Thursday, 21 April 2011

Marathon Breakthrough


After enduring Spartan-like conditions in Africa for much of the year in an Olympic marathon quest, Alyson Dixon returned to Britain earlier this month to the loss of her job but also the delight of World championship selection, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 32-year-old’s sacrifices in two month-long trips to train in Kenya paid off in dividends a fortnight ago when she sliced almost eight minutes off her 26.2 mile best when winning the Brighton marathon.

The accomplishment has earned the Chester-le-Street runner a Team GB call-up to the global championship event in Daegu, South Korea this August, where she hopes to make further inroads on her time as well as an impact with a top-twenty finish:

“The selection is a dream-come-true for me!” Dixon revealed.
“Daegu will be my second GB vest (after placing forty-fifth in the 2009 World half-marathon championships in Birmingham) - this is a much bigger event and will be my first experience of holding camps and living in the athletes’ village.”

Although her 2:34.51 recent clocking places her as the fourth-fastest Briton on the current 2011 rankings and surpassed the qualifying mark for Deagu, Dixon had a nervous wait to see whether UK Athletics would recognise the mark which had been achieved on a course which was later to be found as un-ratified by International Athletics:

“I had to wait for over a week but now I’m very excited about what the future holds - it still hasn’t completely sunk in that I have at last run a marathon time that I knew that I am capable of, I believe I am capable of running sub-2.30,” she explained.


Guided by 1991 World 10,000m champion Liz McColgan, Sunderland-based Dixon has to make do with coaching over the phone as her mentor lives in Scotland but she is evidently comfortable with going it alone.

At the turn of the year, she spent a month in the home of 2000 Great North Run winner John Mutai and his family in Kericho before returning again in March for another spell of Rocky Balboa-style hard graft:

“Kenya was an amazing experience,” Dixon revealed.

“The lifestyle over there was very basic - run, eat, sleep, repeat and training was no different to what I would do at home but of course it is all harder due to the altitude, hills and heat.

I was covering up to 120 miles a week the first time I was out there but only 110-115 the second time, as I was starting to ease down for the marathon by then.

It was quite lonely over there and I did miss my family and friends back home but it was all worth it.”

Indeed, on the back of such life-changing adventures, Dixon enjoyed 10km and half-marathon lifetime bests of 33:28 and 72:31, respectively before her quite literal,
marathon breakthrough.

She has taken the loss of her sports development contract with Team Northumbria University on the chin as it will enable her to train full-time en route to her ultimate aim - the London Olympics next year.


The start to her 2011 campaign is a far cry from the rollercoaster season Dixon endured last year.

After injuring her knee a month before her marathon debut in London (2:43.48) in April, she then collapsed in an attempt to make Team GB selection for the 10,000m in the summer and had to make the most of freezing conditions in the New York marathon (2:42.50) in November.

“2010 did not go to plan for me at all and this resulted in quite a bit of criticism coming our way in terms of people saying that I was over-training and basically writing me off from ever running at a decent level again,” explained Dixon.

“Though, I’m quite good in situations like that and I can use the negativity and turn it into fuel to help me prove the doubters wrong.”

Prove she did and she is now set to train at high-altitude in the French Pyrenees in the search for the Olympic qualifying time (2:31) for next summer’s 2012 Games:

“I would love to be running around the streets of London next year – it’s my ultimate dream and I won’t give up on my quest of doing it until that gun goes,” Dixon revealed.

I’m prepared to put in all the hard work needed and will give it everything I have and with a bit of luck I will be on that start-line!!”

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