Alyson Dixon made her first steps towards World Championship marathon selection with her winning performance in Saltwell Harriers’ 10k Road Race on Saturday.
Although far from being on top form in Gateshead, she was first woman to finish in 18th overall in 35min 50sec in a record field of 476.
Jacqueline Penn (North Shields Polytechnic) was second (36.52) and Alex Sneddon of Jarrow and Hebburn took third (38.09).
Sunderland Stroller Dixon returned to competition following a whirlwind round of public appearances at events up and down the country following her Olympic marathon performance in Rio in August.
The demands on her time had a significant bearing on her training and racing timetable where she was forced to reduce her programme.
Since Rio she had won the Kielder 10k in October before dropping out of the Great South 10-mile Run and then jogged round the Disneyland half marathon in Paris with Paula Radcliffe.
Last year at Saltwell, she finished 10th overall in 35.39 and this time she was hovering around the top 20 before moving through to 18th on the last of three hilly laps.
Dixon said: “It wasn’t that I was getting faster, it was because a couple of lads in front of me slowed. I found it a hard race – I had my first track session of the winter last Tuesday, so I still have much to do to get back to full fitness’’
Her training will get underway proper in January when she travels to Kenya for high altitude training which should offer a significant boost as she prepares for the Marathon trials.
This will be in the London Marathon on Sunday, April 23, when the 38-year-old will defend her UK title. She will need to finish in the first two and achieve the qualifying standard of 2.36.00 to earn World Championship selection. Her best for the distance is 2.29.30 achieved in the Berlin Marathon last year.
The winner at Saltwell was Eritrean Abraham Twelde, of the host club, who clocked 31.55 to head Finn Brodie (Tyne Bridge) 32.42 and Gateshead’s Conrad Franks was third (32.59).
Sunderland Harrier Sparrow Morley was seventh (34.09), Houghton Harrier Lee Dover finished 17th (35.42).
Other locals inside the first 100 were: Sunderland Harriers’ Tony Allinson M40 63rd (41.11), and Karl Robinson M40 98th (43.44); Houghton Harriers’ David Gribben M55 74th (42,08) and Shaun McGrath M50 75th (42.10); Washington Running Club – Andrew Graham M45 86th (43.11); Run Peterlee – Iain Blevins 97th (43.44).