Dixon backed for Commonwealth Games success

Alyson Dixon.

Alyson Dixon.

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ALYSON DIXON will have the best wishes of the North East athletics fraternity behind her when she lines up for the Commonwealth Games marathon in Glasgow on Sunday.

The Sunderland Stroller goes into the 26 miles 385 yards race at 9am in good form for the challenge ahead of her.

She faces a tough task, as the field will be formidable one with three Kenyans among them.

But there will be a lot of support for Dixon along the route as quite a few supporters will travel up to Glasgow to give her plenty of vocal support.

Dixon said: “My final hard week of training has gone well after having to miss a few days of training with a cold at the beginning of June. I’ve put together some great mileage weeks and some very good long tempos and long runs as well as a solid half marathon on what turned out to be a tough course with lots of cobbled sections.

“While I’ve had a few days where I have had to ease off on the pace of runs or cut run lengths down due to having tired legs, I have been lucky not to have any niggles or injury issues which have forced me to take rest days.’’

The 35-year-old Silksworth runner becomes the second Sunderland female athlete to gain Commonwealth marathon honours, following in the footsteps of Houghton Harrier Lynn Harding.

Lynn Cooper, as she is known now, competed in two Commonwealth marathons in New Zealand (1990) and Canada in 1994.

The Glasgow-born Cooper moved to Sunderland as a 22-year-old and five years later she stole a march on much more experienced Scottish athletes by racing well within the Commonwealth Games qualifying time of 2:35 at the 1989 London Marathon. This race was only the second marathon of her life, making her eighth place time of 2:31:45 even more remarkable. She also smashed the Scottish women’s marathon record. That time is just 37 seconds slower than Dixon’s best,

In Auckland, she finished in 11th place, in a disappointing time (2:47.24) after hobbling to the finish with a leg injury. Then in 1994, on the 27th of August, the Moorside runner represented Scotland in the Commonwealth Games Marathon in Victoria. The company secretary finished 12th (2.40.57).

Harding, 52, is now a successful coach with Houghton Harriers and talented young middle distance runners Alex Brown, Eleanor Daglish, Eva Hardie, Lily Hardie and Jamie Reed, are among her charges.

She also competes occasionally for her club in Northern Athletics league matches over 800m, 1500m and 3000m and continues to train every day.

But her attention will be turning to her home city of Glasgow on Sunday and the marathon where Alyson Dixon’s performance will be her main focus.

H A record of 120 runners broke 19 minutes in last Wednesday’s Sunderland 5k.

Six local runners who finished in the first 100, of the record field of 348, recorded personal bests. They were Sunderland Harriers’ Kevin Jeffress in eighth (15.51 and Matthew Fearn 54th (17.27). Sunderland Strollers had Andrew Powell in 23rd (16.41), Michael Laws 25th (16.52) and Steven McMahon 26th (16.52). Houghton Harrier Steven Johnson also set a PB in 95th (18.29).

H The penultimate North East Grand Prix takes place at Monkton tonight (7pm) with the graded 100m, 200m and 1500m taking centre stage.