The KIDS Marathon Grows! Road Trip with Rod Dixon and the Bakers, A photo essay by Jeff Benjamin



Jeff Benjamin, Carolyn Baker, Brian Baker ,Waterbury City Clerk Mike Dalton, Rod Dixon, Jim O'Rourke (YMCA), photo by Jeff Benjamin consortium
image2-2.jpegThe author, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, Rod Dixon, photo by Jeff Benjamin consortium
image3.jpegKIDS Marathon, photo by Jeff Benjamin consortium
One of the most important programs in the US is the KIDS Marathon. It is the brain child of one of my idols, Rod Dixon. Rod Dixon, like John Walker and Dick Quax, was part of this group of wonderfully colorful New Zealanders who were influenced by the most eccentric former milkman on the planet, the late Arthur Lydiard. Rod was world class from the 1,500m to the marathon. His 1983 win in NYC was masterful, and some of the finest Sports TV ever.
But Rod does good things, things even bigger than his Olympic medal, and that is bringing a new generation to our sport. Thanks to Saucony for helping Rod Dixon with this vision of his. And thanks to Jeff Benjamin, who has dealt with his publisher's eccentricities for almost 28 years.

The KIDS Marathon Grows!

Road Trip With Rod Dixon And The Bakers! - A Photo Essay by Jeff Benjamin

Rod the Mod! .png"Kiwis can Fly", Stockholm 2 Mile, 1974, Rod Dixon ran 8:14.4, Emiel Puttemans in 2nd, Steve Prefontaine, photo by Jan E. Carlsen, Dagens Nyheter

Rod Dixon's spectacular running career possesses, like other runners, great high peaks and great challenges, especially after failure. But, when it comes to those downhill turns , the 1972 1500 Bronze medalist from New Zealand's mantra has always been, "Ok, so you missed that train...just be prepared to get on the next one!"

In 1975, despite running a 3:33 1500 (equal to a 3:50 Mile), Dixon finished 4th behind Filbert Bayi's stunning world record performance.

Dixon's post-event decision? - move up to the 5K, where he became one of the world's best.

In 1980 the Olympic Boycott quashed Dixon's hopes for another Olympic medal.

Dixon's post-event decision? - Move all-out into the world of American road racing where he won many prestigious races, along with setting a World Best At The 1/2 Marathon and then dramatically winning the rain-soaked 1983 NYC Marathon In a time of 2:08:59!

The inevitable aging process? No problem once again for Dixon as his 4:02 mile at the age of 40 on the 11-laps To The Mile wooden boards of Madison Sq Garden stands as one of the great Masters performances of all-time!

Last week, as Dixon discussed his long successful career which included many subjects including Sebastian Coe (an upcoming story!), John Walker, Steve Prefontaine and Dick Quax amongst others, he was also once again preparing for his KIDS Marathon events, which peaked in Waterbury, Connecticut with 2,500 children and has just sprouted up in Middletown, NY. Dixon was also generous enough to include this author along with longtime running athlete/aficionado Brian Baker and his wife Carolyn on his road trip from Connecticut to New York.

"40 years ago if you'd told me I'd be able to spend time and host one of my idols, I would have thought you were crazy," said Baker, a longtime NY runner who has run in every Falmouth Road Race since 1978 (Hey Amby Burfoot - are you listening😁?) Adding To The Fun was a surprising call from the legendary Craig Virgin, as Both World XC medalists (Dixon has 2 Bronze Medals, while Virgin is the ONLY American to have 2 Gold Medals!) reminisced as well.

Dixon's almost 20 year mission has been to get children running. "The most important thing for the kids is to understand that they'd rather be the Tortoise than the share!", said Dixon, whose KIDS programs continue to grow both in America and Internationally as well. "Slow and steady will win the race."

image2-3.jpegRod Dixon with the Thunderbolts, photo by Jeff Benjamin
kids marathon 5.jpgKIDS Marathon, photo by Jeff Benjamin
kids marathon 6.jpg
Brian Baker, Rod Dixon, Frank Giannino, Jeff Benjamin, photo by Jeff Benjamin consortium
dan scavone .jpgDan Scavone, Jeff Benjamin, Rod Dixon, photo by Jeff Benjamin consortium

In Waterbury, the final KIDS mile festivities consisted of 2500 children who all went at their own pace in a series of waves over the final mile of a month-long daily 1- mile process which culminated in finishing the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Under the great organization of City Clerk Michael Dalton, Jim O'Rourke (YMCA), Mayor Neil O'Leary, John Murray of the Waterbury Observer, the Connecticut Association of Schools' (CAS) Cherese Miller with Dan Scavone and Anna Flores among countless volunteers, the city's roads, all closed off, drew a celebratory parade-like atmosphere with Senator Chris Murphy in attendance as well. "With every kid getting a shirt and a medal it's just fantastic!", said Dixon.

win and finish finish and win .jpgWin and Finish and Finish and Win, photo by Jeff Benjamin

get them ready .jpgGet Them Ready, photo by Jeff Benjamin

image2-4.jpegWith a KIDS Marathon Winner Anthony And Dad Anthony Gulotta Sr In Middletown, photo by Jeff Benjamin

A few days later it was on to Middletown where legendary ultra runner Frank Giannino, along with the 39th Classic 10K And 5K, a nationally renown event which has annually included local Olympic legend Frank Shorter.

Gianino's Solid support staff for the events (Which consist of George Shurter, Valerie And Bill Kilcoin, Kathleen Davis, Dave Badolato, David Goggins And Dana Groszek) were all on board to bring Rod Dixon's KIDS Marathon program to Middletown for the first time.

Participating in the inaugural Middletown KIDS Marathon (Which took place on the Saturday before Sunday's main road races) were Special Olympians from the Thunderbolts club, as well as the "Sole Sisters" from Maple Hill Elementary school. "The Parks Rec Dept trained 38 kids for the run," said Giannino, who also gave kudos to Coach Raelynn Berthoff.

"Remember, Finishing is Winning and Winning is Finishing!", Dixon enthusiastically told the youngsters at the starting line.

"Just be like the Tortoise, slow and steady."

That philosophy has certainly paid off not only for Dixon, but for the thousands of young children running as well.

Want to learn more or contribute to The Rod Dixon's KIDS Marathon Program?

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