A fortnight ago, Alyson Dixon had the job of telling her employers she would not be able to fill the shifts she had been given at the end of July – without telling them why.
Luckily, her boss at Sweatshop in the Metrocentre was understanding.
After all, it isn’t every day one of your star employees has the chance to run the marathon at a major international games.
Dixon found out at the start of the month she would be heading to Glasgow to compete for England at the Commonwealth Games but, just like the North East’s three other athletics representatives – Middlesbrough’s Richard Kilty, Gateshead’s Niall Flannery and Northumberland’s Laura Weightman – she was sworn to secrecy until Monday’s official announcement.
Now, a beaming Dixon admits, she can finally talk publicly about what promises to be the highlight of the 35-year-old’s career.
She said: “I work at Sweatshop in the Metrocentre.
“It is a running specialist centre and they’re really good about time off and everything.
“I had to say to them ‘you’ve put me down for these shifts, I might not be able to do them – I can’t tell you why.
“I’ve been bursting to tell people. Thankfully it came out on Twitter the team had been announced and then I could shout it from the rooftops.
“Having kept quiet for two weeks, on Monday my world went a bit mental.”
The Sunderland Stroller has been in sharp form this season and beat a domestic field to win the Sunderland half marathon earlier this season.
She’s also among the elite field for next month’s Great North 10k and is hoping to do more than just make up the numbers in Glasgow.
Tonight she will run in another tune-up – the Newburn River Run – and is someone a lot of North East athletics fans will be rooting for in Scotland.
Making an impact is easier said than done, of course. Kenya has picked seven to run the blue riband event – Jemimah Jelagat Sumgong, Florence Jebet Kiplagat, Ednah Kiplagat, Sharon Cherop, Caroline Cheptanui Kilel, Flomena Chepchirchir and Margaret Agai.
They might not have the big-name status but they have the sort of times which make them contenders for the podium.
She added: “The field is going to be very strong. There are three Kenyans in there and the names are probably not names you would recognise but you look them up and they’re still 2:23 or 2:24 runners.
“So you think you’ll just wave them goodbye at the start! At the end of the day it’s a Championship marathon and there’s nothing to say they will run those times in Glasgow.
“If it rains you never know - and it will probably rain with this being Scotland!”
The vagaries of a championship marathon are anyone can win it if the conditions suit them and the athlete gets their tactics right on the day, which offers the likes of Dixon an opportunity to spring a surprise.
She said: “People keep on asking me what time I’m going for and whether I’m aiming for a certain position, but you can’t go for a time in a race like that.
“You could win it in 2:40 but you could run it in 2:30 and only finish tenth. It’s how it plays out and 26 miles is a long way.
“Anything can happen and conditions come into play. There are two little hills on the course that could have an effect.
“It’s about making sure you’re in the best shape standing on that start line and giving it your all.”
Dixon is also full of confidence after her selection for a games which ironically, is closer to her Sunderland home than London.
She added: “I’ve set a big 10k PB and a big half-marathon PB this year.
“In my last marathon I set a big PB. That shows I’m in good shape. I’m 35 now but I’m still improving.”
Dixon praise for Great North 'highlight'
Alyson Dixon thinks the Great North 10k has become another world-class race on our doorsteps.
Stephen Kiprotich leads a high- class men’s field while Dixon, fresh from selection for the marathon at the Commonwealth Games, is one of a number of elite athletes racing in the women’s field.
In its third year in its new home of Gateshead, the race has gone from strength to strength and the field is already filling up.
Sunderland stroller Dixon believes the 10k is now approaching elite status in its own right and she will be using it as a tempo run to keep honing her training.
She said: “I did it last year and enjoyed the course. It’s a tough little course but it’s a nice one.
“It’s good to run a big run which is pretty close to home.
“It’s not quite my home race but it’s pretty close and it fits in nicely with my training – it’s a nice fast run.
“In the guys race they have the Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich, which makes it a bit high-profile. I think they had originally tried to get it established as a domestic run but because the Great North and Bupa Runs have such a good reputation people do find out there are other ones and wonder whether they can come to that.
“It’s good we have another really big run on our doorstep. It keeps us on the map, which is fantastic.”
Anyone interested in being part of the 5,000 field should go to www.greatrun.org