Aly Dixon is hoping to use this weekend’s Sunderland Half Marathon as the springboard to Commonwealth Games success this summer.
Sunderland Stroller Dixon is the class act of the field with thousands of runners – from elite to club and fun runners – set to pound the Wearside streets on Sunday in the fourth edition of the cities’ festival of running. After winning the 10k last year she will be stepping up to the half marathon this weekend and is a firm favourite to land the title.
The 35-year-old is treating the race as a vital part of her training having been told by the England selectors to start preparing as if she is going to be part of the three-strong marathon contingent for this summer’s Glasgow games.
She will not find out whether she will be going until June 2 but admits her thoughts are now trained on making the England team for Scotland.
“A lot of people have been asking me about medals and positions and things but at the minute I want to look forward to selection and then having a look,” she said.
“I will be in the middle of my training when they make a training decision and I’ll have a lot better idea of what shape I’m in.
“Most of the other teams will be selected by then as well so I will have a more realistic view of whether I can get a medal, top five or whatever.
“It’s a championship marathon and anything can happen. You can go in rated 60th and medal or get top ten. It would be great to think I could come away with a medal but I don’t want to put pressures or expectations on myself.”
Dixon set a personal best in Copenhagen last month on her way to finishing a very creditable 18th in the world half marathon championships but does not expect to break the 70-minute mark on Sunday.
Instead she is looking to make it a controlled effort in front of a home crowd who will be looking to her to set the standard.
“It’s my home town and I’m known to be one of the best runners around so it does put some pressure on. I have to use it to push me on. A lot of the local runners, the expectancy is up the front but hopefully my good form in this run will continue on Sunday,” she said.
“It would be nice to get challenged by someone because it would push me on and would also show that the standard is rising.
“I think the fact that it is my home race does give me a little bit of a lift. It does give you a couple of seconds per mile advantage but it can be dangerous because you can get carried away by the crowds and I want to do it as more of a controlled run.
“I know I’m not in PB shape at the moment, even though I set my PB the other week I’m in a totally different stage of training now.
“I will be happy with a 74-minute time on Sunday. Anything faster I’d be happy with but maybe a bit worried because I might have put too much into it, which I might feel in the coming weeks in my preparation.”
Event organiser Steve Cram has seen the Sunderland festival of running grow from its inauguration in 2011 and has attempted to make it as runner-friendly as possible.
The Marathon is taking a hiatus this year but 2,000 have entered the half-marathon and around 1,500 are running the 10k. That is decent progress for an event that is looking to build slowly and is now a fixture on the North East athletics calendar.
“It is an event in its fourth year and every year we have been trying to make it a bit better and to develop it. Hopefully it is starting to become a bit of a fixture in the Sunderland year and people can see what we’re trying to do with it,” he said.
“We have made slight changes to both routes this year. The Half Marathon is a quick one and we think it will allow runners both at the front and the back to go a little bit quicker. We’re hoping everyone gets behind it again.”