About last Sunday…

A week on and last Sunday still feels quite surreal.  

I went into the race knowing I was in great shape, probably the best shape I’ve ever been in. The Saturday before I’d done my usual final 5k track tempo and it was 43 seconds faster then pre VLM. So I knew I was in very good shape.

A 2pm start time was totally different to what I’m usually used to for a marathon but food etc was adjusted accordingly. I’d decided it would be best to split my breakfast so that I didn’t over eat but also didn’t leave myself hungry waiting until 10.30 to eat breakfast. I saw Alex the physio to get my stiff ankle mobilised at 8am then headed down for some banana on toast and a coffee at 8.30 before having my Porridge and another coffee at 10.30. 

The race start and finish were on Tower Bridge which is about 1km from our hotel so we strolled across at about 12pm.  Warm up for a marathon is really short, 1 mile jog, change shoes, a stride then I’m ready. However with it being a championship race we had a call room to go through where we get our timing transponders so timings had to be changed accordingly to fit that in.  Call room closes 25 mins before the race starts and if you are not inside by then you miss the race. 

Call room was the usual chaos but once out on the Bridge we had time for a stride then we were ushered onto the start line. There was a bit if a rush for prime positions on the start line but I was happy to stand 2 or 3 rows back. There was 26.2 miles ahead of us, it wasn’t going to make that big a difference. When the gun went the pack moved off at quite a sedate pace. I found myself up near the front and just relaxed and waited for the pack to settle to see where I ended. Like I say, the pace was quite sedate so I found myself sitting comfortably up front. The 1st mile was only 5.44 so perfectly within my comfort zone.

My race was neither brave nor gusty. All I did was follow my pre-set race plan.  That plan was to try and run splits around the 5.35-45 zone through to 30km and then hopefully pick up a little for a strong finish and try to get a low 2.28 clocking.  Training suggested I was in around 2.27 shape so given the course 2.28 was a good target.

One Portuguese girl went off the front and opened up a sizeable lead early on but the main lead pack seemed quite happy to run around this pace and let her go so I settled in and enjoyed it.  The crowds were fantastic giving lots of vocal support and I managed to spot a few familiar voices along the way and acknowledged them when I did.

As usual feed stations were a bit chaotic but I managed to get my bottle without mishap. As we weaved through the City section of the course I took a mental note of the twists and turns and the 3 or 4 little climbs that there were. Watching the race coverage back on iPlayer someone fell on one of the corners. This was one of my big fears about running in the middle of a big pack and one of the reasons why I had gone to the front – it’s a little safer there!

Approaching 9k we caught the Portuguese girl and I thought to myself if I can just hold it here until the 10k split I will always have an official race split saying I was leading the World Championships Marathon.  Little did I know that I would go on to have 3 of these by the end of the race!!

I knew I was leading, obviously, but I thought that the rest of the pack were right on my shoulder and were going to come past and swallow me up any second. I hadn’t really increased the pace dramatically, a little surge at the feed station as usual to get a clear run at my bottle but other than that still hitting my planned splits. I was constantly checking my watch to make sure I was on pace and doing nothing silly but the rest of the field just didn’t come with me. 

By the time I got down to the bottom turn around point someone shouted I had about 30 second gap. I just laughed at that and thought they were crazy then coming round the cones I looked over and realised they weren’t!!

Still I wasn’t running anything fast. Just sub 2.29 pace, well within my capabilities and actually slower than I’d done in London Marathon back in April.  I was loving the crowd support and egging them on to get even louder. It helped me take my mind off splits etc whilst also pushing me along. All the time I was waiting for the pack to come and swallow me up.

I never for a minute thought I was going to run away from these girls, they are world class marathoners, I’m not. All I was doing was running my race plan and enjoying myself doing so. Yes, I could have sat back with them running outside 2.30 pace but I’m the type of athlete who find it’s hard to do a huge increase in pace over the last 5-10k and I knew that if I wanted to run a PB that the best way to do it, for me, was to try and run equal halfs. 

In terms of trying to finish as high up as possible, I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to live with the increase of pace of most of that pack come the last 5-10k. They were capable of lifting it to 2.24 pace or faster, I wasn’t. 

My biggest mistake of the race was when they caught me at around 30k. Instead of just sitting in the pack and going along for the ride for a few miles, I stupidly kept fighting and went back to the front of the pack. Mile 20 ended up a 5.15 Mile!! And mile 21 wasn’t much slower at 5.23.  I knew I couldn’t keep that up so eased back and hoped that I hadn’t done myself any damage but it was too late. I settled back into my pace but mile 25 the wheels came off and I dropped to 7.02! For the first time in the race my head went down and I was in survival mode. There were times during that mile when I thought my legs weren’t going to make it to the end. 

The crowds were still incredible and they knew that I’d given the race my best shot. Coming back past the Tower of London they managed to lift me, my head came up again and I was using every last bit of energy I had left to get myself to the finish line.  

Coming on to Tower Bridge someone stuck their hand out for a high 5 and I responded. Next thing I know there’s hundreds of hands sticking out! I managed to spot my sister and best mate in the crowd and they handed me a flag. I was nowhere near a medal or even the top 10 but I took the flag and proudly waved it across the line.  

I was nowhere near a medal or even the top 10 but the crowd made me feel like a champion. I’m only 5 foot tall but I felt 7 foot for those last few hundred metres.  My body was wrecked. I stumbled across the line and went down like a sack of potatoes.  The amazing Amy Cragg was still celebrating her fantastic bronze medal (inspiration right there!) Came over to check that I was ok and poured some water over my head before I was carted off in a wheelchair to medical. A medicinal can of coke and a mars bar and I was fine to make the long walk back across the Bridge to the media zone. 
The smile never left my face. My ‘A’ goal had been to finish in the top 15. I’d just missed that but considering I was ranked 23rd going into the race I still over performed to finish 18. I had wanted to run a lot faster than the 2.31 I ended up with. I know I am in far better shape than that but those fast 2 miles at mile 20 & 21 put pay to that, not the first 19 miles.

But would I change anything? Honestly, no. I stuck to my race plan and had a blast doing so. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be anywhere near leading the World Championships Marathon, Never mind being out there in front for over an hour. 

I know some people have criticised the BBC commentary team for being ‘negative’ towards me saying it was only a matter of time before I got caught and that I wouldn’t win a medal but what they were saying was completely true.  Paula and Steve know me well enough to know that I was under no illusion that I could run away from these girls and that I was just running my own race plan.  Paula has seen me train the last few weeks, she’s jumped on a bike and played waterboy on my long runs and Gary, her husband, has paced my track sessions. She knows what shape I’m in and knows how I like to run races. She was almost reading my mind when she said I would be counting down the miles waiting for them to catch me.

I firmly believe that life is about seizing the moment, taking your chances when they come as you’ll never know if you’ll get the same opportunity again.  Im 39 next month,  this was most likely my last World Championships so I wanted to give it my very best shot. I did just that. I finished knowing that I had left everything out there on the road. Not sitting back thinking what if. 

The support and messages ice received has been overwhelming. I’ve been to the stadium every night this week to cheer on my teammates and every night people have stopped me and said how brilliant it was to see a Brit out in front for so long and how I made what could have been a dull race very exciting! I appreciate each and every message I receive. But I don’t do any of this for the game and fortune, I do it because I LOVE it. I’m not an athlete who finds it a chore or a sacrifice to do what I do. I LOVE what I do. I LOVE training. I LOVE competing. And last Sunday I loved the feeling of, for 90 minutes, leading the World in the classic, icon distance…

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IAAF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

A few words about Sundays race…

Thank you to everyone for the support.

Blog to follow…

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The hay is in the barn…

‘The hay is in the barn, don’t create sparks to set it on fire now!’ wise words from little old me mid tempo yesterday and it really is true. I’m currently up in Font Romeu on week 6 of a 7 week training camp preparing for the forth coming IAAF World Championships in London. But first Let’s go back 13 weeks…

April 23rd Virgin Money London Marathon.
I went into the race in great shape, ready to run fast. I didn’t really have a race plan set out other than to run with the 2.28 pacemaker and see how I felt as we got into the race. The outcome is pretty much well known. I felt good and found myself with a slight gap over the other British girls at 10k so pushed on by myself. I was surprised one or two didn’t come with me as there had been whispers of a few going for sub 2.28. I felt great throughout the race. It’s so much harder to run solo, churning out 5.35-40 splits mile after mile with only the help from the very loud crowd to push you on. The girls behind me running in a group with the pacemaker definitely had the easier ride, they just had to tuck in and be dragged along but I like to do things the hard way!

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Last few strides coming down The Mall

By the time I got to mile 23 I could sense that someone was closing in on me. I wasn’t sure how far behind they were or who it was but I had a feeling that it was Charlotte and that turned out to be correct. Unbeknown to me at one point she closed me down to 7 seconds but I kept telling myself I hadn’t ran nearly 20miles by myself to be caught now and kept on pushing. Finally Buckingham Palace came into view and I knew then that I had the 1st Brit spot secured without needing a sprint finish like last year. When I watched back the BBC coverage Paula had commented on there that I was knackered as I came round the corner onto the Mall, it shows how well she knows me because she was so right!!!!

I finally saw the clock and mustered a kind of sprint finish, in my mind I was sprinting like Bolt, on the large screen I looked like a hippo wading through mud!!! I stopped the clock in a nice new PB of 2.29.06. Of course those 7 seconds are still annoying me now but at least I came away from the race knowing I could go faster and where I dropped the time, things to work on during this training cycle.

As 1st Brit and running under 2.36 I was guaranteed selection for the World Champs to be held back in London on August 6th and here I am now just 14 days away from that.

I had my usual 14 days of no running after London and then managed to fit in a nice little jog around the Sunderland Half Marathon. This was a really special day as Paula had agreed to come over and run too. Getting to run your hometown half marathon with the greatest female marathoner (and good friend) is definitely special and created some very precious memories. Of course, just because she’s the GOAT, doesn’t mean I was going to let her win. Even with the marathon still in my legs I managed to out sprint her in a tight but friendly battle to the line.

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Outsprinting the GOAT

I got back into training and suffered a slight hiccup when I picked up a random 24 hour bug. Although the symptoms were short lived I gave myself a few extra days rest just to make sure. I couldn’t afford for it to return. It meant that I was slightly under prepared going into my beloved Blaydon Race and this year I really couldn’t afford to be as I knew that my fellow Rio Olympic marathoner Sonia was also racing. I gave it my best shot but on the day my legs just didn’t have it past the 3 mile mark. I had to settle for 2nd place. I was pretty gutted as I would have loved to have earned the hat-trick but it wasn’t to be. It did however, give me the kick up the backside I needed to get back into good hard training.

So off I popped over here to Font Romeu. Since I got here my training has gone brilliant. I’ve been bashing out the miles on the stunning trails, one week a little too many when I hit 139.4 for the week…opppssss!!! But I’ve managed to average 126mpw over the 1st 5 weeks which includes some really consistent track sessions that have been faster than I’ve done up here in the past and some very strong long tempos. I’ve also been hitting PB’s in the gym too squatting a massive 55.25kg!!! (Baring in mind I currently weigh about 42kg!)

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Strava stats…

I’ve got one last biggish track session left on Wednesday and then that’s me officially on taper. This is the part I hate about marathon training. I LOVE running so having to cut back when you are feeling so fit feels alien to me. I have my tried and tested taper routine of cutting back the volume by 1/3rd in the 1st week and then cutting that volume again by another 1/3rd in the final week. I maintain frequency and intensity during this period so the body doesn’t close down completely and I start feeling lethargic.

I don’t fly into London until the Wednesday before my race. I’ve used this routine for the last 2 London Marathons and despite some freak outs in the first year it’s worked out great both times and I’ve felt amazing on race day. You have to be careful when coming down from altitude to race as you get windows where you feel absolutely horrific due to the body going through re-adaption to see level. I’ve found I can race well on pretty much day 2, 5, 10 and 21 down. But the period between 10 days and 20 days down is horrific especially when I’ve had an extended period (4-6 weeks) up here.

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Pounding the roads in stunning surrounds

So, another summer, another championships. I’m really looking forward to getting out there on the Streets of London and doing myself, my family and my country proud. If you are around Central London at 2pm on 6th August come down to the Tower Bridge/Embankment/St Paul’s area and give us a shout. It’s a 4 lap course so you’ll see lots of action and I can promise you it will be awesome!!

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A quick update

It’s been a while…
I can’t believe it’s only 2 weeks until this year’s London Marathon, where did that year go?! I bet that there are many of you wishing that you could push the date back and have another couple of weeks to get the miles in?! There will also be a few who wishes it was here this weekend. Whichever camp you are in be sensible these next few weeks, this is where most people make the mistakes. They either worry that they haven’t done enough so try to cram more in or are in great shape but instead of just consolidating this shape they try to push on more to get in better shape. Both ways can end in disaster and a not too good race day. So my advice is to just stick to what you have planned. It’s far better to get to the startline slightly undercooked than slightly overcooked or even worse, don’t even make it to the startline. Whatever you do in training now wont give you any extra fitness benefit for the marathon but it can push you over that dangerous redline of injury and or overdoing it so sit back relax and trust in the training that you have banked. These last few weeks are for practicing what you will actually do on race day. So for your last long run, get up at the same time you will on race day. Have the same breakfast at the same time. Wear the same kit – including socks, and undies!! And make sure you practice your race nutrition. If you’ve not tried lucozade sport yet, grab some and try it, race day is not the time to discover that it doesn’t agree with your stomach!!
For me, I’m once again training in my 2nd favourite place in the world – Font Romeu. I’ve been up here for a few weeks now and loving it as much as ever. Like the rest of you the hard work is already in the bank, just another week or two of some sharpening and freshening up and I’ll be ready to go.
So far training has gone really well. Since the beginning of the year I’ve averaged 111 miles a week. I spent January in Kenya again. I loved every second of it this year thanks to a great group of guys to train and hang out with. It great to see people actually training together in groups this year instead of everyone doing their own thing like last year. It made the trip so much more beneficial and enjoyable. I changed my training slightly a few times and jumped in with the middle distance girls for some sessions and once again discovered that I am never going to make a 800 or 1500m runner!! But it was fun and beneficial to get some fast 1k, and 400m, 300m, 200m reps done300m, even if I was left flat on my back after!
I’ve been left a bit frustrated with the races I’ve done so far. I know I’m in great shape but it’s just not showing itself in races. Mind, the weather isn’t helping and my glute med going into cramp at Reading wasn’t ideal. But at the end of the day I know what shape I’m in from training and fast races in the build up to a marathon don’t really mean much it’s what happens on the streets of London come the 23rd April that counts and I’d swap all the fast times in the world for a good one that day!
Thankfully it hasn’t all been hard training lately. I’ve managed to do some fun things with family too. I miss out a lot on school holiday fun with my nephew and cousin so during the February half term I York them down to Jump 360 in Stockton and had some fun bouncing around on the trampolines. It’s a brilliant place for both kids and adults – I think my sister had more fun than the kids. There’s lads of different parts to the park, not just trampolines. There’s a giant airbag, dodge ball, balance beam, foam pit, stunt beds and much much more. Unfortunately I couldn’t bounce around too much as I was worried about getting injured but the others loved it and we had to drag the two young ones off! I’ll definitely be taking them back after London so that I can join in with the fun more.

Good luck to everyone running London and also those running Brighton marathon tomorrow.  I’m

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Her name is…

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Cool passport stamp!

All in all if I said the whole Rio experience was beyond brilliant it would be an understatement. I know it sounds cheesy and far fetched but it was everything I had dreamed it would be and then about 100 times more. It truly blew my mind!

I had left my training base up in Font Romeu under a bit of a dark cloud having taken a tumble and spent a stressful 48 hours getting checked out. Thankfully everything was OK. My knee was a bit sore from bashing it but a day or two of rest and an aqua run session and I was back in the game. I knew I was in very good shape and all the rest of my preparations had gone very well.so an extra day or two of rest at this point would do no harm.

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Staying cool at the holding camp

I always said that once I got to Heathrow to fly to Brazil that everything would hit me and it would all feel real. However, checking in for our flight behind Chris Froome and having Andy Murray and Princess Anne on my flight just made the whole thing seem even more surreal than ever!!

The holding camp at Belo Horizonte was great. It was a BOA camp so we were staying with some of the other sports though because of the competition schedules it was largely athletics that was there whilst I was there. We had our own opening ceremony party in the town where we got to wear our lovely Stella McCartney outfits and watch the ceremony on a big screen in an auditorium. The cheer which went up as GB matched on was incredible.

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Just chilling…

I moved down to Rio on the Thursday before my race. Walking into the village sent shivers down my spine. I kind of knew what to expect from staying in the village at Glasgow Commonwealth Games but this was so much more. Block after block of apartments all decked out in each teams colours. GB had a whole block to themselves and all the balconies had Union Jacks on them. The garden area outside had been decked out with artificial grass, pool table, table football and Union Jack deckchairs with large screen TV to watch BBC coverage of the games. The entrance had a giant TEAM GB rug and there was special TEAM GB Brompton bikes for us to use to get around the village. We had use of shared swimming pools which became very popular as people finished their competitions.

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Belo Horizonte = beautiful horizon

The food hall – the one thing that everyone asks about! – was HUGE and catered for all types of tastebuds, apart from cake, they didn’t do good cake!!! It was open 24/7 and despite catering for 11,000 athletes it never felt crowded and you could always find a seat with ease. The food was good but pretty bland which is what you need before competing but it wasn’t the best once you had finished and were looking for some good old pig out food. Luckily there was a free McDonalds in the village plaza to help with this. This was one of the things that I had been looking forward to! I’m not one to eat McDonald’s normally, I maybe have one a year. But you hear the stories of all the different athletes eating the free McDonalds at the Olympic Games and you feel that you need to take part just as part of the whole Olympic experience. Great marketing from McDonalds as thousands of athletes hit social media with photos of them tucking into McDonald feasts!! The only problem was that it was only open 9am – 9pm and as people completed their competitions the queues got bigger and bigger. Some days they were up to 3 hours long!! I didn’t want free McDonalds THAT much!!After my race I managed to enjoy the rest of the games experience. I got around to see a few different sports. I went to the velodrome for the last night of the cycling and saw Team GB win a few medals, I watched a few games of tennis and I went along to watch the hockey girls make the final. I also helped with the feed stations for the men’s marathon, no better way to get a ringside seat than stand in the pouring rain and hand out bottles to our guys!!

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British House 

I also visited a few of the hospitality houses, the best of which was Beats. We were really lucky to get on the guest list for this one as it was VERY popular, but luckily we made it. The house was AMAZING and we had a great chilled out afternoon and of course came away with our lovely free Union Jack Beats headphones!!

MyMam and Dad had made a late decision to come out. My Dad had always looked into coming over but finances were a big stumbling block. My Mam on the other hand had always said she was too scared to travel to the other side of the world and didn’t like the horror stories she had heard.

In the end they were very lucky to be given 4 nights free hotel accommodation from Proctor and Gamble which really eased the financial burden. It meant that both of them could come over more or less for the price my Dad was going to pay for just him.

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We found some rings in the village…

Once they got there they absolutely loved it. They were shouting with such pride every time I raced past. The last time I went past them my Mam shouted that she was so proud of me. I could hear her voice crack as she said it and I had to fight really hard to keep my own emotions under control because of it. Last thing I wanted with about 12km to go was to be bursting out in tears!!

Village at night

Village at night

I finally got to do some touristy stuff on the final Saturday when I went up to see Christ the Redeemer. You can’t go all the way to Rio and not see it! It was well worth the trip as the views from up the top were amazing! We had planned on doing Sugarloaf Mountain on the Monday morning before we left but when we woke up the weather was crap so we decided it wasn’t worth it plus it would have been pushing it to get back in time for our bus to the airport!!

Being tourists

Being tourists

The flight home was a perfect closing to the whole experience. We were travelling home on a special chartered BA flight – VictoRIOus – complete with gold nose cone. As with most other overnight long haul flights I’ve been on, I was expecting people to stay awake for some food and then get some sleep and not wake up until an hour or so before landing in Heathrow. This was completely different!!

We started the flight with a champagne toast from the Captain and the singing of the National Anthem. That kickstarted the party which went on until we hit a bit of turbulence and the seatbelt sign had to be switched on. I’ve never experienced a party flight like it. We managed to go through 77 bottles of champagne!!

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Getting soaked at the closing ceremony 

The BOA really know how to do Olympics. When you know what goes on behind the scenes it’s no surprise that the team was the most successful for a long time and we were the first Nation to ever beat the medal tally of a previous home Games. Even though I didn’t add to that medal tally, I am still immensely proud to say that I was part of that team. I played my part in its success and hopefully I have inspired someone to follow their dreams the same way I did back in 1992 watching the Barcelona Games.

It took me nearly 25 years to finally reach that dream but I did make it and now I am an Olympian and no one can ever take that away from me. I will forever be proud of what I have achieved both in Rio and my journey getting there.

The only tattoo I would ever get!

The only tattoo I will ever get!

Of course the question everyone is now asking is what’s next? Tokyo 2020? Well I certainly have no plans to retire just yet but whether my body will let me go on for another 4 years in another thing. I would love to do the World Championships in London next year but apart from that it’s just a case of taking it a year at a time. As long as I am still performing and most importantly still enjoying it then I will go on for as long as the body will allow me.

Proud parents

VERY proud parents

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Rio – the race…

The big one, the Olympic Marathon 2016…

I had spent the last 3 months trying to convince myself that it was just any other race so that I didn’t get too worked up about it and waste too much nervous energy.  Training had gone well in the tight turn around from the Virgin Money London Marathon and I had put in 2 solid races at Blaydon and the European Half marathon championships. But this was the focus, the one which I’d dreamed of for over 25 years.

"That'll make an awesome Instagram"

“That’ll make an awesome Instagram”

The weather forecast said it was going to be pretty warm – 26 degrees at the start and rising to around 30 degrees by the time I finished. Add this to the predicted humidity levels of around 85% and it wasn’t looking towards a comfortable race! As it turned out temperatures hit a high of 34 which I can confirm is pretty hot for running a marathon!!

Thanks to the support of British Athletics, British Olympic Association, London Marathon and the National Lottery, I was well prepared. I’d been up in Font Romeu for 2 months where we had had days in the high to late 20’s and then I spent 11 days in Belo Horizonte where temperatures topped 30 alongside some high humidity. I’d practiced pre race cooling using ice vests, iced wrist bands and had tried using a high sodium drink which acts as a plasma expander to help your body cope with high temperatures better.

On race day, I completely forgot to take the wrist bands and sodium drink with me so it was down to the ice vest and lots of ice cubes under a cap to try and cool the body down during my brief warm up and before the race start.

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Once we got through the pretty chaotic call room – queues for transponders, led to queues for number change (font on originals was too small), led to queues for athletes involved in the call forwards! There was time to pour a final bottle of water over the head before running to the start-line just in time for the gun to go. This left me towards the back of the field but I was fine with that as my race plan was to go out conservatively and pick up in the final quarter with the aim of finishing strongly and passing those who had over cooked it early on.

As we didn’t know how the heat was going to effect me in the latter stages I was prepared to go out as slow as 6 minute miles to make sure that I didn’t over do things early on. I started at what felt like a jog but when my watch bleeped for the first mile I was quite surprised to see 5.43 on it. I did ease back a bit and even though I felt that I was still at a jog my next mile was still only seconds slower.

On a day like this I knew that hydration was going to make a huge difference to performance so I made sure that I took fluid on board at every opportunity. We had our personal bottles every 5km and there was sponges and bottled water in the 5k in between. I made sure I drank all of my personal carb and electroltye drink and grabbed a bottle of water and took a few mouthfuls from that and poured the rest over my head, neck, wrists and thighs, the key trigger points for cooling.

I settled into a nice little pack containing fellow Brit Sonia Samuels and we all worked well together. There had been no conversation between us about working together but we are pretty evenly matched over the marathon so it naturally fell that we ended up in the same group.

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When we hit the loop part of the course I remember looking up and seeing Sugarloaf Mountain looming over up and thinking to myself “that would make a great Instagram!” Thankfully my teammate Lennie Waite clearly thought the same and managed to get a snap of me running with it in the background. There is also a few awesome shots with Christ the Redeemer photobombing us!

As you can tell by the above, I was feeling very relaxed at this point. In fact I was pretty relaxed the full way. The crowd support was amazing with loads of Union Jacks being waved and people from all over the world supporting us with shouts. I managed to pick my parents and club mate out of the crowd and give them a wave each time I went by. Sonia’s husband Nick managed to run nearly every step of that 30k section of the course alongside us and whilst he was there supporting Sonia and not me, his presence alongside us really spurred me on.

Just before 30km I sensed that the others in the group were starting to fade a bit and the pace was dropping. I was quite aware that with 12km to go any extra effort at this point could come back and bite me on the bum in the closing stages so I just kept the effort levels and pace the same and this opened up a small gap between me and the other girls. It meant I ran the rest of the race by myself but I was feeling really good and strong so I was ok with that. Girls ahead had been coming back to us from as early on as 10k so I used those to help keep focus once we left the crowded part and entered quieter parts of the course.

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Although I slowed very slightly over the last 10k I kept the effort strong right through to 40km when I lost about 20 seconds looking for my drink bottle. This station wasn’t manned by our team staff and I didn’t spot my bottle. Each water station was a good 80metres long to fit in tables for every country participating. On the previous stations we’d had one of our team staff manning the table and waving to us to identify where they were. With there being no-one at this station I had to slow down quite a bit to try and spot our table and my bottle. I totally failed on this and missed my bottle completely. From a nutrition viewpoint it wasn’t a big deal that I missed the bottle as I didn’t need any extra energy at that point, I was still feeling good. But with the heat increasing all the time I needed something to wet my mouth. Luckily I managed to get back into rhythm quickly, grabbed a sponge a little further on and finished strong.

On the long road up to the finish stadium there was a few protests going on. At about 25 miles a woman managed to get onto the course just ahead of me and although she wasn’t impeding the race security weren’t happy for her to be there so 4 guys kindly carted her off! A little further up as I turned the final corner into the Sambodromo stadium for the long run in another protester stuck a placard out which hit me in the face! Luckily It didn’t cause any damage and I was still strong enough to swerve enough without hitting it too badly but it certainly wasn’t the best thing to happen with half a mile to go in a marathon.

The finish straight was LONG!! Even though we’d ran down it at the start I hadn’t remembered how long it actually was so as I turned the corner I start to put a bit of a spurt on thinking I had  200 metres at most left only to still be running for another 2 minutes or so! After a bit I realised that it was quite long so eased off the gas and just enjoyed the crowds and the finish. I crossed the line with a huge smile on my face and I loved it so much that the first words I said to the waiting media guys was ‘can I do it again?”

My immediate reaction was that I had a very strong race and I was very happy with the way I had ran and where I had finished. I had planned to go off steady and make my way through the field which I did very well. I was 81st at 5k and finished 27th out of 157 starters. Considering I went into the race ranked 47th and there was only 2 people finished in front of me with slower PB’s meant I had performed well above what was expected. For the stat geeks amongst you my mile splits can be found here: https://www.strava.com/activities/676313104

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However, now that I can sit back and reflect a bit more I think I could have probably pushed on a little bit more in the first half. I was feeling very relaxed and strong but was worried about what the heat would do to me in the final 10k. I’m not used to running in temperatures like that so it was an unknown as to how I would cope. Yes, I spent nearly 2 weeks prior to my race in Brazil to acclimatise but my training at this point wasn’t long or of a high intensity to be able to judge how I would react so caution was the best approach.

The other thing that is really annoying me is losing the time at the 40k feed station looking for my bottle. I didn’t need this bottle and the time which I lost looking for it meant that the couple of girls just in front of me, who I’don’t spent time closing in on, got a little further away again. Had they still been in catching distance I would have pushed harder right to the line instead of stepping off the gas in the last mile. Top 20 was out of reach but top 25 could have been possible. But of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

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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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