In the first of a new series providing an exclusive insight into the way top athletes eat, train and live, the Sunderland-based runner opens up to Ruth Jones about cake and her Olympic ambitions

I’m running the Berlin Marathon where my main aim is to achieve the Olympic qualifying time for Rio 2016. I’d ideally love to run sub-2:30, and as close to 2:28 as possible, which I think is achievable. I know that just dipping under 2:31 realistically won’t be good enough to make the team, but my 10km and half-marathon times show I am capable of a good time.

I have been self-coached since the 2012 London Marathon. In this period I’ve run PBs at every distance I’ve raced. When you’ve been running for as long as I have you start to know what you need to do in order to progress.

Paula Radcliffe has played a massive part in turning me around from an athlete who was ready to call it a day after an embarrassing performance at the Edinburgh Cross into someone who is recording PBs again. She has done crazy things like jump on a bike for the first time since university to cycle with me on my tempos and long runs.

I’ve started doing some online coaching to make some extra money. It’s something I really enjoy. I’ve had a lot of interest, but I have kept the numbers low while I prepare for Berlin.

Thankfully, my sports dietitian lets me eat cake and chocolate. I started working with Renee McGregor at the start of the year. She has devised a plan that ensures I consume the right levels of nutrition to fuel my training and maximise my recovery afterwards.

Strength and conditioning work is really important. My programme consists of high pulls, press-ups, splits squats, glute circuit, single-leg RDL and dumbbell balance rotations on Mondays, and back squat, pull-ups, single-leg squat from a box, hip thrusts, mobility band hip extensions and calf-raises on Saturdays. Most are done in four sets of 6-8 reps and are followed by a core circuit.

I’m lucky to live where I do. From my home I can run three miles in one direction and be at the coast and three miles in the other direction and be at Herrington Country Park, where I do all my easy and steady runs off-road. My tempo runs and other sessions are completed on road or at the track, mostly alone.

I work on a seven-day cycle for marathon training. It involves three hard days – Tuesday, Friday and Sunday – and a medium-long steady run on a Thursday. The rest of my runs are recovery runs to ensure I’m ready for my next hard day.

Porridge is my staple meal about three hours before a race. I make it with water or almond milk, raisins, almonds, chia seeds and honey and have that along with a slice of toast and jam and a decaffeinated coffee prior to running.

I love nothing more than running through the mountains from my other training base in Font Romeu. The altitude ranges from 1600m-2000m, which, along with rocky sections underfoot, can slow me down, but as long as I’m still in the same training zone it’s fine. I always respond well to altitude and know what I need to do after many visits there. I have been using Paula’s tough 10-mile road tempo loop down by Lake Matemale.

I’m rubbish on hills so I tend to do a lot of them of varying distance between 6sec to 3min from October to January. They never get any easier, and it’s normally cold and wet, which makes me dislike them even more.

I take four caffeine tablets or a strong coffee 20 minutes before a marathon. Caffeine can cause GI problems, so I also take a stomach settler just in case. Two weeks prior to a marathon I avoid caffeine altogether.

Winning the Blaydon 5.67m race this year meant a lot to me. It took me 20 years and 16 attempts to finally conquer it.

TYPICAL TRAINING WEEK

The following represents a week’s training for Dixon in Font Romeu:

Monday: AM 10 miles easy with the group followed by core PM easy 5 miles with the group

Tuesday: A M track session: 2 sets of 1mile/2x800m/4x400m (lap jog/2min/90sec recoveries) reps at half-marathon/10km/5km pace PM 5 miles recovery run

Wednesday: AM 10 miles easy with the group followed by strength session PM easy 5 miles with the group

Thursday: AM steady 15M start with group then filter off as I pick the pace up a bit PM easy 5 miles

Friday: AM long tempo 10-15 miles. It’s hard to run tempos to set paces up here due to the altitude and the hills, so I let my heart rate dictate my effort. My tempo heart rate zone is 176-183bpm so as long as I am hitting that I’m happy PM recovery 5 miles

Saturday: Easy 5 miles or rest. I take every other Saturday as a complete rest day. Strength and conditioning

Sunday: Long run between 24-26.2 miles at a good pace. Again start with the group and then push on over second half normally including getting down to low/ sub-6min/mile pace for the last 4-5M.

» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes