Sharing Running Memories: Rod Dixon at the 1983 NYC Marathon


Running has been part of my life now for over 20 years.  Wow!! That’s not true about most things in my life. 

It’s made me think about the early memories I have about running and how they helped shape my love for the sport.  I was hoping we could use this website to share some powerful memories that we have where we first got a flavor of the sport or maybe it was the first time that a seed was planted telling us that this was something we wanted to pursue or learn more about.

For me, that first memories was November 1983.  I grew up in the suburbs of New York City in Northern New Jersey (Go Jersey!).  Amidst my dilligent second grade studies, my father informed me that this Sunday we were going to go to New York City to watch the marathon.  He had gotten us tickets at the ‘grandstand’ at the finish of the race.  I didn’t know much about the sport.  I may have watched the race the previous year on the television, as the NYC television stations do a great job, but being an 8 year old I wasn’t sure what a marathon was or why this one was so special.  

So on this rainy day, the three of us go with our rain coats, packed lunches, and I believe the sports section informing us what we have to look out for.  Well, unlike most sports and even track meets, being at the grandstand at the end of the marathon is a lot of waiting and very little action.  We understood the race began at 8 am (or so) and in two hours and change, we would see the winner.  In the meantime, we waited, heard brief updates from the announcer on how the race was unfolding, and saw the great crowds begin to surround the Tavern on the Green, where the NYC Marathon ends.  This was all very new to me and I believe it involved a good deal of patience, something I was never the best at.

The other interesting thing to note was that half of my family is from New Zealand. My Dad ran high school track in New Zealand and educated me about the proud tradition of New Zealand runners.  I quickly became a fan.  And this NYC Marathon in 1983, the only NYC marathon finish I’ve ever witnessed (other than a rather lousy race I ran in 2006) featured a Kiwi.  And not just any Kiwi, but an Olympic medalist in the 1500 meters named Rod Dixon.  The big question was could a miler become a good marathoner.  

Below is a video that best demonstrates how the race unfolded.  He also includes some great marathon running tips.  It’s also quite something that the time in 1983 would have won the race this year. 

My immediate reaction was that I think I took everything for granted.  I don’t think it was till many years later did I understand the absurd coincidence that the one time I went to watch the NYC marathon, a New Zealander won.  This story resonates with me this year, as I saw myself at home in DC cheering for Meb Keflezghi as he won the NYC Marathon.  He like Rod Dixon had great credentials but was not favored to win.  And just as proud as I was of Rod Dixon for winning it for NZ, I’m equally proud of Meb for winning it for the US.

This experience in 1983 is the first memory I have that told me not only what a great sport it was, but also showed me the drama and courage involved with the sport, as well as the great support runners in races can receive from their family, friends, and communities, as the NYC crowd showed Rod Dixon as he barely won.

I would love to hear about other formative Crawler running memories.


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