Print this story

2013 Year in Review. June. (2) Dixon and Burgess. Making a difference in our children and grandchildren lives with KiDSMARATHON.

POSTED December 22, 2013
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

LITCHFIELD: When you talk to Rod Dixon and Bill Burgess you can’t help but want to do two things.

First after talking to Burgess about his efforts to get our children and grandchildren eating better and understand where their food comes from while they are young enough to have it help mold their habits the rest of their lives, you regret the hot dog and onion rings you had with barbeque sauce for dinner that night.

Following a talk with Dixon, you find yourself searching for you running shoes, wishing your lungs felt better and demanding you get yourself in better shape.

They are that good…and devoted.

What the two have been doing in Litchfield and around the world for that matter is nothing short of miraculous.

You see, Burgess and Dixon are the heart and soul behind the KiDSMARATHON phenomenon, which has been up and running since 2008 and getting bigger and better every year.

The 2013 version in Litchfield will finish as part of the Litchfield Hills Road Race weekend festivities on Saturday at Plumb Hill in Litchfield.

As many as 1500 children from area schools in Litchfield, Morris, Torrington, Washington and Sherman will take part in completing the equivalent of a marathon, something Dixon excelled at during his Olympic and professional career that saw him win a medal in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and win the 1983 New York City Marathon.

For nearly five decades, Dixon has been on the front lines with a very dedicated running community and has been working towards making a difference in the world since someone made a difference in his when he was just 10-years old.

“My dream came from a promise I made to Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953.” Dixon said. “He spoke at school when I was just 10-years old and he told us that we should set our goals even higher than Mount Everest.”

That talk helped propel him all the way to the 1972 Olympic in Munich where he won the bronze medal in 1500 meter race.

From there, he felt he had to thank the man who had inspired him.

“So, I knocked on his door after I won the bronze and thanked him for being my inspiration and that’s when he challenged me to inspire the next generation.” Dixon said.

Consider the challenge accepted, Sir Edmund Hillary, and in the process of working wonders for the generation Dixon is reaching as we speak.

KiDSMARTHON has a simple but compelling motto.

“Winning is Finishing and Finishing is Winning.”

Where did that come from?

“When I won the New York City Marathon in 1983.” Dixon said. “I remember crossing the finish line with my arms raised above my head, kissing the ground, talking to reporters and celebrating at the Tavern on the Green. We were drinking champagne and after a while it got kind of overwhelming.”

“So I slipped away for a bit, put my hood on and went outside back towards the finish line. What I saw was thousands of people crossing the finish line just as I did doing the same thing. Clapping, raising their arms, giving high fives and celebrating with their families and friends just like I did. I said to myself, winning is finishing and finishing is winning. It was that simple.”

It’s not how you get there, it’s that you get there.

What Dixon had noticed over the years was that a new generation of kids was growing up in a different way than he remembered from his years in New Zealand.

“The childhood obesity problem was starting to get out of control.” Dixon said. “Schools were eliminating PE classes and recess. 15 years ago I though the best age to start helping the kids was when they were between the ages of 7-12. Somebody asked me how I figured that out and I told them I had been a kid once and remembered what it was like.”

Part of the genius of KiDSMARATHON is letting the kids themselves lead, something they do very well.

Think about it. Kids by nature emulate what they see other kids do. Throw an older child in front of a television set or video game and the younger ones will want to do just that as well.

Get them outside in the fresh air running or walking and it’s a pretty safe bet young will follow the old.

Heck, we used to love to play in dirt, or throw ball against the house for hours on end as long as we were outside.

Burgess and Dixon watched as an example of how this works played out this week during an event.

"We had a third grade class out running on the track." Burgess said. "Soon after they got going, a kindergarten class came out and one by one started to head towards the older ones and started running. It was amazing."

Getting the kids to buy into taking responsibility for their own health is a challenge but one that the duo has seen work.

“We are looking to empower the kids.” Burgess said. “By teaching them the proper habits at an early age, we give them the tools that will help them succeed in the future. By growing healthy kids, we can grow healthy communities.”

The participation numbers are now staggering.

From their humble beginning in the office of then Litchfield Athletic Director, Brent Hawkins in 2007 where this all started to the present is nothing short of astounding.

The numbers.

2008-71 children

2009- 250 children

2010- 3 Regional sites- 1000 children

2011- 40 School Districts, 2000 children

2012- 45 Schools, 3000 children

In Litchfield alone on Saturday, over 1500 runners are expected to run that last mile with Dixon.

The numbers from around the country are exploding as well with over 25,000 in Los Angeles, between 15 and 20 thousand in Oakland.

Dixon’s native New Zealand is going to approach nearly 250,000 in the near future.

That’s keeping a promise made many years ago.

The celebration begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Plumb Hill in Litchfield.

Remember, Winning is Finishing and Finishing is Winning.


For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here