KidsMarathon founder Rod Dixon, above, leads Region 6 elementary school students on a lap around the athletic fields at Wamogo Regional High School on Tuesday and below, is welcomed by interim Superintendent of Schools Edward Drapp. BZ photos
KidsMarathon Founder Rod Dixon was back in Litchfield on Tuesday to meet with elementary school students in Region 6 who will challenge themselves in this spring\’s KidsMarathon program.

The program is designed to get children moving and reduce childhood obesity. More than 4,000 students across the state are participating this spring, including students from the James Morris School in Morris, Warren School and Goshen Center School.

Students from the three schools filled the gym at Wamogo Regional High School to hear Dixon explain the program and its benefits. In the eight-week program, students will run the equivalent of a marathon, or 26.2 miles. Along the way, they\’ll chart their progress and will focus on healthy eating habits.

Students will run their final mile on the track at Plumb Hill Playing Fields in Litchfield on June 9. Dixon will be there and will hand out T-shirts and medals to students after they cross the finish line. More than 300 Region 6 students are expected to participate.

A group of Wamogo students will serve as mentors to the young runners. Dixon met with the mentors at the end of Tuesday\’s gathering and explained the importance of their roles.

Dixon was joined at Wamogo by Bill Burgess, executive director of Litchfield Hills Foods Systems and chairman of the KidsMarathon Foundation. They were greeted by interim Superintendent of Schools Edward Drapp, an avid runner.

KidsMarathon has gone national after its start in Litchfield five years ago. Dixon, winner of the bronze medal in the 1500 meters for his native New Zealand in the 1972 Summer Olympics and the winner of the 1983 New York City Marathon, is good friends with Litchfield parks and recreation director Brent Hawkins.

KidsMarathon was a hit at the James Morris School and among sixth-graders at Warren School last year. More Warren students have signed on this year and Goshen Center School is getting into the act for the first time.

The program is a bargain, with each student paying just $5 to participate. Dixon hopes their involvement will help spark an interest in fitness that will last for their rest of their lives.

Below, Eva Geiger, a first-grader at Goshen Center School, models Rod Dixon\’s Olympic bronze medal and Dixon sjows the medal to students during the KidsMarathon kickoff on Tuesday. BZ photo