Olympic hope for marathon mum Debbie

SUTTON athlete Debbie Robinson says competing in the Olympic Marathon in Athens would realise a dream she had as an 11-year-old girl.

But Debbie's path to reaching the verge of achieving that goal has featured more twists and turns than any course she has ever run.

She has overcome anorexia, injury and fitted her gruelling training schedule around a full-time job and raising a family.

It is all a far cry from the big sponsorship deals and Lottery funding enjoyed by a select few superstars

But Debbie, soon to be 36, believes the adversity she has faced in getting to the brink of the Olympics may just give her the edge she needs to succeed. She is just one good race away from joining the Great Britain team in Athens.

She told Chad: "Just being there to start with would be something you dream about as a child. I never thought I could be close to it."

Just to stand on the starting line would be an incredible achievement for someone who has spent two long stints out of the sport, only to come back stronger each time.

For Debbie, who discovered her talent for athletics as a schoolgirl, had her young career cruelly cut short when she developed anorexia at 16.

She suffered the illness for about a year and at one point weighed less than five stone — but then she says 'something clicked' and she began eating again.

It was not until she was 25 that Debbie took up running again and within a year she was competing internationally. Then she discovered she had asthma and, with the pressure of raising a family, was forced to give up again.

She spent six years out of athletics before her daughter Laura, now 16, joined a running club and inspired her mum to lace up her training shoes again for the London Marathon in 2000.

Debbie said: "I wanted to do it because it was the Millennium. I never had any other thoughts in my mind. There was nothing serious, it was just messing about really."

She finished in 2hr 52m and when she decided to compete again the following year, she realised she had an outside chance of making the Commonwealth Games.

A shock win in the Dublin Marathon later that year secured her place on the Great Britain team – and the second fastest time by a British woman that year.

In Manchester Debbie went on to defy all expectations and finish as the highest placed British woman in fourth. But while that result surprised many, Debbie herself was disappointed not to win a medal, having suffered a calf strain at halfway.

Now Debbie has her sights set firmly on this year's London Marathon where she must clock a time under 2hr 34m for a place in Athens.

But Debbie's age and unconventional career path mean she does not enjoy the lottery funding of Britain's better known athletes. Instead she must juggle her job as a sales assistant at Argos with her aspirations of Olympic glory.

She told Chad: "I'm training twice a day at the minute. I leave for work at ten to eight in the morning so I either get up at six to run or I run to work. Then when I'm done at work I train again. It's a long day."

To give her Olympic dream her best shot Debbie hopes to raise 10,000 to dedicate herself to training full time for the next seven months. Her campaign is being backed by mayor Tony Egginton and MP Alan Meale.

Debbie firmly believes she can upset the odds in Athens, just as she did in Manchester, if she is given the chance to be there.

She told Chad: "On championship day, times don't mean anything. It's all down to who wants it most."

To help Debbie in her bid to represent Britain and our region in the Olympic Games, contact Dave Robinson, Debbie's husband and coach, on Mansfield 431495 or e-mail dave.robinson2000@ntlworld.com.