4th September 2019


Few, if any, turn up at an event new to them and become the best in the world. Yet when Aly Dixon (Sunderland Strollers) stepped onto the line of her first 50km race in Brasov, Romania at the World Championships, she wasn’t aware that she would be re-writing the record books.

On her British debut over the 50km, Dixon produced a headstrong display and powered through to gold in 3:07:20, with fellow Briton Helen Davies (Ipswich Jaffa) claiming a silver medal behind her.

Dixon has been a late bloomer as an athlete having made her British debut aged 30 at the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, before running the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu in 2011.

Dixon became a marathon Olympian, finishing 28th at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 as well as boldly running hard in the World Championships in London in 2017, finishing 18th.

All of these achievements occurred during Dixon’s thirties – an age that usually signals a downturn in performance – yet her biggest achievement to date came just weeks before her 41st birthday.

“On an individual basis you go into these type of races hoping to do the best you can,” said Dixon. “I would’ve been happy with the bronze and on the day, I decided to just go for it.

“I didn’t know what the world record was,” she said. “When we got there on the weekend people kept speaking about breaking the world record.

“I was thinking it was 3:06 and it turns out it was 3:08. I still thought that might be a little beyond my reach for the first one because I didn’t want to go all guns blazing and blow up in the last five miles.

“I didn’t think of that record during the race. The last 4.5km I knew I pretty much had the race win in the bag and the team manager shouted, ‘you’re going to smash the world record’ and I didn’t realise I was still going that quick.

“I couldn’t compute what time I was on so I absolutely legged it over the last two and a half miles. It was quite special.”

Dixon had the perfect race: a world record, an individual gold and a dominant team win in the event too. Despite the strength of the current team, she does believe that there is untapped potential in younger athletes over the 50km and the marathon.

“I looked at the British record and I thought I could break that. I see a lot of girls in Britain who run 2:33, 2:34 for a marathon – that won’t get you on the British team because it’s still a minute off qualifying.

“Why not give 50km a go? If you don’t like it or if it doesn’t go well, it’s just one race and you can go back to the marathon. I do think some of them would suit the 50km because they’re very strong – those who don’t completely die over the last 10km. There are some out there who could give it a go and smash the time that I did.”

Dixon’s been vocal about looking for younger athletes as potential marathon athletes for the future, stating that some junior cross-country runners should be scouted to race marathons in their mid-twenties.

With success stories coming in the form of Charlotte Purdue (Nic Bideau; Aldershot Farnham & District) and Callum Hawkins (Robert Hawkins; Kilbarchan) who raced their first over the distance at 24 and 23-years-old respectively as well as 50k World bronze medallist Dan Nash being 24, there is some validity to her argument.

“There was always a case of being told that you don’t do a marathon until you’re in your thirties and you tend to stick over the shorter stuff at a younger age. I think seeing the likes of Callum move up at a younger age knowing they’re not fast enough on the track – I think it’s a positive.”

And Dixon isn’t finished trying to be the best. Coming off the highs of breaking the world record, she is hoping to break another in a more, niche category. She is planning to run a half marathon dressed up as a superhero in under 84 minutes, to break another record. Originally suggested by her to Paula Radcliffe, she has decided to take the challenge on herself.

Dixon’s impressive times mixed with her enjoyment for charity running and dressing up as Wonder Woman has had her dubbed as the best fun runner in Britain. Usually when an athlete joins the elite ranks, there is little time in their plan to take part in more enjoyable events but she always makes room for them, feeling it’s integral to her.

“I don’t run because I happen to be pretty decent at it, I run because I love it. I love the community. Being a late developer on the international scene, it’s what I’ve known for a long time.

“You need to enjoy it along the way because you get to a point where you look back and you realise that you never properly celebrated a victory or you might regret not doing an event that would’ve meant a lot to people who I was doing it with. If I can get one person to be their running shoes on, that’s all that matters to me.”

Among the fundraising for charities and having fun, she still has a lot to aim for. Opting not to attempt qualification for Doha, it paid off with her two gold medals and new world record. Now, going into the winter before 2020 comes around, Dixon has her eyes set on making the Olympic team in Tokyo.

“If you asked me this time last year about Tokyo, it would’ve been out of the picture. It wasn’t something I was going for but I have managed to get myself in good shape over the summer.

“I’m hoping to find a quick marathon this side of Christmas and attempt the time. If I get the time, then I’ll do London and try and get first Brit for the qualification. If I don’t make it, I have nothing to lose. I’ve been to an Olympics so it’s not life and death if I don’t get to go to Tokyo.”