Catch up…

NB: I wrote this back in July before heading out to Brazil but never got round to posting it. 

 

I can’t believe how fast time has gone by, it seems like just yesterday that I was running down The Mall finishing the Virgin London Marathon. But no, that was 3 months ago now and here I am ready to pack my bags to head out to Rio, via the holding camp in Belo Horizonte, for the worlds biggest sporting party – the OLYMPIC GAMES.

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It still doesn’t seem to have fully sunk in. Some days I wake up and need to pinch myself to make sure I am not still dreaming when I see my large hold-all, emblazoned with TEAM GB across it with a name tag saying ALYSON DIXON – ATHLETE attached, lying by my bed. Other days I wake up with a broad grin knowing that I’m going to be competing in the pinnacle of my sport. And then there’s the days when I wake up in a cold sweat, scared of what is lying ahead, doubts running through my mind, worried that I am not going to do myself justice out there or worse, let my family, friends and country down.

Thankfully the later is getting less and less and as training has progressed, my confidence has grown. You do feel a large burden of pressure is placed on you. You are living the dreams of thousands of people – a life I myself have dreamed of for over a quarter of a century. There’s only EVER been just over 5500 summer Olympians in GB, it’s a very special family to be part of and once you join, you never leave.

Launching the Sunderland Strollers Run to Rio charity campaign with local school children

On the whole the excitement is building. We’re now in the ‘Olympic period’ which means that official Team GB kit is now part of my everyday attire and every time I put on something with that’s lions head roaring the sense of pride and passion is overwhelming. I’m just rounding off a great training block up in Font Romeu where most of the endurance team have been based for the last 2 months or so. I myself, have been here since just after the Blaydon race, about 2 months by the time I leave. It’s a great group and there’s a real good vibe amongst everyone. I love being on the track when everyone is down there training. Sharing the track with some of the worlds best, shouting encouragement to each other whilst getting your breathe back during a recovery. There’s a great buzz around these guys and everyone’s positivity bounces of each other and seeing the likes of Charlie Grice and Eilish McColgan smash their PB’s and Laura Muir go out and smash the British 1500m record has added to that buzz.

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A high 5 from my number 1 fan, nephew Charlie, after winning Blaydon.

I knew that the build up to this race was always going to be tough as it was such a short turn around after London. Prior to London I didn’t want to look too much into plans as I didn’t want to jinx anything or count my chickens. I’d pencilled in Blaydon and the European Half Marathon champs as two races I’d like to do no matter the outcome of London.

Going into Blaydon I didn’t know what shape I was in. I’d only been back running about 3 weeks and done one reasonable tempo and one shocking track session. Somehow I managed to pull it out of the bag and win again. Don’t ask me how. A watch malfunction which led to me being told I ran the 1st mile in 5.23 rather than the true 5.05 probably helped as it made me believe that I was taking it steady rather than smashing it – it’s amazing the tricks your mind can play on your body!!

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Recovering in the sun post European Half Marathon Championships in Amsterdam – it was a hot one!!

So I went up to Font Romeu knowing I was in decent nick speed wise, just needing to pull together a few long runs and the job would be done. I always pick up a lot of fitness at altitude so knew that my biggest concern was not to over do things, especially in those first few weeks with the Euro champs on the horizon. Training went well, I put together some good miles, long runs were strong, tempos were where they should be and track sessions were hitting times.

Amsterdam was a tough race. It turned out be very hot on the day – 26 degrees out on the road. The course wasn’t the fastest with lots of 90 degree turns and tricky little inclines over the canal bridges. The heat was great prep for Rio. It allowed me to see how my body would react to those temperatures. I managed quite well, making sure I took on board enough fluids the day and morning before my race and also at every feed station out on the course. I had a solid run. I didn’t panic when everyone went off like bullets. My legs weren’t capable of going with the pace which was a good thing as there was a lot of casualties later on due to the fast first 5k. No one ran fast that day but the girls I finished around had much faster PB’s than me, so I was happy.

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Running strong in the Amsterdam sun

The day after Euros I went to Birmingham to do my kitting out. This is something I’d been really looking forward to and made the whole selection seem that much more real. I’m sharing an apartment with Laura Muir up in Font and she had been filling me in on the process of the whole day and which goodies not to miss out on! From walking in to the NEC under a HUGE “WELCOME TEAM GB” banner to leaving with my stash 5.5 hours later the whole experience was great. The amount of kit we got given is crazy – 3 large bags full with everything from a toothbrush to your formal suit and shoes. Because I was coming straight back up to Font I had to leave most of it in Birmingham to be taken to Heathrow for me so I haven’t even seen a lot of it. I’ve tried out my racing kit though – I don’t want to wait until race day to find out it chafes. Thankfully it doesn’t, it fits like a glove and feels great, but being Adidas I knew that would be the case!😉

Track session in Font with some great pacing by Gary

Track session in Font with some great pacing by Gary

Back up in Font my final block of training has gone well. I now just need to get through a 11.5hours flight to Rio and then connection to Belo and it will be taper time. We are really lucky that we have some of the best support staff in the world and everything has been looked after for us. We’ve been given detailed traveled plans including when to nap, when to wear eye masks or blue light reducing glasses, when to expose ourselves to light etc to help us through the extensive travel and to adapt to the new time zone once we arrive in Brazil.

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Check out at the end of a great kitting out experience

From what I’m seeing and hearing so far the holding camp is amazing! It’s not just an athletics camp it is a Team GB camp so we are there with other sports just like we will be in the village. There was been some bad press about the village not being complete and safe for the athletes to move into but we are being reassured by Team GB that everything is fine and the athletes who are in there already are confirming this.

Originally I wasn’t going to have any family out in Rio to see me compete but we’ve been really lucky in that my mam and dad have gained hotel accommodation thanks to the amazing generosity of Proctor & Gamble. Finances was always the main stumbling block stopping my parents from coming out to support me but now with only their flights to pay for (still a hell of a lot!!) they can be there on the road side to cheer me. I honestly couldn’t be more excited and happy about this. My parents have been there for me every step of this journey. They have always encouraged me but never ever pushed me, it’s always been my choice to pursue my dreams. But they have given me unconditional support physically, finally and most importantly emotionally. They do stress me out at times, especially my mams nervous worrying but I know that whatever I do they will always be there for me and will forever be proud of me. My mam is stepping waaay out of her comfort zone to come out to Rio and that shows how much this means to her and I will be forever grateful for their love and support, I could never have done any of this without them.

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Final long run with some special support from my mam and dad

I guess that as I stand in Heathrow on Monday morning, suited and booted in the red, white and blue of Team GB with my bags packed and ready to go, then it will all be real, I will be making that final step to becoming an Olympian. It’s a moment I’m going to savour along with every minute of the rest of the next 3 weeks. The race is my victory lap for all the years of hard work I’ve done, the time I’ve dedicated to making it this far and all the stumbles I’ve had along the way.

Back in 1992 I sat and watched the Barcelona Olympics on TV, I went out and bought myself the replica tracksuit and began dreaming of one day wearing the genuine article for real. I always dreamed, but never truly believed it would happen, now it has. I’m living proof that dreams do come true. It takes a lot of hard work, belief and never giving up but eventually you get there.

For over 24 years I have dreamt of becoming an Olympian, now I am finally about to become one…don’t dream your life, live your dreams…

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Dreams do come true…

The moment 25 years of hard work and dreams come true...priceless!

The moment 25 years of hard work and dreams come true…priceless!

Wow…what a few days!!

I don’t really know where to start. I’M GOING TO THE OLYMPICS!!! 25 years of hard work and dreaming, all came to fruition on and boy does it feel good!!

Since crossing the finish line in the shadow of Buckingham Palace on Sunday morning, my life has been a total whirlwind. I’ve been passed from pillar to post with what seems like everyone wanting a piece of me. My phone has not stopped and it got to the point where I had to set up a call divert to ease the load. Thankfully things are starting to settle and what I’ve achieved is starting to sink in!

The race itself was amazing. Beforehand people where telling me that they couldn’t see me not making it but I know only too well that the marathon is a tough mistress and she can rip you apart at any given moment. I was confident but I wasn’t cocky and I certainly wasn’t taking anything for granted.

I had a game plan. Sit in on the first half and cover any moves the others make. Aim to get to 18 miles feeling good, strong and relaxed and then at 20 miles put in 3-4 hard miles if needed to try and break up anyone else who was still with me.

Running strong along the Embankment

Running strong along the Embankment

The race played out just like that. I felt so so good in the first half, I was floating, relaxed, loving the crowd support. By 16 miles it was down to myself, Sonia and Charlie. At 20 miles I pushed on and Charle dropped off the pace. I held my effort through to 23 miles where I saw some of my club mates going crazy waving and shouting. I was still feeling so good that I gave them a thumbs up and a cheeky stick out of the tongue!

Going through the last few miles all I could think about was my Granda and my Uncle Derek and how proud and excited they would have been to see it. Coming up to 800 to go I knew I had to put in one last kick to get a gap and cross the line first Brit. Turning the corner into The Mall I looked at the giant screen and saw I had a gap. I knew my family were in the grandstand seating so I scanned along for them and spotted my Dad holding up a very excited Charlie (my nephew). I gave them a wave and shout of ‘I’ve done it’ and then the rest was a bit of a blur. I cross the line, threw my hands in the air, done a few fist pumps, managed not to swear live on the BBC and then got a red Virgin money towel thrown around my shoulders and told to pose for a load of photos. I’d done it, I’d achieved my lifelong dream, now was the time to enjoy it!

Sonia followed me over the line 8 seconds later. I gave her a big hug and kept repeating, ‘we’ve done it, we’re going to the Olympics’ she was in tears, I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing at it all.

As I tried to walk away my foot started to cramp so I sat on the kerb to take my shoe off and that was when my own tears started.. It hit me what I’d just done. You spend a lifetime dreaming about how this would feel but until it actually happens you can’t actually imagine it. I was suddenly alone, left to walk down to the media zone where a host of journalists where waiting for me.

The mixture of emotions of two athletes reaching their dreams

The mixture of emotions of two athletes reaching their dreams

There was microphones and cameras thrust in front of me. I didn’t know who I was talking. To or what I was saying, but the smile never left my face. I remember not being able to find the words to describe what I was feeling. I’m not often left gobsmacked but on Sunday I was.

Media eventually stopped and I finally got back to my bag and my kit. When I turned my phone on, I honestly thought it was going to explode. Instead of it bleeping to signal a message it was just one long bleep for about 10 minutes!! There was so many messages coming through that I couldn’t possibly keep up with them all. I’m still trying to go through the but I fear I’ve missed a lot. If I’ve missed your message, I am truly sorry but also very grateful that you took the time to send it.

After a few more interviews with the BBC we finally got to head back to the hotel via river taxis. By the time we got back my family had been hanging around for a few hours. I met them in the bar where we watched the final minutes of the SAFC v Arsenal game and I enjoyed a well earned beer, It wasn’t until the beer went straight to my head that I realised I’d had nothing to eat since 5.30 that morning!

I didn’t sleep that night. My head was buzzing and my legs were twitching. I ended up sat in the bathroom watching the race on BBC iPlayer at 3am on Monday morning. I finally got about 2-3hours sleep and woke up with what felt like the worst hangover ever. I hadn’t had that much to drink the night before but the come down from adrenaline and caffeine, plus dehydration had left me feeling rough.

I didn't know how to celebrate so I let my emotions take over

I didn’t know how to celebrate so I let my emotions take over

I spent most of the day pinching myself to make sure that it wasn’t just all a dream and texting people to ask if it had really happened. Seeing it in newspapers and on the news helped me believe it but I wasn’t getting too excited until I got the official phonecall and letter on Tuesday morning.

Since Tuesday I’ve spent my time doing lots of media. People said to me that becoming an Olympian is life changing but I never believed them until now. Everyone seems to want a piece of this little old lass from Sunderland just now and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

As for running, I’m currently taking a 10-14 day rest period. The Rio marathon is only 14 weeks away. I need to make sure that I am fully recovered both physically and mentally before I start back training. I’m using the time to try and relax and enjoy the moment, this is something I will never experience again and I want to soak up every second of it.

Unfortunately as I was celebrating the tragic news of a runner losing his life came through. Cpt David Seath collapsed at the 23 mile mark and sadly passed away later in hospital. My love and thoughts go out to his friends and family at this sad time and my first run back will be dedicated to his memory.

Of course, this Sunday is the Sunderland 10k and half marathon and I’ll be down there helping out. Today (Friday) I’m helping to pack the 4000 goody bags and on Sunday I will be the official race starter and then hand out the medals at the end.

Victory posing post race

Victory posing post race

To everyone who is running, this is the time for you to relax and prepare yourself for the day. All of your training has been done now. Don’t try and squeeze anymore in, make sure you get to the start-line feeling fresh and ready. Hopefully we won’t have weather like we did last year but just in are we do pack some old clothes which you can leave on until the last minutes and then throw away just before you start.

Remember to eat well in advance to avoid any unwanted stomach troubles. Water and sports drinks will be available on the course and current guidance says that you should drink to thirst rather than gulping down litres in fear of dehydrating. A few sips of water at each station is usually more than enough.

Good luck, enjoy yourself and I hope you achieve what you want to in your race. Don’t go off like Usain Bolt, remember to smile for the cameras as you go and please don’t throw up on me as I give you your medal!!

 

Once I saw BIg Ben I knew I was on the plane to RIo!

Once I saw BIg Ben I knew I was on the plane to RIo!

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If not now, when? If not me, who?

Posing during the VLM photocall

Posing during the VLM photocall

26.2 miles, 5,109 footsteps, 25,500 heart beats, 36,000 people – The Virgin Money London Marathon – the World’s greatest marathon.
This year, for a select few, it’s extra special as it doubles as the GB Olympic trials. The first two British finishers past the post, providing they have ran the qualifying time of 2.31 since January of last year, will gain automatic qualification.
I’ve ran the time needed, I know what I need to do out on the streets of London. Finish in the top two brits and I’m on the plane to Rio. Anything else and I’m sat at home watching it from the sofa like millions of others.
The training is done. Mind and body are ready. I’ve dared to dream, now it’s time to believe…

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Dealing with disappointment…

We’ve all been there, you’ve put in the training, you’re fired up and raring to go but for whatever reason it’s just does go right on the day.

Last Saturday I represented GB in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. Training has being going really well and I knew I was in great shape so was expecting a good performance. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out.

Preparing for the off just before the rain started

Preparing for the off just before the rain started

I’m not one for making excuses so I’m not going to be blame the dreadful conditions. The only excuse I will use is that I was a bit silly chasing a PB in a championship race with those conditions. I should have known better and changed my targets.

I started off strong and felt great going through 5k in 16.35 which is roughly where I wanted to be. Then we hit a little incline and I lost a lot of ground on the group I had been running with. This left me running solo trying to close those in front down which never happened. I’d slowed a bit by 10k and a lot by 15k. At this point it was just a case of hanging on and trying to pick up anyone in front who was dying more than me. I managed to do that and over took 2 girls but over the same section two girls came from behind and over took me.

By the time we turned back into the wind at 11miles my legs were gone and those last 2 miles felt more like 20! Having your legs go on you at 11miles is not a great sign for an upcoming marathon but I know I won’t be setting off as fast there so I’m not too worried. I managed to out sprint an American over the last 200 metres so I’ll take that as a positive as I don’t often win in sprint outs!

Anyone who watched the BBC coverage will have seen my post race interview where I said I wasn’t happy with my run. A lot of people have said I was being too harsh on myself but when you know that you are in good shape and you are out there representing your country it is very disappointing to run below what you expected to. I’d rather be honest and say that I wasn’t happy with my performance than sugar coat it and say it was a good run when I know it wasn’t and I dare say that there was plenty of people sitting at home saying the same thing about it!

Starting to hurt at around 11 miles

Starting to hurt at around 11 miles

Looking back I suppose it wasn’t too bad a performance, just not what I wanted. I finished 27th, 3rd European and 1st Brit in a time of 72.57. Maybe I was expecting too much from myself but I honestly thought that I could improve on my time and placing from the last championships back in 2014. As I said in my BBC interview I’m not going to panic over it. It’s done, I can’t change it, so I’ve got to put it to the back of my mind and focus on my main target which is London in now less than 4 weeks time.

I know training has gone well. Maybe a little too well and in a way a poor performance at Cardiff could be a blessing in disguise as had I ran really well I could have got carried away and blown things for the big one, London. Instead, I’m sticking to what I have planned out, making sure I’m fully recovered from the weekend, both physically and emotionally before doing anything hard again.

One of the biggest mistakes I can make at this stage is going into a workout still upset about Cardiff and pushing too hard to try and ‘punish’ myself for it. Doing that gains nothing but risks everything. If I start to dig a hole for myself at this stage I don’t have time to climb back out of and its game over before I even get to London.

The finish line is always a welcome sight at the end of a tough race

The finish line is always a welcome sight at the end of a tough race

I’m up in Font Romeu now for my final phase. I don’t get back until a couple of days before London. I love it up here. It’s the perfect environment for training and we have got a great support team around us. Right now there is still a little bit of snow on some of the higher trails but most of my favourites are run able. One of my biggest challenges these next few weeks is staying away from the almond croissants and Nutella crepes overwrite I’ll be standing on the London start-line looking like Mr Blobby!!

So yeah, everyone has disappointing races, but it’s how we recover from them that matters. In these situations you have two options; you either let it get to you, eating away at your confidence or you learn from it, put it in a box in your mind and move on. I’ve always said that one bad run doesn’t make you a bad runner and it’s true. If you get knocked down, you bounce back and show the world what you are capable of. Life would be boring if everything went to plan…

Keep your head high and your goals higher.

Au’revior

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Doesn’t time fly?..

I’m going to start with that really annoying, sorry, it’s been so long since my last entry!…SORRY!!
Nearly 5 months, wow – doesn’t time fly?
A lot has happened but not much has changed. Unfortunately life got a little tough after Berlin as my Grandad was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder a few days before the race. It was tough news to take in so close to an important race but I managed it as best I could and made sure I made him proud out on the roads. Looking back I don’t know how I made it to the start line in one piece mentally, but I did and I got a PB and the qualifying time which I needed so I can’t complain.

Coldest, horrible XC EVER!!

Coldest, horrible XC EVER!!

The next 8 weeks were spent in a rotation of hospital visits and helping my nana and my family out. Needless to say running took a bit of a back seat during this time. I trained when I could but it wasn’t my number one focus like it normally is. Sometimes there are much more important things in life to take up your time. My running became more of a stress relief than having an actual training effect.
Grandad unfortunately passed away at the end of November and life slowly returned to normal. I got back into training and despite being terribly unfit ran at a snow covered North East Cross Country Championships – quite possibly the biggest mistake of my running life!
As the year ended I started to plan out my path to the Virgin London Marathon. I needed to get my focus back. I was lucky enough to be invited onto another training camp in Kenya in January – the perfect kick I needed to get back into a good training routine.

Never forget how lucky you are to be able to do what you love

Never forget how lucky you are to be able to do what you love

Kenya was amazing as usual and I got some great training in. You can catch up with my Kenya trip over on the Sunderland 10k site You can also sign up for one of the races whilst you are there!🙂
I had planned to race a local 10k on the weekend when I got back to A) see where I was fitness wise and B) hopefully prove that I was in good enough shape to gain selection for the GB team for the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff this weekend. Unfortunately the race was cancelled due to ice on the course so I was left without a race. Luckily I had also planned to do a leg of the North East Road Relay Champs the week after but this was only 2.2 miles so the other end of the distance spectrum to what I was training for and totally out of my comfort zone. My little old marathon legs don’t do short distances like this!
The race came at the end of a big week and I could tell as I set off and my legs took a good mile to get moving. I spent the first lap feeling truly awful but thankfully the legs finally woke up and I got moving and managed to pull off the fastest time of the day.
Thankfully this was enough to give me the nod from the selectors and I was named on the team for the World Half. The World Half had always been pencilled in as a target race before London. Being 4 weeks out from London isn’t perfect timing but it is certainly doable and it’s always a massive honour to represent your country at any race but a home championship is always special and I’m really excited to see what I can do there. Training has gone really well over the last 4 weeks. A good run in Cardiff will set me up nicely for my final block of marathon preparation.

Royal Signal Road Relays (pic credit Paulo running pics)

Royal Signal Road Relays (pic credit Paulo running pics)

I’m heading out to Font Romeu the day after Cardiff to do my final block of training. I’ve always responded well to altitude training and being away from home in the final few weeks before the race means that I am away from all the hustle and bustle of the build-up and it allows me to focus fully on the race and not get distracted by all of the surrounding buzz.
I wouldn’t be able to go on a camp like this without the support of British Athletics and London Marathon who are funding the camp and for that I am extremely grateful. Being a full time athlete is a struggle financially but I am doing everything in my power to give myself the best possible chance of making the team for Rio. Receiving kit from Adidas along with energy drinks and protein recovery shakes from High5, which ensures I can fuel my racing and training correctly, helps to ease the financial burden. A special thanks also to Creative Nature for providing me with some great tasting healthy snack bars to keep me going between meals and CEP for supplying some great bespoke compression kit to help my weary legs recover from all the hard training I am putting in.

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Berlin…where dreams come true!

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Flat, fast, unforgettable…the strap line for the 2015 BMW Berlin Marathon and I’ve got to say, I completely agree!

Whilst the event was everything it is billed up to be, I do have mixed emotions about my performance. My initial aim for the race was to run under 2.31 to gain the Olympic qualifying standard. But I knew that on a good day I could run low 2.28 and on a really good day even go 2.27.

The final few weeks of training after returning from Font Romeu had went really well. I ran a 10k PB at Teespride then finished 4th at GNR recording a very controlled 72.08. GNR gave me a chance to practice race day drinks which I’m really glad I did as the gel I took at 9miles really messed my stomach up so I knew not to use that one in Berlin.

I did some lactate tests in the lab the Wednesday after GNR and got some very pleasing results. In fact they were so good that I didn’t quite believe them! But they confirmed what I already thought, that I was in great shape both physically and mentally and with the magical powers of the Berlin course I knew I could run fast.

Introducing the new "Adizero taper suit"

Introducing the new “Adizero taper suit”

A lot of people say that one of the hardest parts of marathon running is actually getting to the startline in one piece. I managed that. But then again I also managed that 14months earlier in Glasgow and we all know how that ended. This was my first marathon since then so it added an extra obstacle to overcome in trying to forget what happened that day and not let it play on my mind and effect my performance.

In the days leading up to the race the nerves were starting to build to a point where I was feeling physically sick just thinking about it. The few people that I disclosed this to reassured me that this was a good thing as it showed it meant something to me. I just had to try and control those nerves and then use them to my advantage come race day.

Quite unusually I slept really well the night prior to the race and woke up feeling good within myself. I was quite calm compared to the previous few days and I even managed to eat breakfast without forcing it down. Though I have to admit that eating a beetroot flapjack at 5am was a bit of a struggle!!

We arrived at the start area about 75 minutes before the gun went and stepping off the bus right in front of the start gantry I got shivers down my spine and actually felt quite emotional. I calmed myself and sat listening to some music until it was time for a warm up jog.

Before I knew it we were being ushered on onto the start area. A few strides, well wishes and hugs with fellow Brits and we were on the start line. This was the first time I’d been in such a big mixed field so it felt strange having so many people around me all jostling for position.

No organised pacemakers had been provided by the organisers. Most of the elite girls had brought their own personal pacemakers but unfortunately I’m not even fortunate enough to have a training partner never mind a pacemaker who could help me out – note to self advertise a “vacancy” on social media! I had chatted to a British guy via Facebook the day before to try and set something up as he was looking for a similar time but we never found each other in the crowd so I just stowed away in a group containing fellow Brit, and North Easterner, Sonia Samuels and a few other girls. Sonia had her husband helping her out and the other girls all had pacers so it meant that the group had plenty of men to take the work for us.

Despite the first KM being about 6 seconds faster than I had planned I settled in and got carried along and was feeling awesome. The only bad thought I had in the first 33km was about 400m into the race when I suddenly thought “sh*t, I didn’t change my shoes” and had to actually look down at my feet to check that I had. Thankfully I had and I have no idea why I even thought I hadn’t!!

Tees Pride 10k 32.17 PB

Tees Pride 10k 32.17 PB

Apart from that first KM I only checked my watch at 5k intervals. I knew what times I needed for each section to hit 2.28 and we were consistently 10-15 seconds under at each segment. I was cruising, feeling awesome and going through halfway in 73.33 feeling really strong, I started thinking about negative splits and the possibility of sub 2.27.

Approaching 20k I had noticed my stomach starting to churn a little so I was debating about whether or not to take my drink at the 20k station. However, when I got to the station I had the decision made for me as my bottle wasn’t there. I didn’t panic though, I just got on with it and concentrated on moving forward.

The miles ticked away and I was still feeling great. The next few drink stations were slightly less chaotic and thankfully all my bottles were there as I was starting to need them.

I had drifted to the front of the pack and was pushing the pace on. When I say that, the effort was increasing but the actual pace was remaining the same. Miles 18 and 19 slowed slightly but we were still that 15 seconds inside 2.28 pace for the 30k split. By now we were catching quite a large group in front of us. I realised that this group contained Anna Haner, the top German woman. We caught the group and went straight past them. Looking back at the splits after the race I wasn’t too surprised to see that this mile was covered in 5.28 as by the time we got to 33k I was starting to detach very slightly from the pack.

I was urging myself to get back on the back of them but my legs couldn’t respond. By now my stomach had began to churn again and was started to cause concern. I could feel myself slowing and took a glance at my watch to see a 5.55 split. I knew I couldn’t afford to drop too much over the final 9k.

GNR 4th place finish 72.08

GNR 4th place finish 72.08

By 35k Sonia had caught me. This was a blessing in disguise as it gave me a kick up the bum! I latched on to her and managed to rally round and pull back down to target pace. Unfortunately though this was short lived and by 37k I was entering a deep dark pain cave!

My stomach was really badly churning now and at times I was very worried that it wasn’t going to hold out! I tried as best I could to pick the pace up again but every time I did the cramps in my stomach were agony. I was going deeper into the pain cave. A few friendly shouts in the last few KMs kept me pushing on and when I got to 41k I knew I had 5 minutes left to still get the sub 2.30 I desperately wanted.

I gave myself a good talking too, put my head down and pushed on as hard as I could. Yes it hurt, yes I thought my stomach was going to give way, but I’d put far too much into this marathon to let it slip away. I had a dream in my heart pushing me on and I wasn’t giving up without a fight.

Coming into the final straight and approaching the domineering structure of the Brandenburg Gate I knew I was home. Just over a minute left then the pain would fade. The crowds were amazing, willing you on every last step. I channeled my inner Usain Bolt and pushed for the line, finally crossing it hand in mouth once again, to see the clock still displaying 2.29!!

Success isn’t given, it’s earned…Through hard work, sweat and tears. On cold dark mornings when you’d rather lie in your cozy warm bed.  On empty tracks pounding out reps solo. On long runs when your body is exhausted. In an empty gym when all you want to do is sleep on the mat. That’s where success comes from…

Sonia came straight over to give me a hug. She had smashed it running a brilliant 2.28.04. We congratulated each other, posed for a few photos then I sprinted off in search for a toilet!

Once I was more comfortable I did the rounds on checking how all the other Brits had done. Along with myself and Sonia, Scott Overall also recorded an Olympic qualifier and Andy Davies ran a great PB. Unfortunately there was a few bad days at the office and Matty Hynes had to make the tough decision to DNF after an injury flared up at 30k.

Speaking to other athletes back at the hotel, it was a lot of the same story. The last 5k was were it hit. We all know that racing a marathon isn’t meant to be easy and when you are going into new territory like I did on Sunday, you expect it to hurt, especially in the closing stages. At the time I felt like I was dying on my feet and going backwards quicker than Lewis Hamilton in reverse but looking at my splits and seeing a video of me at 40k I was still moving well and was only running just outside 6 minute mileing so only actually dropped 30 seconds a mile over the last 3 miles.

So yeah, there’s mixed emotions about my performance. Initially I was disappointed. I wasn’t quite sure if I was allowed to be disappointed with a sub 2.30 but I was as I knew I could go faster. On the other hand I was over the moon to run a PB, especially after the heart break of Glasgow and the emotional stress of the last few weeks. I’m also delighted to gain the Olympic qualifying time (2.31), however this doesn’t mean I’ve made the team, it just means I’m one step closer and now have a nervous few months waiting to see what others run. In an ideal world I don’t want to run a spring marathon so that I can prepare better for Rio (fingers crossed) but it may turn out that I have to in order to seal selection. But that’s something we’ll know better the beginning of next year.

Celebrating Borini style.

Celebrating Borini style.

I’ll be honest, I’m gutted that I wasn’t first Brit, I wasn’t even first North East!! But Sonia deserved that run and I’m over the moon for her to run so quick. We’ve competed against each other since our early teens and it’s great to see two North East girls leading the way.

The good thing is I know that there is room for improvement. I didn’t finish and think ‘I can’t possibly go any faster’ I KNOW I can go faster. I need to figure out what caused the stomach issues and get that sorted and that will save me a lot of time. I’ll wait a few days then I’ll evaluate my training to see if there are any changes I can make there. I think there is at least one change to make but I’ll keep that to myself until after I’ve looked at it fully.

Other than that it’s time to rest, recover and enjoy some down time. Apart from doing the monthly mile with my nephew Charlie next Tuesday, I’m not running a step for 2 weeks. The junk food binge has already started with a Macdonalds, chocolate orange and beer refueling strategy yesterday as well as dancing until 1am as my warm down, which seems to have worked as my legs weren’t too bad yesterday!

Success isn’t a solo act and I’m a firm believer in always thanking those who help you achieve things as I couldn’t have done this without the help of a number of people, so MASSIVE THANK YOU to Julie, Paula, Renee, John and Adidas for all of their help and support in making sure I reached the start line in best possible shape physically, mentally, correctly fuelled and kitted out – at least my shoe insoles weren’t flapping in the wind!!!

And of course, thanks to my family for their unconditional love and support. I know they are proud of me for what I’ve achieved so far. I actually feel sorry for my parents friends if I do make the team as they are going to have to put up with my dad going on about it and my mams work mates are going to have her nerves to deal with for the next 10 months! My mam was so nervous for me that she took herself out for a 2.5 hour walk on Sunday morning so that she couldn’t see any updates! After what our family has gone through the last few weeks it’s good to finally have something to smile about.

Finally, thanks to everyone for following my blog and to everyone who has taken the time to send me messages of support. I wish I could reply to them all but my social media went crazy yesterday and I’m bound to have missed some. I can assure you though that I appreciate every message I receive. THANK YOU.

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Coming down…

Another altitude camp is done and dusted. 6 weeks up in the French Pyrenees has flown by. On a whole the camp has been a really positive one. I’ve put together some really good training, lots of miles and some strong workouts and I’m feeling really fit and strong. As always, I am extremely grateful and thankful to British Athletics for providing these training opportunities and to Steve, Paula, Gareth, Graeme and Alex for all of their help and support during the camp.

Unfortunately week 5 was a bit of a bad week though. I’d ran my longest run of the training block (26.2 miles) the previous day and felt really great on it. A nice negative split and a solid time considering the terrain and elevation. Next day though I woke up not feeling brilliant. My heart rate was elevated and I had a bit of a sore throat so I cancelled training for the day and took a rest day.

Lac Matemale – a beautiful place for both running and relaxing

I spent the day drinking Vitamin C and zinc drinks, gargling paracetamol and getting lots of sleep. As the day went on I was feeling better and woke up on the Tuesday feeling loads better again. I was sensible with training that day and just did 2 very easy runs one of which was down at the lake so that the slightly lower altitude wasn’t as much of a stress on the body. By Wednesday I was back feeling my old self and headed up to the plateau to get chased by cows on my run!!

When I got back from my run Ian had received news from home that his Dad had fallen the night before and was quite poorly in intensive care so he had to rush home to be with him. We made the decision that I would stay and continue my preparations as there wasn’t much I could do back in Scotland. It didn’t mean I stopped worrying about him though.

By the Friday I felt pretty much back to normal health wise. My heart rate was back down, I’d had a few good nights sleep and the sore throat had cleared so we decided that I would try a bit of a tempo session. Instead of doing the planned 3x5miles I did 5x2miles and felt quite good on it. The pace was strong and I actually managed to pick it up as the reps went on which was positive.

The view from the top is always worth the climb

The view from the top is always worth the climb

Unfortunately when I got back I got a call from my mam to say that we had had some bad news in the family. My Uncle Derek had passed away very suddenly that morning. It was so sudden and unexpected I had to ask “Derek who?” when she told me. Needless to say everyone back home was very shocked and upset. It was my Dad’s brother and he hadn’t wanted me to know until I got back home this week but Mam had said I needed to know.

With my Dad and my Uncle both being runners my Dad wanted me to stay out in Font. He said that Uncle Derek would not have wanted me to interrupt my preparations for him. It was hard for me being so far away from my family at a time like this but it was my Dads wish for me to stay and make the most of the opportunity I had so I did. No doubt people will be thinking that it was selfish and self centred of me to not come home early and I suppose it was but it would have upset my Dad even more if I’d gone against his wishes and came home early. There was nothing I could do back at home and the funeral is not until next week so I am back for that. As my Dad said the best way to pay tribute to my Uncle is to make the most of my last week and smash Berlin. That would make him happy and proud, so thats what I plan on doing.

Having fun at the end of a track workout

Having fun at the end of a track workout

Unfortunately all the bad news from home did get to me a little bit more than I thought. I hardly slept on the Friday night and felt truly awful on the Saturday morning run. My chest was tight, my nose was running more than my legs and my head just wasn’t in it. Emotional stress can have a huge impact on your body and trying to train hard through it can make things 100 times worse. When I got home after the morning run I decided that I needed a bit of a rest. I chatted things through with Paula to make sure that I wasn’t just being soft and she reassured me that I was doing the right thing and the rest would do me the world of good.

Hard training requires little treats here and there

Hard training requires little treats here and there

I spent the day relaxing as much as I could. I took a sleeping tablet that night and got a great 13 hours sleep in. I felt loads better the next day and it took me a lot of will power to not change my mind and crack on with my long run originally planned. I didn’t though! I knew that it could be the worst thing for me to do. I have no doubts that I could do it, that wasn’t in question. But the way I was feeling it could have dug me into a hole which I may not have gotten out of or I could have bombed and ran loads slower than previous weeks both of which would have ruined me both physically and mentally. So instead I had another rest day – 2.5 in one week, almost unheard of by me!! I enjoyed some sun and ate some Nutella crepes and woke up on Monday feeling all the better for it.

The rest of the UKa group left on Monday morning and I headed down to pick my two friends up from Barcelona airport. I’d been looking forward to having Rachel and Danielle out for my final few days as I knew that they would chill me out, we’d have a laugh together and everything wouldn’t be centred around running. They did exactly that!!

Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and the glorious hot sunshine that we’d enjoyed for the last few weeks turned to cold, wet, grey skies. The weather on Wednesday morning was so bad that we couldn’t even see the track when I went up to do my session. Thankfully as the session went on the weather did clear and started to get a bit warmer. Which I think helped with my near 400m PB final rep!!

There is a track in there somewhere...

There is a track in there somewhere…

Thursday was my last long run. The girls had decided to support me by hiring bikes and cycling with me with my drinks and to give me some abuse support as we went. When we got to the Lake the weather was terrible – cold, pouring down and generally not nice. So bad that the bike hire man hadn’t even bothered to come to open up. I don’t think he was too impressed when I rang him and said I wanted two bikes as he responded “but its raining!”

I’m now sat on the plane in Barcelona airport waiting for a take off slot after being delayed for 1h45m. Ironically its bad weather over the mountain flight path over the Spanish/French border which is holding us up!! Im looking forward to getting home and seeing everyone and mostly getting a great big cuddle from my nephew Charlie.

Final long run around Lac Matemale

Final long run around Lac Matemale

There’s no rest for me when I get home, I’m straight into a race at the Teespride 10k on Sunday morning. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. Going from my training I know I am in great shape so if the weather and everything is good I’m hoping for a PB. After that I’ve got another week of high miles with some goal marathon pace tempos in, including the Great North Run.

I’m also doing some lab tests to find out what pace I lie at when producing around 2 mmol of lactate as that is meant to give a very good indicator of marathon pace. The results of this together with the run out at the GNR will give me a firmer indication of target time and pace. The GNR is a perfect opportunity for me to have a final practice of race day drinks, kit etc. As I’m only running it at target marathon pace it will also be a good test of keeping my head and not going off too fast at the start. With Berlin being a mixed race there is a big chance of getting sucked along by men in the early stages so I need to know how my pace feels and be strong enough to stick with that rather than get into someone else’s pace.

Hopefully this block of training will come to fruit in Berlin and I will get the time I am after. If I do it will stand me in a good position for selection for next years Rio Olympics. The Olympics has been a big aim for the last 20 years and I think that next year is my best chance of eventually making it. I’ve put my heart and soul into giving myself the very best preparations, all I need now is to keep sensible the next few weeks and then run the race of my life at Berlin.

Working hard in the gym, it's not just the miles that count

Working hard in the gym, it’s not just the miles that count

I’ve always said that I am not the most naturally talented runner out there but my talent is that my body can withstand the hard training load which I place on it to get the very best out of myself. I have put all of the hard work in. I’ve ran the miles, I’ve lifted the weights, strengthened my core and had hours of painful physio/massage. I’ve had some of the very best support around helping to guide me, now the only person who can stop me from achieving what I want in Berlin is me and I don’t plan on blowing it now…

See you on the other side!!

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