The 40th Anniversary Of Rod Dixon’s NYC
Marathon Win! 1983-2023
1st In A Series
By Jeff Benjamin
Being a novice runner who ran just under 17 minutes for 5K in 1982 meant you were in that “Dime A Dozen Category!”
The depth of races was just unreal in an era where one truly EARNED one of those coveted top 3 age group awards!
But, for the category of those at the top, one learned that they came from different places & in all shapes and sizes.
And the beauty of the era was that every one of them was openly accessible and inclusive to their fellow runners regardless of ability.
Whether that meant doing a postrace cooldown with Olympic Champion Frank Shorter or chowing down pre or postrace with 4-Time NYC & Boston Marathon Champ Bill Rodgers (and boy, you definitely chowed down on all types of meals with someone like Bill!), the encounters between the “Gods of Distance Running” and we “Mere Mortals” was worth it’s weight in Gold!
Yet, the guy who was truly on the top of the mountain in 1982 road racing was New Zealand’s Rod Dixon!
The 1972 Olympic 1500 Bronze medalist (Rod later on ran the 1500 in 3:33 and the mile in 3:52!!), who also finished in an agonizing 4th place in the 1976 Games, had come here to the States to race distances on the road race circuit around the time of the 1980 Olympic boycott and, to say he dominated in 1982 & 1983 would be an understatement, winning the top races and also running a world-best 1/2 Marathon in Philadelphia.
Aside from us, also following Rod’s victorious exploits was an individual who knew the Sport inside and out, albeit for his own purposes, yet who can blame him?!
Fred Lebow, the NYC Marathon, photo by NY Road Runners Club
The New York Road Runners leader Fred Lebow, always looking for top competitors for his NYC Marathon, had broached Rod about the possibility of racing through New York’s 5 boroughs over the 26.2-mile course.
“No way!” said Rod.
But Fred, always persistent, kept on asking.
“Fred then made a deal with me,” recalled Rod.
“If I made the top 3 at the 1982 World Cross Country Championships in Rome, I’d “strongly consider” racing at New York!”
Alberto Salazar, Mohammed Kedir, Rod Dixon, 1982 World Cross Country Championships, photo courtesy of World Athletics
Lo and behold, in what was known as the toughest annual distance race to win, and along that HIppodromo delle Capannelle horse racing course, Dixon would finish 3rd, netting the Bronze medal behind
Ethiopia’s Mohammed Kedir and 2-Time NYC Champion Alberto Salazar! Adding to Dixon’s performance is that 9 years earlier, he had also netted Bronze at the event!
Yet as Dixon went through the finish line chute he couldn’t even begin to celebrate.
“There was Fred all over me right in that chute!,” said Dixon. “So I agreed I’d come down to New York and watch the race in ‘82 with Fred in the lead vehicle.”
Whether it was the duel between Salazar & Mexico’s Rodolfo Gomez, which was won dramatically by Salazar in the last stages of the races (thereby giving him his 3rd straight NYC win), or the other top performances, or the screaming and yelling of the large crowds along the course, Lebow’s dream of getting the Kiwi legend to run had paid off!
“Watching the race with Fred as we traveled through New York City was just amazing,” recalled Dixon.
“It was then and there that I committed myself to win at New York in 1983!”