement by 51 seconds on his previous 13.1-miler, with rejuvenated Jon Brown (Sheffield AC) one place and 6 seconds behind him.


Riley got back into his routine after being forced to drop out of the European Championships marathon in August. He said: “It was tough. I found it hard to get back into a rhythm. It took me the best part of 4 miles. Then I sat on Jon for a bit. Dan Robinson was with us from around 7 to 11 miles and then dropped off [to finish 11th in 64:46, a single second outside the Power of 10 standard]. On the sea-front I picked it up a little bit.”


Riley added: “I was on a right downer after the Europeans. Normally if I have a bad race, I shrug it off with a beer but the Europeans knocked me for weeks. This run has kind of kick-started me again. I know I’m strong at the moment. I’ve got the Great South Run next and then I’ll be aiming for the Euro Cross.”


Brown, preparing for the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan, was content his race had gone as he expected after such a long injury lay-off. “It was hard work but something I needed to do. I ran with Dan and Peter. At 10 miles, I started pushing a bit harder. We passed a few guys. I was going as hard as I could but Peter had a bit more pace in the last mile or so.”