Alyson Dixon smashed her personal best to retain her British Marathon title and gain selection for the World Championship with a brilliant performance in the London Marathon.
Her brave front running tactics saw her clock 2hr 29min 6sec yesterday to chop 24 seconds off her previous best, set in Berlin in 2015.
She valiantly held onto first place despite a late charge by rising marathon star Charlotte Purdue, just 17 seconds behind in second place.
“The crowd were shouting how far my lead was, but I couldn’t here them clearly because of the noise,’’ said the Sunderland Stroller.
Dixon set off with a determined purpose, with selection for the World Championship, in London in August, the goal.
She was in the lead at 10k (34.57) and by halfway reached in 73.21 she had a 38-second lead over Purdue, with Tracy Barlow third (74.08).
Five-times Olympian Jo Pavey was starting to struggle at this point, the 43-year-old going through in 74.45, before dropping out just after 16 miles.
By 35k, Purdue had whittled the gap down to Dixon by 14 seconds and, by 40k, it was just seven seconds.
But the gutsy 38-year-old Dixon dug deep and found that bit extra at the end of her epic journey of 26 miles and 385 yards to take the win comfortably by 80 yards.
This was a superb run by Dixon, who admitted being a little frustrated with recent performances leading up to the marathon.
She 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. 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 that counts.’’
Well the Rio Olympian certainly put any thoughts of doubt well behind her and again showed the class needed to gain selection for another World Championship.
She added: “The conditions were so good, I decided to just go for it and see what happens and it worked.
“I’m delighted with a personal best, that’s what I always aim for. I would have loved to do a sub-2:29, but that didn’t quite happen.
“I’ve retained my British title and qualified for the World Championships, that was always my aim.’’
Tracy Barlow had another remarkable run to clinch the third Briton spot. Her progression in the marathon has been staggering.
Her marathon debut saw her record 3.52:59 in 2011. She went under three-hours for the first time in 2013, improving to 2:38:49 in 2015 before her 2.32:05 last year. This time she recorded 2.30:42 behind Purdue.
But Pavey was left disappointed and she said: “I’m bitterly disappointed. It was always a bit of a gamble running today because I’ve had so much illness in the build-up to the event.
“I still hope there is a chance to qualify for the World Championships in a different event.”
Swansea Harrier Joshua Griffiths, who was not on the elite start line, had a fairytale ending to his debut in the marathon. He upstaged his more illustrious rivals to record the best time of any British man. He clocked 2.14.52 to earn selection for the World Championships.
Race winner Mary Keitany of Kenya broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s-only world record.
The 35-year-old crossed the finish on The Mall in 2.17.01, the second-fastest time in history. This was 41 seconds quicker than four-time British Olympian Radcliffe ran in winning the event in 2005. Keitany’s 66:54 was the fastest ever half-marathon split in a women’s marathon.
Kenyan Daniel Wanjiru, 24, won the men’s race in 2:05:56, with Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia second. Bekele – the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder, mounted a challenge in the final stages, but Wanjiru found enough pace to finish strongly and win by nine seconds.
Results – Sunderland Strollers: John Cook 2,55.02, Andrew Forbes 2.55.02, Gerry Ritchie 3.06.38, Rachel Ball 3.17.14, Michael Dixon 3.17.31, Wendy Chapman 3.20.14, Rob Morris 3.36.24, Clare Bahane 3.36.41, Vanessa Hogan 3.38.32, Jen Deighton 3.38.54, Kevin O’Neil 3.44.36.
Sunderland Harriers: Alice Smith 3.01.40, Paul Redman 3.11.59, Richard Borrowdale 3.18.20, Colleen Compson 3.25.53, Barry Marlee 3.35,21, Nicola Woodward 3.36.12, Judith Thirlwell 3.54.54.