As Sunderland’s newest Olympian, Alyson Dixon, re-starts training in preparation for Rio, the marathon runner says that qualification for this summer’s Olympics has already changed her life.
Dixon was the fastest British women at the London Marathon just over two weeks ago – qualifying her to represent Team GB at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro this summer – and has since been thrust into the spotlight.
“There’s still that big feeling of disbelief,” said Dixon.
“It’s something that I have wanted and dreamed off for so long, and you look at the odds and it’s something like one in a million so you’ve probably got more chance of winning the lottery.”
She added: “[I’m] absolutely delighted to eventually do it but there is still that bit of disbelief that it has actually happened. Then there is just this getting used to it.
“People were telling me that it will change your life and I thought ‘yeah, yeah, it’s just another race. I’ve done World Championships and that, what’s different?’ But it really has, all of a sudden you are thrust into the spotlight and it’s getting used to that.”
Although it will be Dixon’s first time at the Olympics, she has previously competed at World Championships and represented England at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
The runner now feels that the experience she gained in Glasgow two years ago will be invaluable in Rio.
“I think that will really help because I now know what to expect, it’s like a bubble really so I know what to expect going into that bubble,” said Dixon.
“Having been in Glasgow and lived in the village, I’ve had that experience of walking into the giant dining hall and been like ‘oh my god there’s Bradley Wiggins’, ‘oh my god there’s Tom Daley’.
“It’s getting used to, yes these are sports superstars sort of thing but you are there on an equal level.
“Being in that situation in Glasgow did help because it taught me you can’t just spend your time in the food hall taking advantage of the free food, you’ve still got a race to run.”
However Dixon still expects that it will take some getting used to in Rio as the Olympics is a much bigger stage than the Commonwealth Games.
“The Olympics is just so much bigger, I think I will get there and it will slightly kind of blow my mind. Luckily we don’t get taken into the village until probably about two days before our race so I haven’t got too much time in there before hand to totally frazzle me.
“I made the mistakes in Glasgow so hopefully they will help me come Rio.”
Since the London Marathon Dixon has spent a lot of time speaking to the media and even got to visit Sunderland AFC’s training ground and meet Fabio Borini.
“Borini has been sending messages of Support since Great North Run then Sam Allardyce put out a tweet saying well done. It was quite good that they had taken an interest.
“The support off the people in Sunderland has been absolutely mental. People calling us [Dixon and Borini] two heroes, two sports stars and I was a bit like ‘woah’ because he is used to that sort of worship but I am not. It’s quite bizarre.”
But it’s not all been glitz and glamour.
A week on from that day in London, Dixon was back on the streets of Sunderland helping pack bags for the Sunderland 10K race and presented the medals after the race.
“I promised the guys at Sunderland 10K that I would help out, no matter what happened at London I would be there and seven hours packing goody bags and handing out medals,” said Dixon.
“You’ve got to remember your roots. People have said this will change your life, but I don’t want it to change the person I am. Yes, I might have this increased status but I am still the same person that I was the week before the London Marathon, I am still out there helping out and giving back.”
Dixon added: “It was so good to be down there and just seeing everyone and just seeing the delight on people coming over to congratulate me, saying I had inspired them and that sort of thing. That gives you that nice warm feeling.
“It’s not just getting big-headed and thinking ‘look at all of these people loving me’, but when they say that I have inspired them and that their daughters want to go running now and that sort of stuff, it’s showing that you have done something for other people as well.”
After taking some time to rest after the London Marathon, Dixon is back in training this week as she prepares to compete on the biggest stage of all.
The countdown is on and it’s less than 14 weeks until the women’s marathon in Rio, on August 14.