British marathon champion Aly Dixon will be swapping Rio for the North East when she cheers on her young cousin and nephew in September’s Junior and Mini Great North Run.
Aly, from Sunderland, will support Charlie Hutchinson and Caitlyn Taylor from the crowd in a reverse of roles after receiving so much support from her family.
Thirteen-year-old Caitlyn, from Darlington, was so inspired by Aly’s achievements that she threw herself into running from the age of three.
She began running with her cousin and Aly persuaded her to sign up for the children’s event.
Caitlyn will run the Junior Great North Run while Charlie, seven, from Sunderland, will take part in the mini event, with Aly running alongside him as an accompanying adult.
Janice Taylor, Caitlin’s mum, said: “Caitlyn has been inspired by Aly’s ‘never give up’ attitude.
“She takes part in the Junior Great North Run to raise funds for Bloodwise, but she definitely wants to have a future career based in sport.
“Caitlyn knows from always having been around Aly that anything is possible if you work hard enough.
“Aly is always the first to know when Caitlyn and Charlie have completed a sporting event, because she always lets them know she’s proud and makes them feel special.
“This is the sort of encouragement that will keep them going in the future.”
Running is something that spreads across the family as Charlie developed a love for the sport through his granddad Dave, who is Aly’s dad.
His mum Lisa, who is Aly’s sister, also enjoys running and couldn’t be prouder of her son.
She said: “Charlie’s aunty Aly is his hero. In his eyes she is the best athlete in the world and no one can beat her, except Paula Radcliffe, or at least that is what he tells everyone!
“Charlie would love to be like his aunty one day but knows she is very fast, so if he didn’t achieve that he would like to play for Sunderland as a goalkeeper.
“He is so proud of what she has achieved and tells everyone he meets about her success.
“It is really important to the kids to have Aly supporting them during the race and she really makes it fun!
“When Caitlyn was younger Aly used to run the course with her and encourage her all the way through, she now does the same with Charlie even though Charlie does try to out run her at the end.”