Alyson Dixon goes into Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon bidding to win selection for the World Championships in London in August.
The Sunderland Stroller defends her British marathon title she won in London last year, which gained her selection for the Rio Olympics.
Now she has it all to do again with the first two runners past the post guaranteed selection for the World Championship marathon – as long as they have the qualifying time.
She faces a stellar women’s domestic field, with the bunch of British hopefuls headed by Jo Pavey.
The Great Britain Olympian made history last summer when she became the first British track and field athlete to compete at five Olympic Games.
Since the beginning of the year, Dixon has been averaging over 100 miles a week in training. She spent January in Kenya and she has just got back from another altitude trip to France at Font Romeu.
On Font Romeu she said: “I changed my training slightly a few times and jumped in with the middle distance girls for some sessions, and once again discovered that I am never going to make an 800 or 1,500m runner!
“But it was fun and beneficial to get some fast 1km, and 400m, 300m, 200m reps done, even if I was left flat on my back after!”
Her performances so far this year have been a little below her expectations and she was forced to drop out of last month’s Reading Half Marathon with cramp.
Dixon said: “I’ve been left a bit frustrated with the races I’ve done so far. I know I’m in great shape, but it’s just not showing itself in races.
“Mind, the weather isn’t helping and my glute med going into cramp at Reading wasn’t ideal. But, at the end of the day, I know what shape I’m in, from training and fast races in the build up to a marathon don’t really mean much, it’s what happens on the streets of London come Sunday that counts. And I’d swap all the fast times in the world for a good one that day!”
Qualifying for a place at the World Championships in August means that athletes will have to run inside 2.36.00.
“I know it’s not going to be easy,” said mother-of-two Pavey. “There are lots of good girls in the field like Alyson Dixon, Charlotte Purdue and Susan Partridge, who all want the same thing.”
The 43-year-old will return to the London Marathon for the first time since 2011 with a double objective in mind – to run a new personal best and to qualify for the World Championships
Pavey’s quickest time for the classic distance stands at 2.28.24 from London 2011, compared to 38-year-old Dixon’s best of 2.29.30 from 2015.
Dave Bedford, former London Race Director and 10,000m world record holder, said: “Jo Pavey will be hoping to run as well this year as she did in her debut in 2011. On her day, Jo has had many great days in her career, she is clearly the class act, but she will have stiff opposition though from Alyson Dixon and Charlotte Purdue, who is clearly the future of British women’s marathon running.”
Three athletes in the field hold the women’s qualifying standard, topped by Purdue who backed up her impressive debut in London last year by running 2:30:04 at the Frankfurt Marathon in October to top the 2016 British ranking lists.
The 25-year-old will be aiming to break the 2:30 barrier as she seeks a British top-two spot to guarantee her World Championship berth. Tracy Barlow also has the standard after running 2:32:05 in Frankfurt.
The experienced Scot, Susan Partridge, will need to reproduce her best form of a few years ago to be in with a shout, while the up-and-coming pair of Jenny Spink and Tish Jones cannot be discounted.
However, most attention is bound to focus on Pavey. She has said her aim is not just to win yet another British vest, but to lower her six-year-old marathon PB of 2:28:24.
The British Over-40s vets record may also be in her sights. It stands at 2:26:51 and was set by Priscilla Welch 30 years ago.
Pavey said: “I would love to qualify for the World Championships in London. I know it’s a tough ask, but it is an exciting challenge to think about the possibility of representing my country over distances from the 1,500m right up to the marathon. It’s also an event where I think I have the possibility of running a PB and that is also a massive target of mine.”
Pavey and Dixon will be on the start line with one of the finest collection of female marathon runners ever assembled.
The line-up includes runners Mary Keitany (the 2016 New York Marathon champion), as well as Tirunesh Dibaba, who has been such a legend on the track and who has a best for the marathon of 2:20:35.
In the women’s race, Keitany will be the hot favourite and will be looking to beat Paula Radcliffe’s women-only record set in Chicago in 2002.
Keitany has a glittering CV that includes two London Marathon wins (2011 and 2012) and three New York Marathon victories (2014-2016).
She fell during last year’s London Marathon and trailed home in ninth place, but showed in New York she is back to her best.
“Many people had Mary as the favourite to win last year’s London Marathon before that fall,” said Bedford.
“But she is clearly back to her best following her win in New York in November. She is clearly a very classy marathon runner, but she will have to run significantly well to win in London.”
Keitany has requested that the pace be set close to the women’s only world record, but she won’t have it all her own way.
H Sunderland Stroller Chris Dwyer finished fourth in the Helmsley 10km Challenge in North Yorkshire.
Luke McCormack was 20th (40.19), Dale Wilkinson finished 66th 45.21, Malcolm Cox was second Over-60 (45.34) and Harry Harrison finished 74th (45.49). The race winner was Tyne Bridge Harrier Tom Charlton (34.26).
H The first North Eastern Grand Prix of the season is staged at Monkton tonight, with the North Eastern 10,000m championships at 6.15pm. Entries total 18, which are the best for years.