"Keep on Moving, Mate"--the inspiration of Rod Dixon


image1-3.jpegRod Dixon with his KIDS marathon group, photo by Jeff Benjamin

This is one of the most amazing programs I have ever seen! Rod Dixon is bringing another generation into our sport. The charming Kiwi, who has raced from 800 meters to the marathon, including his paradigm changing NYC Marathon in 1983, which was on global television, brought the marathon to the world of sports entertainment. Here's a fine piece by Jeff Benjamin.

If the qualities of euphoria, positive-mindedness, loyalty, determination, inclusiveness and duty could be compacted all together into one, then there would be a lot of Rod Dixons' on this planet. "I appreciate that," said Dixon this past weekend in Connecticut. "But there'd be a lot of John Walkers' and Dick Quax's too!"

Dixon, who euphorically won the 1972 Olympic 1500 Bronze medal and increased that feeling a thousandfold in 1983 with his dramatic come-from-behind New York City victory, earlier this week received the shattering yet somewhat expected news that one of the three "Flying Kiwis" - Dick Quax has passed on. "I saw him last month, Dick said "he wasn't fighting cancer - he was living with cancer" said Dixon of his comrade's long 5 year fight. "I hugged him and said "I'll see you in a few months, but it just wasn't to be," he said emotionally.

image2.jpegRod Dixon and Jeff Benjamin with KID'S Marathon participants, photo by Jeff Benjamin

The multi-versatile Dixon (3:33 1500 Up to a 2:08 Marathon!) along with Walker and Quax "barnstormed" for almost 2 decades along the European track circuits and American road racing scene, felt he had to settle an emotional conflict for him. "You know, I was torn between going to his funeral in New Zealand or keeping my commitments here in Connecticut with the KIDSMARATHON program Final Mile Celebrations.

Dixon's "KIDSMARATHON" program is what drives the 68 years young legend today, as he continues his crusade to promote Healthy Activity and physical fitness throughout the world . "So I went for a run in the woods and spoke with Dick in solitude," said the spiritual Dixon. "He put his arms around me and told me to stay with the kids and keep on moving Mate."

Dixon's "KIDS" programs have been developed in Connecticut, California, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand and soon in the Philippines.

Last Saturday at Torrington High School was the Final Mile Celebration "KIDSMARATHON " and others had taken place weekly throughout the state in towns like Trumbull, Cheshire, Norwich, Danbury, Waterbury, inspiring the lives of 7000 children for the better.

At the Torrington festival, under the very able leadership of Tim Gaffney, close to 500 children ran, jogged or walked their last mile, a program encompassing 8 - 10 weeks of running a total of 25.2 miles which culminated in the completion of the marathon distance.

"Today is your Final Mile of your Marathon, You know the story of the "Hare and the Tortoise" said Dixon to the kids before the event. "It's not a race, as long as you complete this today, you have won!"

"Finishing is Winning - Winning Is Finishing"

AND every kid most certainly was a winner.

image1.jpegThe awards from Rod Dixon's KID'S Marathon, photo by Jeff Benjamin

The evening before, at dinner prepared by our grand Kiwi Chef (!), longtime "Running Boom" competitor and Litchfield Hills Race announcer Extraordinaire Brent "The Hawk" Hawkins joined Dixon and this writer as we sat and reminisced.

"It still amazes me that Pre has been gone for 43 years!", said Dixon about his rival and friend Steve Prefontaine. "It's funny because on the circuit back then Dick Quax and Pre were incredibly competitive with each other both on and off the track and Quax is probably saying right now to him up there "You rascal Steve Prefontaine" over a couple of beers!"

With the passing of Quax, Rod Dixon and John Walker still remain among the Kiwi trio. Yet Walker, the 1976 1500 Olympic Champion and the first man on earth to break 3:50 for the mile has endured a long fight against Parkinson's disease. "John's still tough as hell and is fighting," said Dixon, who saw with others the unveiling in New Zealand of the John Walker 1976 Olympic race statue dedicated to his friend in a grand ceremony not long ago.

Dixon's next great project is the USA City Games - in celebrations, the Watts Summer Games, now in its 50th Anniversary (A future story!) which will be based, in part, out of 2028 Olympic City Los Angeles.

As always he is prepared and ready.

"As Dick Quax said, "We just have to keep on moving."

Bell Lap- In my quick trip up to Litchfield I am beyond grateful once again to the hospitality of the Burgess family who entrusted Rod to serve as my overnight host.....Phenomenal is too small a word when describing seeing my Litchfield pals as they prepare for their annual grand road race next weekend - "The Hawk" and his wife Mary along with Mark Graf and Beth Murphy......

But most of all to see and enjoy the company of the race's Guardian Billy Neller -who continues the Litchfield Hill's legacy begun by the late founder Joe Concannon - and enjoy food and drink at "The Village" is just as spiritual in it's experience like no other.


In "The Village" at Litchfield ,L-R, Bill Neller, Mark Graf, Jeff Benjamin, Brent "The Hawk" Hawkins, photo by Jeff Benjamin

Once again Rod Dixon wishes to chime in-

"I'm very grateful to George Hirsch, Peter Ciaccia, Michael Capiraso, Rachel Pratt and Michael Schnall for granting to me New York Road Runners "Mighty Milers" finishing medals and T shirts to my KIDS finishers in Connecticut, California and New Zealand. This support shows how many of us really care about youth and their futures, which are connected to ours."

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