Dixon reminds young runners "finishing is winning"
One of the country's finest runners was a welcome visitor in the country this week, helping some young runners make metres towards good health.
Nelson-born Olympian and New York City Marathon winner Rod Dixon visited Mahana School on Monday to encourage the next generation of winners as part of the Kidsmarathon programme he established in 2005.
Following a motto of "finishing is winning, winning is finishing", participants take part in regular running or walking sessions until the full 42.2km distance is completed.
According to the programme's website, the goal of Kidsmarathon is to lay the foundation for a lifelong commitment to good health and fitness habits.
As Mahana pupils enjoyed a few laps of their paddock-like surrounds, Dixon said the opportunity to help children get active offered as much benefit to him as it did his charges.
"It doesn't matter if the sun is shining or it's raining, the kids bring so much life to the day or the moment with their enthusiasm and excitement – and they participate – that's all you want."
The visit to Mahana echoed Dixon's own experience as a pupil at Tahunanui School pupil when Sir Edmund Hillary imparted some wisdom that set him on his way to athletic glory.
"He told us that Mount Everest wasn't high enough for your goals, your dreams and your aspirations – we thought that was pretty cool," he said.
"Then when I went to the Olympics in 1972, he asked me to promise him one thing – inspire the next generation, just as he had done for us."
Dixon also passed around his 1500m bronze medal from the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, which he had made sure was kept out in the open and far from a trophy cabinet in the 44 years since.
As well as Hillary himself, the medal had been grasped by the Dalai Lama, Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more then 350,000 other students who have participated in the Kidsmarathon programme.
While in his hometown to visit family and compete in April's World Masters Games in Auckland, California-based Dixon said he was happy to visit other interested schools in the coming weeks.
Mahana School principal Justin Neal said it was "fantastic" to have someone with a large list of athletic achievements come and share his experiences with pupils.
"For some of the younger ones he's a bit before their time, but once they realised what he'd done with his life it was actually pretty cool."
Neal said it had also been interesting to learn that Dixon had trained on the roads close to the school in his younger days.
"We're lucky where we are and a lot of people choose to run here just around the vineyards and the hills," Neal said.