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dixon scaling new heights

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Shaun Dixon

As the 2014 British Athletics Mountain Running Challenge got underway a fortnight ago at the CAU Inter Counties, Shaun Dixon was not a name that many would have predicted as one of the days winners.

As it was, Dixon flew down the final descent like a natural to take victory, and speaking after a midday nap the day after the race, he discussed how his legs were feeling after his first ever hill race.

“My IT bands are pretty sore today! I had a little jog this morning and I’m feeling pretty stiff, but it’s all good!

“I was told it was a good one to start with as I haven’t done anything like this before, and I definitely found the hill pretty challenging on the third lap. I was struggling up it that final time!”

Not a bad debut by any means, but Dixon certainly has pedigree, as he demonstrated when finishing fourth at last years’ English National Cross Country Championships.

However the last six months haven’t been plain sailing for the Highgate Harrier, his winter this year not quite matching up to his stellar 2013.

“I’ve had a bit of a bad cross country season this year, with a lot of illnesses, and it seemed every time I got back into training I’d come down with something else! In the end I didn’t manage a single session between December and February, so it’s nice to get a bit of form back and start running properly again.”

However as his performance in Blackburn indicated, things are looking up.

“I was in the B race at the Highgate Night of the 10,000m PB’s last Saturday [which incorporated the British 10,000m Championships] and I ran quite well in that one, just sitting in and clocking 30.16, with the race won in 30.09. So I just tried to do the same again and not go off too fast given I didn’t know what the race would be like and then try and go past them on the last lap.

"But it wasn’t until the descent coming back off the hill that I properly managed to get a gap on Tom [Addison, runner-up on the day], as he was always with me, just a couple of steps behind. Coming down that final hill, I think the track speed really helped.”

But the big question is how does a man from London, an area that doesn’t typically get involved with the predominantly Northern part of the sport that is mountain running, end up racing on the hills?

“I keep getting an email from Andrew Owen, the Middlesex captain, every year following the cross country season asking if I’d give it a go. Every year I’ve wanted to do it, but have never been able to fit in the schedule. It usually clashes with the Bristol 10k or something similar, but this year the race had a weekend of its own as it were, and so I thought I’d make my first crack at it and I’m glad I did!

“I would be quite keen to do more races like the one in Blackburn, and so if I can get in the European team I’d love to give it a crack. However I’ve got best man duties on the same day as the second race in the series, the European Championship trial, which is really frustrating; I’m not sure how I’m going to get round that one!”

Running aside, we wondered how Dixon finds time to be napping on a Monday afternoon, when trying to balance working and training.

“At the moment I do a couple of things. The first is a bit of running coaching and the second thing I do is run a group called Good Gym in Camden, which is a social enterprise, and we get money from local councils to try and pair volunteering with physical exercise. We basically get people who run to drop in once a week to visit an isolated older person in London and just drop them a newspaper round. It’s a really nice thing to do, and nice for the older person to get a visit once a week. I organise that in Camden, as well as a weekly run where we go and do digging for a local school, or a bit of community gardening. It’s all good fun and it keeps me running.

“Last year I worked in an office and I actually found my running performance dropped, but now I have a much more flexible schedule, which allows me to train a bit harder and have naps like I was doing just now!”

The other thing that helps make Dixon a memorable face on the endurance circuit are his long flowing locks, something that started as a bit of a laugh, but may well be here to stay.

“I don’t know where the hair came from! I decided I fancied a bit of a change and so just left it to grow. The girlfriend likes it, and I’m happy to keep it and now the headband has come in to keep it out of my eyes! So as long as I’m running alright and it doesn’t get in the way I think I’ll keep it a while longer!”

For further information on Mountain Running, including the British Athletics Mountain Running Challenge, please click here.