Star of the show at Sunday's sunny Brighton Marathon was Sunderland's Alyson Dixon who smashed the course record, shot to the top of the UK rankings for 2011 and qualified for the world championships in South Korea later this summer. Dixon was one of 8,000 runners who pounded the streets of the south coast city defying hot weather that had deterred many of the 15,000 who had paid for places.
Chester-le-street endurance star Dixon who is trained by Liz McColgan scooped a first prize of $3,500 which included a £1,000 bonus for breaking 2:35. After the race Dixon said: "he course is good, but I found the first hill difficult. I had a bad patch at 8 miles and I started to suffer but I managed to recover by half-way. At 23-24 miles I was suffering again but Richard Nerurkar (the elite athlete coordinator) was shouting encouragement and that helped a lot."
Fastest runner on the day was Kenya's Philemon Kiprop Boit, three minutes inside the previous best, breaking the tape in 2:16:07. Second was fellow Kenyan, Richard Bett Rotich (2:16:32) and third, Ethiopian Ambessa Tolosa, a further 21sec adrift. First Briton home was Stroud's Dan Robinson in fourth, in a detached 2:19:11.
Second woman was Lucy MacAlister of Bristol & West in 2:40:35 with Wakefield's Julie Briscoe third in a time of 2:41:11. Fourth was Jenny Blizard of Rotherham who set a personal best of 2:46:01 and said after the race:
"The crowds were marvellous. There were a lot of undulations and it was tough at the beginning but it was nice because the second half was easier. It was good to have our names on our vests because it gave it a personal touch."
After two training spells in Kenya this winter hopes had been high for Alyson Dixon to run strongly. Coach McColgan forecast at least a personal best for Dixon (by just under 8 minutes as it turned out) but was ecstatic about the world championship qualifying time: "She is in fantastic shape and she showed it today. There is more to come. She only started running seriously at the age of 23. She did exactly today what we planned and stuck to the splits we had set ourselves. Now let's see if she is picked for Daegu."
First man home Kiprop said he was happy, but the course was tough, especially the first half: "But I hope to come back next year and run a better time." Bett described the course as "challenging. The second half was a lot better. I tried to push Kiprop but he was just too strong for me."
Dan Robinson, who had been contemplating retirement after finishing 19th at last year's European championships, said: "I felt good at halfway, but I pushed a little bit too early and it meant I struggled towards the end. I am a bit disappointed with my time but it was a fantastic race and to come fourth in a marathon is great."
At the five-mile mark, Tolosa, Bett and Kiprop were leading with Robinson and pace maker Andi Jones alongside, the group of five going through in 25:50 which represents 2:15:28 pace, half a minute inside the qualifying time for Daegu.
Meanwhile, Dixon held a slender five-second advantage over MacAlister in the women's race. Dixon went through in 29:20, representing a finish time close to 2:33, well on course for a new record if the pace was maintained. At this stage, Briscoe was a further 29sec down.
At the half-way mark reached in 67:16, Kiprop held a slender five-second lead over Bett. Then there was a 39sec gap to Robinson with Tolosa on his heels. Despite the gap, the Stroud man looked comfortable and could have been playing his usual waiting game.
Dixon had extended her lead in the women's race, passing under the 13.1mile arch in 77min approx, with MacAlister now a minute behind and Briscoe detached by a further minute.
It was at the 18-mile mark on the flatter section of the course that Kiprop surged away from Bett to make sure of victory while Dixon extended her lead over MacAlister to more than five minutes at the finish.
The first Sussex runners home were James Baker of Chichester who ran a 2:35:21PB, while defending champion, Jo Bryce of Burgess Hill, also set a lifetime best of 2:59:39 to finish fifth.