Hi, I’m Alyson (Aly) Dixon and I’m a GB international distance runner. My main event is the marathon but I also compete in many other distances including 5k, 10k and half marathon. I have represented GB at 10,000m on the track (European Cup Championships) and Half Marathon (IAAF World Championships twice) and Marathon (IAAF World Championships and this summer’s Commonwealth Games for England) on the roads.
I have been involved in athletics all my life thanks to my Dad being a marathon runner. As a child my weekends were spent going to watch Dad race. I would do the fun runs which, back then, nearly all of the races would have alongside them. It wasn’t until I went to secondary school and I was only named as reserve for the town cross country champs that I decided I wanted to do some training. The next summer I joined my local club as I heard that they were having a trip to Flamingoland theme park and the rest as they say, is history! That was when I was 12 and it wasn't until I was 16 that I won my first race and then I had to wait until I was 29 to gain my first international honours! It’s definitely been a marathon and not a sprint!!
Most days my alarm goes off about 6-6.30 and I will do an easy run of between 5 and 15 miles before breakfast. On Tuesday and Thursdays I will then do a gym based strength and conditioning session after lunch and then hard session on a Tuesday night or a tempo run on a Thursday night. A Friday tends to be a rest day or a very easy recovery run and Saturday morning will either be a parkrun or some shorter, faster reps or a mixture of both. Sunday is long run day which can vary in length from 18 miles to 26.2miles.
I’m pretty well self-motivated to get out the door. I set myself good achievable targets which I know I won’t reach if I don’t put the work in so I get out and get it done. It also helps that I have a great bunch of club mates who help me out with some of my training. I coach the lads and where I can I get them to help me out with track reps or tempos. It works quite well for both parties and the lads are enjoying setting some great PBs because of it.
During marathon training I don’t really have a social life! My socialising tends to be with fellow runners out on the tarmac! I do work part time at my local branch of Sweatshop. This job is great for me as not only do I get to talk running all day whilst at work but it is a casual contract so I can more or less pick and choose my hours and days worked. It means I don’t have to worry about using holidays for training camps or racing abroad and I can work hours around training and race demands. During marathon training long shifts at work can leave me a little more tired than normal but unfortunately running doesn’t quite pay the bills so it’s something I have just got to live with. I tend not to work on Tuesdays as that is my big training day.
I don’t follow any diet; I just try to eat as healthily as I can. I’ve always found that if I deny myself anything like chocolate or biscuits I just end up going crazy craving them so as long as I don’t eat a whole packet, I’ll have a biscuit (or two!) if I want one.
My favourite snack pre and post training is Malt loaf. When it comes to fuelling for long runs I use a mixture of carb drinks and high carb snacks. Recently discovering Chia Charge has been a god send as they are very easily digestible, packed with carbs and taste great!
On a few of my longer tempo runs I have found that I’ve been getting stomach cramps so I have recently been advised to try and cut gluten out of my diet before I race my next marathon to try and reduce the risk of tummy trouble during the race. It’s going to be hard not having Maltloaf for 3 weeks but if it helps my performance than I am willing to sacrifice it. Luckily Chia Charge comes in a gluten free version.
My 4 GB vests are all big achievements which I am very proud of and being selected to run at the Commonwealth Games was a schoolgirl dream come true. I think my best performance to date is my 18th place finish at the IAAF World Half Marathon in Copenhagen this year. Not only did I finish I the top 20 of a World Championships but I recorded a 40 second PB to run 70.37 which ranks me as 11th fastest female of all time in GB.
It's starting to sink in. It was a bit of a weird situation as I ran the qualifying time a year gone April and then had to sit and watch what the other girls ran over the next 12 months. Luckily none of them ran faster than me and I was finally selected for the team at the beginning of June. I then had to keep this news to myself until the team was announced 2 weeks later. Like I’ve said above, running at the Commonwealth Games was a childhood dream so to then have to keep my selection quiet for so long was a nightmare! When it was finally announced it was great and the excitement started to build. It started to sink in a bit more when I travelled to St Georges Park the other week to pick up all of my kit and now as the days are counting down and the promos are being played on BBC it’s starting to really feel real. Although I don’t think it will truly sink in until I check into the athletes village and walk into the massive food hall for the first time – that’s when most athletes realise the size of the event they are competing in.
I’ve prepared the same as I did for my last marathon. I haven’t been away on any camps or anything; I’ve just stayed at home and got the work in. There’s been one or two bumps in the build-up but to be honest I would rather have that than the perfect build up as I always worry when things go too well that race day will be when a hiccup attacks. I’ve been averaging around 105-108 miles a week with some weeks slightly higher and some lower. I’ve done lots of long runs – 23 miles plus and some good longer tempos. I raced a half marathon in the Czech Republic two weeks ago which was a good solid run on what turned out to be a slowish course.
I’m now at the stage of my preparations where I have to listen very carefully to my body as it’s very easy to overdo things at this stage. It really is a case of less is more now and I won’t be afraid to take an extra recovery day if I feel my body needs it. If I overdo things now I don’t have time to dig myself back out of the hole and I wont perform at my best come 27th July.
A huge thanks to Aly for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish her all the best for the up and coming Commonwealth Games 2014 which run between 23 July — 3 August 2014 in Glasgow.
You can find Aly on twitter @alydixon262 and be sure to check out her website alydixon.com.