Pavey leads the British charge

Several of the top runners at the 2012 Great South Run, left to right: Julia Bleasdale , Jo Pavey, charity runner Ian Fleming, Abel Kirui and Tariku Bekele      ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (123502-5443)
Several of the top runners at the 2012 Great South Run, left to right: Julia Bleasdale , Jo Pavey, charity runner Ian Fleming, Abel Kirui and Tariku Bekele ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (123502-5443)
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Jo Pavey is bidding to fend off the next generation of British talent in an exciting 2012 Bupa Great South Run showdown.

Pavey will aim to keep domestic distance running on a high tomorrow when the 23rd edition of Europe’s biggest 10-miler returns to the streets of Portsmouth and Southsea.

The 39-year-old will represent the old guard after making it to the final of the Olympics in the 5,000, and 10,000m in a summer London Games never to be forgotten.

Despite heading towards the twilight of her career, Pavey impressed as the top non-African athlete with seventh-placed finishes in both events in personal-best times.

Hot on her heels in both races was Julia Bleasdale, who will battle it out with her international team-mate tomorrow as Pavey returns to the scene of her 2006 victory.

There is the small matter of former world 10,000m and half marathon champion Berhane Adere, from Ethopia, who could spoil the British party.

But with the Team GB Olympic marathon runner Claire Hallissey and fast-emerging European cross-country bronze medallist Gemma Steel in the equation, hopes are high of a domestic winner.

Pavey will be using the talent on show as a motivation come race time tomorrow.

She said: ‘It’s been a while since I’ve been in Portsmouth but it’s gone quickly.

‘I remember the atmosphere being brilliant last time and it’s always a competitive race.

‘It’s really highly thought of among athletes because it’s a fast, flat course which gives you the opportunity to really test yourself. Having Julia at the Olympics really helped with the experience. It made it more special.

‘I’ve been so impressed with how she has come on in leaps and bounds this year. I’m sure she is going to go on to achieve more things.

‘To have her first championships as a home Olympics was a big thing but she was able to perform well and I’m sure she will tomorrow.

‘It’s exciting that there are all these British women coming through and they are running so well.

‘The standards are getting higher and higher.

‘For me, at the age of 39, it’s really keeping me on my toes. So I’m doing my best to keep up with them and keep my body together.

‘I ran PBs in the summer so that has encouraged me that I can keep going.

‘I would like to think I could make it to the next Olympics in Rio in four years.

‘It’s good to see all these girls coming through. It’s what we want in this country. But the motivation is still high at this stage of my career, and I want to keep going for as long as I can.’

Pavey is gearing up for marathon action in Japan next month and will use the Great South Run as preparation. But she is also looking forward to sampling a race atmosphere tomorrow she knows is among the best.

Pavey said: ‘I’m getting ready for the Yokohama Marathon, so this is going to be a really important race for me to get sharpness into my legs.

‘There’s so much enthusiasm after London this summer and I am sure there will be excellent support for us in Portsmouth as ever.

‘The crowds are fantastic and that’s always been a great asset to this race. It’s brilliant. It’s a great opportunity and I wish I could have raced here more often. It’s exciting to be back.’

DOING IT THE HARD WAY n Page 3