The first time Jo Pavey ran her way into the British record books - as the 14-year-old Joanne Davis - she was watched from a distance by Paula Radcliffe. The future marathon world record holder was some 90m adrift, back in eighth place, when the future Pavey broke the British under-15 record for the 1500m at the English Schools Championships in Yeovil in 1988. Yesterday Radcliffe was in slightly closer proximity, sitting up in the BBC television commentary box as her former teenage rival broke her second British indoor record in the space of two weeks.
Having beaten her own mark over 3,000m in Stuttgart a fortnight ago, Pavey consigned Yvonne Murray's 20-year-old figures for the two miles to the dustbin. Now 33, the Exeter Harrier could not quite summon the speed endurance she needed to follow the phenomenal Kenenisa Bekele with a world record-breaking performance on the freshly re-laid Birmingham indoor track in the Norwich Union Grand Prix. Still, having fallen off schedule for Regina Jacobs' global mark (9min 23.38 sec) after passing the halfway mark, Pavey showed the kind of grit that Radcliffe, taking a break from motherhood duties a month after the birth of her daughter, Isla, would heartily applaud.
With two laps of the tightly-banked 200m track remaining, Pavey was staring at defeat rather than a place in the record books. The clock-chasing effort was taking its toll and Lisa Dobriskey was poised ominously at her shoulder. Dobriskey looked set for victory.
Like Radcliffe, though, Pavey happens to be made of the sternest stuff. Gritting her teeth at the bell, she sprinted clear to win by 1.78sec, crossing the line in 9min 32.00sec, 4.85sec inside the British record Murray set nearby at dear old RAF Cosford back in 1987. "I'm pleased to win and get the British record," the Devonian woman said. "The crowd really helped me. I'm just sorry I didn't run a bit quicker for them." Still, there was a £2,500 national record bonus for Pavey, who will be back at the National Indoor Arena going for gold as the top-ranked 3,000m entrant in the European Indoor Championships on 2-4 March.
As an African, Bekele will not be back in a fortnight's time, though it is difficult to imagine any performance by a European eclipsing the golden run produced by the young Ethiopian yesterday. At 24, Bekele has already deprived the great Haile Gebrselassie of the world and Olympic 10,000m crowns, the 10,000 and 5,000 outdoor world records, and the 5,000m indoor world record, which he broke in Birmingham three years ago. Yesterday, the asset-stripping of his compatriot's achievements continued to gather momentum.
Chasing the global 2,000m indoor best that Gebrselassie set here in 1998, 4min 52.86sec, the smooth-striding Bekele produced a stunning exhibition of high speed endurance, burning off the 1,500m specialist Shadrack Korir on the last lap to stop the trackside clock at 4:49.99. It was a breathtaking run, earning the five times double world cross country champion a £15,000 bonus for his efforts.
For once, there was no world record booty on British soil for Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole vaulter failing her three attempts at 4.94m. There were, however, several performances that hinted at the promise of British gold, silver and bronze at the European indoors, not least of them in the men's 60m.
The Bath Bullet fired back with a vengeance, Jason Gardener gaining his first win in four attempts against his burgeoning young training partner, edging out Craig Pickering by 0.01sec with a time of 6.57sec, his fastest of the season. Having recovered from flu and a demoralising seventh place in the trials last weekend, the 31-year-old wants to keep the continental indoor crown that has been in his possession for seven years.
"It's just great to come back," Gardener said. "It's been an awful few weeks for me. I knew I needed to run better today or I might have withdrawn from the European indoors." There was no improvement from Nicola Sanders in the women's 400m, though having shot clear at the head of the world rankings with a 50.60 clocking at the trials in Sheffield last Sunday, the 24-year-old from Amersham endorsed her credentials as probably the best shot for British gold with an identical time. There were other performances that hinted at the promise of medals, not least from Robert Tobin in the men's 400m.
The 23-year-old moved to second on the European rankings with a world class run, claiming victory in 46.07sec after Xavier Carter, who overhauled him in the final five metres, was disqualified for breaking for the inside lane before the halfway mark. Jenny Meadows also stepped up in class, in the 800m with a winning time of 1min 59.88sec.