SUNDERLAND’S Alyson Dixon faces the race of her life in tomorrow’s Virgin London Marathon.
She is chasing the one British spot that remains open for the women’s Olympic marathon after Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi earned pre-selection.
Jo Pavey is the favourite to claim the last place, with two Olympic A times to her name and the quickest recent time of all the British women still chasing selection.
But the Exeter athlete has decided to opt out of the capital race and rely on her best time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds, set on her marathon debut at London last year, to gain her Olympic selection.
That decision carries the risk that her best time might be beaten by a domestic rival and that would put the selectors in a quandary.
The 33-year-old Dixon, as well as having to finish ahead of her rivals, has to improve her personal best (2.34.50) by more than six minutes to be even considered for selection.
There are at least 10 athletes fighting it out among themselves for a place on the Olympic start line on The Mall on Sunday, August 5, at 11am.
However, the daunting task that faces the Chester-le-Street club athlete does not ruffle her.
She said: “I’ve got to run 2.28 on Sunday and I’m confident I can do so.’’
After recently returning from her latest high altitude training trip to Iten, Kenya, Dixon undertook a battery of physiological tests at the University of Sunderland Sports Centre and all suggested she is in her best-ever physical state.
She added: “Everything has increased and this has given me a lot of confidence.’’
Dixon’s quest for Olympic selection has not been without its sacrifices.
She resigned from her job as a sports development officer at Northumbria University in order to concentrate on her 120-miles-a-week training regime, under the guidance of her coach, Scottish great Liz McColgan.
“If you want to make the Olympics, you have to make sacrifices. I’ve been training twice a day, every day, apart from Sundays for years, which means I don’t have much social life.
“There are some saying I don’t have much of a chance in making the team. But I’m determined to prove them wrong.
“I know what I have to do in London to give me the best chance of qualification. The important thing is that I concentrate on me and not think about my rivals. I can’t control what they do, but I can control what I do.”
Among Dixon’s opponents tomorrow is double Olympian Liz Yelling, the 37-year-old Commonwealth Games bronze medallist with a PB of 2.28.33 dating from 2008, Claire Hallisey and Louise Damen who have both achieved the Olympic qualifying time of 2.31.00.
The US-based Hallissey was ranked fourth in the UK last year, thanks to her first sub-2.30 marathon in Chicago of 2.29.27, taking a massive seven minutes from her previous best.
Alongside them will be the Leeds-based Scot Susan Partridge, an experienced international who was third Briton home last year in London with 2.34.1.
Dixon’s Chester-le-Street clubmate Freya Murray will make her much-awaited first foray over 26.2 miles after setting a half-marathon PB in New York in March. Former Wallsend Harrier Sonia Samuels also makes her debut.
Others hoping to impress Olympic selectors with their best times are: Amy Whitehead (Sale Harriers Manchester) 2:35:39, Helen Decker (Ipswich Jaffa) 2:35:43 and Michelle Ross-Cope (City of Stoke) 2:36:02.