This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey

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This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth
Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth
Summary: Five-time Olympian and mother of two, Jo Pavey tells the story of her athletics career. A truly inspirational story of pushing through hardship and striving for your dreams, this is a book to read for runners and non-runners alike.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Yellow Jersey
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0224100434

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I am something of a self-confessed running addict: I think nothing of hitting the roads for 50 miles a week, and spend much of my time searching for races to run all over the country. That is, until I wound up with a persistent sports injury, hung up my running shoes for nearly a year, and switched the road to the pool. At the time I thought nothing could alleviate the misery of not being able to run; but now I wish I had had Jo Pavey's autobiography, This Mum Runs, to keep me company because the elite athlete’s account of the Olympics, injury, family, and life in general falls nothing short of inspirational.

In 2014, Jo Pavey was 40 years old, a mother of two, with her second child born just eight months earlier by a Caesarean – and standing at the start line of the 10,000m National Championships. The odds weren't exactly in her favour – she was worrying more about her children at home than the race, and her husband's limited laundry skills had led her having to race in a vest she had last worn as a teenager – but 32 minutes and 11 seconds later, Pavey was crowned National Champion. The victorious run bought Pavey a ticket to the European Championships and the first gold medal of her career.

That Pavey's running career is defined by going against the odds shines through from This Mum Runs. The autobiography documents how Pavey grew from a school girl discovering the joy of running to an Olympic athlete dubbed 'Supermum' by the media, and how she has tackled multiple injuries, equally many near-miraculous comebacks, and combining family and elite athletics along the way.

As such, This Mum Runs is a must-read for anyone bitten by the running bug, whether competitive runner or casual jogger. Pavey's love for what she does shines through every page, whether it be in the form of the buzz of the pre-race track, doing a steady run pushing a pram, or holding onto the dream of being able to run again in times of injury.

As for any professional athlete, sport is closely intertwined with the rest of Pavey's life, and her non-sporting life is cleverly woven into the account of her running career in the autobiography as well: her relationship with husband Gav is defined much by athletics – they met in a running club as teenagers, Gav becoming Jo's coach later on –, her children come along to training sessions, and family holidays are often targeted to race locations. What is really interesting, though, is how world events and greater issues in the sporting world are brought into the narrative. Training camps in South Africa bring the country's politics and violence close to home to Pavey, while the increasing use of doping becomes a source of never-ending frustration as medals are snatched from her by cheating athletes. The book provides an insider’s view into a world most of us do not have access to.

Unfortunately, at many points the book reads as if a 5,000m race was being lengthened into a full marathon. The same sentiments and observations are repeated throughout the book, much in same format; true, the life of an athlete has to bow to structure and repetition – after all, success comes only from doing more and pushing harder –, but detailed descriptions of pre-race atmospheres and injury woes recur as much the same, creating a real sense of déjà vu. It is a real shame that the narrative gets drawn out, as the material is excellent per se, and would come more to its own in a shorter format.

That said, This Mum Runs manages a real feat – not too short of being a five-time Olympian – in that it appeals to non-runners as well. There is something universal about pushing through hardship, whether that be in elite athletics, parenthood, or amidst cheating scandals in your career. Jo Pavey does it all, and packs it into a truly inspiring read.

If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try How to Watch the Olympics: Scores and laws, heroes and zeros – an instant initiation to every sport by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton.

Buy This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey at

Buy This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey at