Alyson Dixon’s delight

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ALYSON Dixon’s quick change to her racing plans were rewarded when she shattered the course record in Saltwell Harriers’ 100th anniversary road race on Saturday.

Having her first race since limping home in the World Championship marathon in Daegu, South Korea, at the end of August, the 33-year-old clocked 35.59 to finish a superb ninth overall.

The previous record was held by Helen Lawrence (Wirral), who clocked 36.54 in 2007.

Dixon originally planned her comeback run for the Durham Cathedral Cross-Country Relays on January 22, before flying out for a month’s altitude training in Kenya.

However, a pleasing training session during the week made the Sunderland athlete and Olympic marathon hopeful change her plans.

“I only decided to compete after doing a tempo run during the week,’’ said Dixon.

“I contacted my coach (Liz McColgan) and told her about my training session and she said to try and get a race in at the weekend.

“I rang the organisers and managed to get a late entry. But, when I arrived, the course was covered in ice and I was a bit dubious about racing.’’

However, council gritters cleared the last ice covering the course in Saltwell Park and the race got the go-ahead after being in doubt early morning.

And Dixon certainly had her skates on as she set off in positive fashion, being seventh in the early stages, ahead of leading veterans Ian Crampton (Durham) and Stewy Bell (Chester-le-Street).

Despite slipping to ninth over the last two of three laps, the Chester-le-Street club runner was delighted to come through the race in good fettle, only 13 seconds behind Bell.

The Saltwell organisers had double reason to celebrate their anniversary, as the men’s course record was also broken.

Ryan McLeod, son of Mick, the record-breaking 16-times consecutive winner of the race, beat his own 2008 course record of 31.08 by 10 seconds.

The Tipton Harrier was more than a minute clear of Coventry Godiva’s Matthew Armstrong in second (32.01) with Richard Morrell (New Marske) in third (33.37).

Sunderland Strollers had Jack Davison in 29th (39.29), Steve Tinwell 46th (42.04) and Stephen Kisler 71st (43.49). Sunderland Harrier David Savage was 59th (42.57).

The second woman to finish was Morpeth’s Jane Hodgson (38.04), followed by Jarrow and Hebburn’s Claire Simpson (38.46).

Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt had a good run to finish 28th overall and fourth woman in 39.28 to turn the tables on fifth-placed Alex Snook (Jarr and Heb), who beat her in last week’s North Eastern Cross-Country Championships. Lisa Tweddle (Jarr and Heb) was 63rd and the seventh woman (43.02).

There were also course records for Washington’s Barry Maskell (Gateshead) the winner of the under-17s race in 15.42 and Birtley’s Lydia Turner, with her 10.26 performance in the under-15s event. Durham’s Chloe Price won the under-17s race in 18.25.

Result: 1 Ryan McLeod (Tipton) 30.58, 2 Matthew Armstrong (Coventry Godiva) 32.01, 3 Richard Morrell (New Marske) 33.37, 4 David Kirkland (Alnwick) 34.11, 5 Stephen McKenna (Tyne and Wear Fire) 34.31, 6 Conrad Franks (Gates) 34.40, 7 Ian Crampton V45 (Durham) 35.06, 8 Stewy Bell V40 (Ch-le-St) 35.46, 9 Alyson Dixon (Ch-le-St) 35.59, 10 Jonathan Baines (Sedgefield) 36.38.

H Sunderland Harrier Brian Bewick was the third veteran to finish, in sixth (45.32) in yesterday’s Loftus Poultry Run won by Ricky Stevenson (New Marske) in 40.34. Sunderland Stroller Chris Jackson was 22nd (50.30).