Sunderland Harriers’ Marathon man Ian Dixon ready for London debut

Sunderland Harrier Ian Dixon, far right, leads the Durham Cathedral Veterans relay race.
Sunderland Harrier Ian Dixon, far right, leads the Durham Cathedral Veterans relay race.
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Former footballer Ian Dixon’s late venture into athletics and endurance running has been rewarded by a number of significant performances.

At the age of 37, he was forced to bring the curtain down on a successful football career after having a full cruciate ligament replacement on his right knee

He played for a number of flourishing clubs that won the FA Vase when playing for Whitley Bay in 2002, the Northumberland Senior Cup in the Bedlington Terries team in 2004 and the Northern league in 2007 for Durham City.

When he was forced into retirement from his football playing days, Dixon maintained his fitness in the gym and while there he met Lee Browell, a former Sunderland Harrier, who suggested he should join the Harriers. But his first training session did not go as well as expected.

Dixon said: “My first experience at the Harriers was a tempo road session with the veteran marathon lads. I lasted four miles before being forced to stop. It was an eye opening experience. I soon realised that football training was much easier than this.”

He eventually put that gruelling episode behind him and set out on a concerted training plan to build up his fitness under the direction of Sunderland Harriers’ coaches Ritchie Tough and Glenn Forster.

This soon gained him notable benefits that saw him improve dramatically by running up to 75 miles a week. But it was to the marathon that the dogged Dixon set his sights on.

“Marathon training opened my eyes and the more miles you can run without getting injured the better you will become. If I’m marathon training I run 85-90 miles each week.”

Dixon targeted his first marathon when making his debut last year at the age of 41, recording a respectable 2.44.56 in the Edinburgh Marathon before improving to 2.41.04 at Chester.

But it was in events over the country and at the shorter distances on the roads that the probation officer first caught the eye, by making a big impression in his age category.

He won the North Eastern Harrier League overall veterans’ title last year and triumphed in the North East Masters’ Over-40 Cross Country Championships at Darlington in February.

He is also a key member of Sunderland Harriers all-conquering veterans’ relay team.

It was in the Sunderland Parkrun where he recorded 19.04 in 2012 that he opened his account as a competitive athlete.

His 5km time has since been reduced to 15.57 after winning his category in the highly competitive Sunderland 5km last year. Dixon’s other PBs are 10km: 33.43, and 10 mile: 55.20.

He said: “I put my results down to hard work and consistent training. I have a strong desire to compete and run hard. I just keep going and never think of my age as some runners do remarkably well as veterans.

“I have been coached by Ritchie and lately by Glenn. Both have offered me a great deal of advice and organised my training sessions. They have a great background in marathon running for Sunderland Harriers.

“I’m looking forward to my first London marathon next month. I gained a championship entry and I’m hoping to run faster than my previous fastest time of 2.41.”

On his memorable football career, Dixon said: “I went to Thornhill Comprehensive School. I was coached by Ritchy Pitt, who was in the Sunderland team that won the FA Cup in 1973. I played school football and represented Sunderland Boys’ from primary school. There was no academy football, but I attended Sunderland School of Excellence which was organised by Sunderland AFC. I had England Schools’ trials, but never made the squad.

“I started out playing for Ryhope CW then moved to Jarrow Roofing in the Northern League. I was playing in a friendly and the Blyth Spartans assistant manager was watching and he asked me to sign for them.

“At Durham City, we were promoted to the Unibond League, which we won in 2008 and were then promoted to the Conference North.

“The club then went bust and ripped our contracts up. That Durham City side from 2007-2009 was the best side I played in.

“I moved to Spennymoor where we again won the Northern league in 2010 before having a brief spell at Bishop Auckland.”

He ended his football career playing Sunday League football for a very successful Hetton Lyons, winning the Durham County Cup five times and the All England Cup at Anfield in 2005/6 and 2007/8.

H On Friday, Elswick Harriers host their Good Friday Road Relays. There is a new race headquarters and registration at Gateway House, Newburn Riverside, Newcastle NE15 8NX. The headquarters will be open from 8.15am.

The first race for Under-11s will start at 9.15am. The Senior and Veterans Women’s Relay is off at 9.45am and the Senior and Veterans Men’s Relay closes the programme at 10.55am.

On Sunday, the popular North Tyneside 10km is held (10am). The race starts at The Parks Sports Centre in North Shields before taking in the Fish Quay, River Tyne, Tynemouth Priory and a stretch of coastline before finishing at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay.