Alyson Dixon said after her superb run in the Virgin Money London Marathon that her selection for the Olympic Marathon in Rio has been attained by “20-odd years of hard work”.
Who would have guessed that when she joined Sunderland Harriers as a tiny 11-year-old that her future would lead to international acclaim as a top British Marathon runner.
She had joined the Wearsiders after she heard through a friend that the club had a trip planned to Flamingoland theme park and that was the start of a long association with the Harriers.
Being named as a reserve for the town schools’ cross country team did not indicate a young athlete with a lot of natural ability, the youngster spent most of the time competing as a long jumper and hurdler after she joined the club.
It was not until she won the British Universities 10,000m title in Glasgow in 36.39.08 as a 20-year-old that Dixon won her first race.
At the age 24, she switched clubs to the all-conquering Chester-le-Street AC where she spent 10 successful years winning many regional and national team titles culminating in the coveted National 6-Stage Road Relay championships in 2006.
It was in 2004 that she emerged as a quality 10k road runner, winning the Tynedale 10k in 35.07 and the Morpeth 10k in 35.49.
She then gained her first England call up competing over 10k and her first Great Britain vest in 2009 in the Half Marathon. She now has a PB for 10k of 32.17 from 2015 and a 70.38 Half Marathon (2014).
The Silksworth athlete launched her marathon career in 2010 in the London Marathon, finishing 27th in 2.43.48 before bettering that time in the New York Marathon in November (2.45.50).
She came to national prominence when she made a massive improvement to win the Brighton Marathon in 2.34.50 in 2011.
That earned her a place at the IAAF World Championships Marathon in Korea. But she limped home in 2.50.51 in 42nd after suffering a foot injury which was diagnosed as two broken bones.
She regained her fitness in time to compete in the London Marathon with the hope of making the qualifying time for the London Olympics. But she just missed out on the target time.
In 2013, she changed clubs again and joined Sunderland Strollers after Chester-le-Street AC’s reign as a national force declined.
She became self coached after being under the guidance of former Scottish great Liz McColgan for a number of years.
She qualified for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and led the field for 15k before dropping out just before halfway with an Achilles tendon injury.
But despite her disappointments during two major championships, Dixon’s resolute determination saw her bounce back to her fastest ever marathon in Berlin last September (2.29.30) and her qualification for the Rio Olympics at London on Sunday.
This has been achieved through a rigorous training programme of running up to 120 miles each week and a never-say-die attitude that has gained her Olympic qualification at the backend of her career at the age of 37.
The Sunderland Strollers times in the London Marathon were: Gerry Ritchie 2.57.17, Jamie Collin 2.58.30, Bill Bowman 3.03,30, Paul Dunlop 3.15.22, Rachel Ball 330.14, Glyn Davies 3.38.24, Adrian Khan 3.39.31, Kay Snowball 3.45.05 and Andrew Robinson 3.55.13.
Sunderland Harriers times: Adam Ridley 2.54.22, Sean Smith 3.20.44, Judith Thirlwell 3.25.41, Steve Gordon 3.36.40 and Barry Marley 3.44.27.
The Harriers’ were out in force in the Wallsend Terry O’Gara Memorial 5K Road Race, won by Shildon’s Cameron Boyek in 14.49.
Nathan Reed was fifth (15.40), Kevin Jeffress ninth (16.02), Steve Rankin 15th (16.18), Steve McMahon 18th (16.26), Jake Jansen 19th (16.27), Michael Thompson V45 20th (16.33), Paul Merrison V55 40th (17.40), Alan Knebel V45 41st (17.42), Alan Hodgson V45 54th (18.10), Darren Stoker V40 69th (18.55), Dean Phillips V45 80th (19.47), Tony Allinson V40 93rd (20.05), Peter Richardson V60 111th (21.07) and Bill Bittlestone V65 147th (22.51).
Houghton Harriers had the first three finishes in the Under-15 girls’ 800m in the Gateshead Open Medal Meeting.
They were Lydia James 2.31.22, Eva Hardie 2.32.44 and Anna Pigford 2.33.45.
Matthew Lumb had a double win in the Under-13 boys’ 100m (13.54) and long jump (3.97m), Savannah Lloyd was runner-up in the Under-17 100m (13.42).
Sunderland Harriers had victories from Mark Smith in the junior men’s 800m (1.59.94) and Sean Mackie Under-17 800m (2.08.27). Declan Murray was third in both the Under-17 100m (12.07) and 200m (24.68).
The Events of the North Sunderland 10k and Half Marathon entries close tonight at midnight.
The 10k starts at 10am on Sunday, and the Half Marathon at 10.25am, both from Keel Square.