Jo Pavey sounded more like a schoolgirl of 14 yesterday than a mother of 38. "I'm so excited to be finally running the marathon here," she said, speaking from New York City. "I feel honoured to be here. It's such an historic race. I'm just thrilled to have the chance to take part in it."
When Pavey was an excitable 14-year-old she broke the British Under-15s record when winning the English schools' 1500m title in Yeovil. Running for Devon, she finished eight places and 13 seconds ahead of a plucky young girl from Bedfordshire called Paula Radcliffe.
Twenty-three years on, it would probably be rather too much to hope that Pavey might emulate Radcliffe, three times a winner in the Big Apple (in 2004, 2007 and 2008), when she lines up in the 42nd New York City Marathon on Sunday. For one thing, as Pavey acknowledges, she still has much to learn as a marathon runner.
She has raced at the 26.2 mile distance just once before. In London in April she finished 19th in the elite women's section, clocking 2hr 28min 25sec. It was not quite in the vintage Radcliffe class. The former English schools also-ran holds the world record at 2:15:25 – or 2:17:42, as it will become when the International Association of Athletics Federations ceases to consider times gained with the help of male pacemakers, from 1 January.
Still, it put Pavey seventh on the UK all-time ranking list. It was also inside the qualifying standard set by UK Athletics for Olympic selection consideration, 2hr 31min. Not that the Devonshire woman is banking on selection for 2012.
"In the London Marathon I was thrilled to get the qualifying time," she said. "But I totally understand that doesn't guarantee me selection at this stage.
"I hope to compete in the Olympic marathon and this is an ideal opportunity for me. The selectors are going to be watching, so I want to get out there and run as well as I can. It's going to be like a championship event and it's an ideal opportunity for me to get some more marathon experience. I learnt a lot from London."
On Sunday we will discover just how much Pavey has learnt.