Gavin Pavey was having trouble believing his eyes one day last summer. He was among the crowd at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, balancing his four-year-old son Jacob on his knee, as his (famously) 40-year-old wife was surging round the track to the soundtrack of patriotic roaring and a thrilling 5,000 metre race came down to the wire. He knew there was no realistic chance she could possibly get a medal. Except, suddenly, there was.

“I’m sitting there thinking there’s not much chance of Jo winning a medal. It would be a miracle if she did," he said.

"But later on when the leading group broke away at the front, she was still with them. I’m thinking: ‘She must be feeling quite good if she can keep up the pace with three Kenyans.' She just wouldn’t give up. And then I was just shouting and screaming and it was all a bit of a blur.”

With good cause. Jo Pavey made history in 2014, becoming the oldest woman to claim medals at two major Championships. A mother of two at the age of 40, she won bronze in Glasgow, a whisker shy of the silver, and then went on to win gold in the 10,000m a mere ten days later at the European Championships in Zurich. She out-fought a Frenchwoman 16 years her junior and 20 seconds faster this season. It sealed for Pavey the most wonderful summer of sport of her life, at an age when many athletes are long retired.

Jo Pavey crosses the line to take European 10,000m gold in Zurich

Pavey is nominated for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award

“I’d describe this year as very, very surprising," she said. "I was thinking in the spring maybe I could just scrape getting in the team, but probably not. I was just coming back from having a baby and it seemed unrealistic. So I was absolutely thrilled when I got selected for the team. But then to get any medals… to get a gold in a major championship - I find it surreal.

“I’d been trying to do it for so many years and then to do it when I’m 40 and a busy mum with two young children - I’m really pleased and very surprised and amused.”

Not least, perhaps, because her whole career has been a juggling act, a battle against various difficulties. At the very outset she missed a monumental six years because of a troublesome foot injury. Most athletes would have been long gone into other employment but what she calls “determination”, and what her husband (and coach) refers to as “stubbornness”, kept her motivation intact.

She used the down-time to train as a physiotherapist while Gavin studied quantity surveying. The plan was to work to earn money to relaunch her career when fit. Instead they blew their savings on a once-in-a-lifetime round the world trip, little knowing that three years afterwards Pavey would have made such progress she would be called up to the Sydney Olympics. But there was no funding to go with the selection, which made life interesting for a while.

“We were skint,” said Gavin. “So I actually slept rough in Sydney. I spent the last of our money on a hire car so Jo could get to training at the pre-Olympic camp on the Gold Coast, and I just basically slept in the hire car and on a park bench in Brisbane.”

Proving the point that adversity can make you stronger, Pavey hasn’t aged in the conventional sense, she’s just apparently just hit her prime. “I’d say this was the best year of my life in many ways," she reflected. "I think being a mum really helped me. I’d reached the point in my career where I didn’t really enjoy running any more. I was desperate to be a mum and now I’ve got two lovely children, a supportive husband and I feel really happy. That took the stress out of running. I still train really hard when I’m at the track but I feel very happy. It’s given me more motivation. The different priorities have given me batter balance.”

Jo Pavey hoists the cross of St George after claiming Commonwealth Games bronze in the 5,000m in Glasgow

There’s no doubt that the practical and emotional support of her husband has been crucial to her success. Support emphasised by the fact that his little 14-month-old daughter, Emily,  calls him “Gav”, as opposed to Dad, in just the same tone as her Mum. He had to ditch his mobile phone recently due to “water-damage”. In fact, his daughter was using it as an occasional dummy.

The next miracle-to-be on the Pavey agenda could now be the Rio Olympics. It is their avowed ambition to make it, especially after the springboard performances of this year. But it has been made considerably harder by the fact that British Athletics are not funding her next year. There was considerable astonishment at the news that a gold and bronze medalist had been deemed unsuitable for help from the lottery. With both their earnings entirely dependent on her running and with two young children to look after, she will be forced to give up on her Olympic ambition at the age of 42 unless they find a corporate sponsor.

The unspoken suspicion is that the age of 40 in sport is somehow synonymous with dinosaurs. Pavey entirely disproved that theory with her brilliant performances this year and she remains typically unfazed by the whole thing. “I’m known for being old, which is quite funny really," she said. "I enjoy the banter. I’ve got teammates half my age. But people have also been really kind, saying it’s inspired them to get fit and active when they’re busy mums or over the age of 40. I feel flattered that people say that. If it’s motivated them to get out there - that’s really nice.”

To see the rest of the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year nominees, click here.