Aly Dixon: Retire? Never! - Women's Running

Aly Dixon: Retire? Never!

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  June 25, 2014

Aly Dixon: Retire? Never!

Aly Dixon: Retire? Never!

What’s a typical day in the life of Aly Dixon?

On a Monday/Wednesday/Friday it’s normally a 6.30 alarm and out the door by 7am for my first run. This can be anything from five miles to 15 miles. I then do some foam rolling, have a shower and breakfast and then off to work. After work it’s another run, more foam rolling, dinner, relax time then bed by around 10pm. I tend not to work on a Tuesday so its more or less the same routine as the other days but I go to the gym on the afternoon for a strength and conditioning session and then will do a session on the evening rather than just another run. Thursday I work on the morning and then head straight to the gym and follow this up with an evening tempo run.

Is there a particular sportsperson you admire?

Paula Radcliffe has always been a great inspiration to me. She has totally changed women’s marathon running and has done it all through lots and lots of hard work and dedication. I have been very lucky to meet Paula on a number of occasions now and was very lucky to work with her whilst out in Kenya recently. It was quite surreal having her standing timing my sessions and handing me drinks during my runs.

What’s the best bit of running advice that you have ever received?

When I very first ran for GB back in 2009 Charlie Spedding gave me a copy of his book From Last to First (Great read, I recommend it to everyone) and wrote a message in it saying ‘be the best YOU can be, don’t worry about what others do’. Its very true as you can only control you and worrying about other people will only have a negative effect on your performance.

You have had massive breakthroughs in the past year – what is your long-term ultimate goal?

My focus for the last 18 months has been to make the team for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer and then when I get there to make an impact on the race. Ultimately I would love to try and make the GB team for the Rio Olympics but I will look more at that once this summer is over.

Have you thought about retirement or is that an offensive ridiculous question when it looks like you haven’t reached your peak yet?

To be honest I actually seriously thought about retirement back in 2012 after a disappointing London Marathon. I wound things down a bit and did a lot of local races and found my mojo again and realised that I still loved running too much to retire so gave it another go and so happy that I did! When people now ask me about it I reply saying, no point in retiring when you’re still on the rise! I also agree with what Paula has said recently, distance runners never really retire they just don’t perform to a high level anymore. I’ll always run.

Aly Dixon: Retire? Never! 2

It’s hard to make distance running ‘sexy’, says Aly Dixon


What do you think would help more help teenage girls to take up athletics? Did you ever have any reservations about participating in sport as a teenager?

I think we need to try and show the more glamorous side of the sport a bit more. It’s hard to make distance running ‘sexy’ as we all look knackered when we finish but if we can somehow show the youngsters that’s its not all sweat and spit I do think that will help a bit. I never had any reservations but I think if you love doing something then you don’t have reservations. It never came easy to me but I loved being out their running and a lot of my friends were at the running club so it became a big social aspect of my life too.

What career would you pursue if you weren’t an athlete?

I have worked in the sports development industry in the past and now work in running retail. I would love to go back into sports development when I wind down my running or do something like coaching.

What is your favourite way to relax? What makes you happiest?

Funnily enough going for a run! There’s nothing better than putting your shoes on and heading out onto one of your favourite run routes after a stressful day. Other than running spending time with family, playing with my young nephew and cousin is usually when I am happiest.

You were the only woman to compete in the UK Athletic Champs last year – was this a bizarre experience? Why do you think that you were the only woman to enter and how was the experience of running in the men’s race?

It was quite bizarre being the only woman on the start line. There was a good entry for the race but one by one they withdrew in the week leading up to the race. I got a call the night before the scheduled race whilst on my way down to Birmingham to say that the race was cancelled due to too many withdrawals. As I was on my way there and my training had all been focused on this race I asked if I could run in with the men so that my trip wasn’t wasted. UKa eventually agreed to this which was great of them as they could have easily said no. I’m used to running with men in road races but being the only woman and knowing that you are going to be running 25 laps solo was a bit daunting but I just put my head down and got on with it. The most bizarre part was when all the men had finished and I still had two laps to go – running completely alone around Alexandra Stadium with a crowd of around 1,000 people cheering you on is something that I will probably never experience ever again!

Aly Dixon

‘I don’t really use psychology in my training and racing’, says Aly Dixon

Does this indicate a lack of interest in track running for women?

I don’t think last year’s champs does indicate a lack of interest in women’s track as there was still big fields in the various British Milers Club meets over the summer and this year’s Highgate night of the 10,000m showed that there is still a desire for the event from women, I just think that last year’s event was at the wrong time of year for most people.

You missed out on going to Worlds by eight seconds – how do you cope with disappointment and get back into training? Are there any psychological techniques that you use?

Missing out by such a small margin was gutting at the time. I had run a massive PB (nearly four minutes) but my initial reaction was disappointment at missing the Worlds qualifier. I don’t really use psychology in my training and racing as I am quite good at extracting the positives from situations, learning my lessons from bad races and moving on without fretting over them. After Brighton I got a few words of wisdom from those around me which soon had me realising and the improvement I had made over the last two years so I was very happy that everything was now going in the right direction. The disappointment changed to belief that on a good day on a faster course I can go sub 2:30. I know that this wouldn’t have happened at the World Champs so apart from missing out on the opportunity to represent my country I was actually better off racing at somewhere like Berlin or Frankfurt in the autumn.

Why did you choose not to compete in this year’s London Marathon? How easy was that decision?

As I had recorded a time well below the England Athletics qualifying time for this year’s Commonwealth Games back at Brighton last year I made the decision to sit out London and any other spring time marathons in order to put my whole focus on to preparing as best as I can possibly can for the Games. The timescale between London and Glasgow is quite short so I felt that running a marathon at that stage would take a lot of recovery which would eat into training for the Games themselves. It wasn’t a hard decision to make as you have to look at the bigger picture. Had more girls been down to race London it would have made it a more nervous watch for me but as it turned out my decision seems to have paid off as I’ve managed to run a fast half marathon and finish top 20 at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships as well as running a fast 10K. All of this has increased my confidence of performing well at the Games should I get selected (the team is selected on June 2) 

If you are officially selected for the Commonwealth Games how will you adapt your training to get in PB shape?

I have already started marathon training with the hope of being selected for the Commonwealth Games. I have found over the last two years of coaching myself that I now know what training works for me and how to make sure that I am in peak shape for important races. My weekly training will consist of high miles (115-120 miles per week) made up of a long run, (up to 26 miles) a long tempo (10-16 miles) and a session made up of a mix of tempo and track reps. This training set up has seen me run PBs in every distance from 5K to marathon over the last year so I believe it works well for me and will see me in my best possible shape come July 27.

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Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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