Jo Pavey is urging women and girls to get their running shoes on this weekend as This Girl Can teams up with parkrun for International Women’s Day.
Five-time Olympian Pavey will be taking part in her local parkun in Exmouth on Saturday morning and she hopes women who have so far been reluctant to get involved will do so at one of the events around the country.
Parkrun has grown into a global phenomenon since its launch 15 years ago but 650,000 of the 1.8million women who have registered with the organisation in the UK are yet to take part.
We’re supporting #ThisGirlCan to celebrate International Women’s Day at parkrun on Saturday 7 March
Bring a female friend, colleague or family member and walk, jog, run or volunteer together for #IWDparkrun
— parkrun UK (@parkrunUK) March 2, 2020
Pavey told the PA news agency: “I’m really excited that This Girl Can are collaborating with parkrun because it’s sending out such a brilliant message to try and encourage women to get active and to take that step.
“We know a lot of women have registered for parkrun but haven’t actively taken part. Everyone’s championed, everyone’s encouraged, it’s so inclusive.
“I think it’s very exciting we can celebrate that this weekend on the day before International Women’s Day. You can walk or run, it’s definitely not a race, but, if you want to, you can try to get a good time.
“You’re trying to give that message out that it doesn’t matter what level of experience you’ve got, what shape or size you are or confidence levels, it’s just about getting out there and having a go.”
This Girl Can was launched by Sport England in 2015 to try to tackle the gender gap within sport and challenge some of the preconceptions that prevent women getting involved.
Pavey was keen to stress the mental health benefits of exercise and admitted that, even though her love of running means she is targeting a sixth Olympic appearance at the age of 46, she does not always find it easy to motivate herself to train.
She said: “Of course there are days where you think, ‘I don’t feel like going out today’. But when you come back you feel so much better about yourself.
“Once I’ve got in from my run I feel more able to cope with other stresses and the busyness of life and juggling everything. I feel more positive.
— This Girl Can (@ThisGirlCanUK) March 3, 2020
“But it’s good to discuss that sometimes it’s hard to get out of the door because otherwise it can knock people’s confidence if they feel you should always feel you can’t wait to go out.
“We’re all human. But think about what you’re going to feel like. It’s really worth pursuing being active because it’s not just about a fitter body, it’s about a healthy mind. And I’ve definitely experienced how it positively affects mental health.”
Pavey won her first major gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the European Championships in 2014 at the age of 40, a year after the birth of her second child, and finished 15th in the same event at the Olympics in 2016.
Tokyo is a tentative goal but Pavey will not be too disappointed if she does not make it.
“I’m training hard,” she said. “There’s always ups and downs. Obviously I’m getting a bit older now but I’m still just absolutely loving my running.
“I’m thinking about getting out there and racing, I’ve entered a half marathon on March 21 and I just to want to see how things go.
“I haven’t ruled out doing a track season this year, I’m going to the track regularly now trying to get my times down. But mostly I’m just going to get out there and enjoy it.
“I know (Tokyo) is a big ask, there’s lots of girls running really well, but, if that happens, then great. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been to five Olympics and I feel extremely lucky, I’ve have a lot of amazing experiences. You don’t want to set limits on yourself. You never know.”
:: Jo Pavey MBE is encouraging women across the nation to attend their local This Girl Can parkrun to walk, jog, run or volunteer this Saturday, March 7 ahead of International Women’s Day. Sign up to your local parkrun here: parkrun.org.uk/iwdparkrun/