IT TOOK Alyson Dixon 20 years to make the start line at a major athletics championships.
But the Sunderland runner’s lifelong dream swiftly turned into a painful reality after completing the marathon with a broken foot.
The Echo’s Chris Young spoke to Dixon on her return from the World Athletics Championships and her determination to reach the finish line at all costs.
ALYSON Dixon hobbles up the stairs on crutches, sporting a moon boot adorned with children’s stickers.
By rights, she should have been in this condition months ago, not just for the last two weeks. She should certainly have been under doctor’s orders in time to prevent her competing in the humidity of South Korea.
But this is a woman determined to keep pushing herself as she has done since the schoolday cross-country that the vast majority of us dreaded.
For 10 months, a broken bone in the top of Dixon’s foot had gone undetected. Sporadic pain had been attributed to the demands of training sessions which sees the 32-year-old complete up to 120 miles every week.
Dixon felt in the “shape of her life” when she landed in South Korea for the World Championships after some high profile absentees handed the Chester-le-Street AC runner her first taste of life among the elite of athletics.
But disaster wasn’t lying far around the corner.
At the British team’s training camp in the Korean city of Ulsan, Dixon first felt the agony of the broken bone putting pressure on the ball of her foot and sending her leg muscles into cramp.
The medical team wanted to perform a scan. Dixon didn’t.
She was quite content to remain in the dark about the severity of her injury and rely on painkillers to get through the two-and-a-half hour ordeal of the marathon.
But when the gun went in Daegu, it wasn’t long before the impact of the problem took its toll.
Dixon began to feel pain after just five miles and by the 10-mile point, she was having to stop and stretch her hamstring and calf to breathe some life back into her leg.
There were 11 stops over the final 16 miles, ruining Dixon’s hopes of a time close to her personal best of two hours 34 minutes and 51 seconds, with the former University of Sunderland student eventually finishing in 2:50.51.
But the crucial point was that Dixon finished – resisting the temptation to throw in the towel and doggedly persisting to reach the sanctuary of the line, regardless of any long-term implications for the injury.
Dixon said: “At the end of the day, the decision was up to me to compete, only I knew what pain I was going through.”
Read Chris’s full feature and more in today’s Echo.