Trish Dixon. She Just Runs. And Runs. And Runs.
By Maria Sonnenberg // July 8, 2014
ACTIVE LIVING: Patrica Dixon
‘It’s Only What You Can Do Today That Matters’
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Many runners train rigorously for upcoming races, but not Patricia Dixon. She just runs. And runs. And runs.
“I just get out there and run like a bat out of hell,” she said.
Dixon, who turned 79 in May, has been running a 5k race every week for the past two months, just to gain some extra speed.
“Running races makes you run faster,” she said. “I can’t run as fast as I once did, but I don’t want to keep losing time.”
She is also running for her life, for she has been diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. Running, says Dixon, is one of her ways to stave off the horrible disease.
“I want people to realize that with early diagnosis, medication and exercise, they can do a lot to fight this,” she said. “You can help yourself by staying active physically and mentally.”
At 97 pounds, Dixon must also cope with osteoporosis, but she has no plans to give in to that disorder.
“I’ve always had osteo, but I think running keeps my bones flexible,” she said. “I was hit by bicyclists while running on River Road, but not a bone was broken. I don’t worry about it.”
ENJOYS A GOOD CHALLENGE
The Rockledge resident began running back in her 40s, with no fanfare and no particular aim.
“I had been reading a lot about running, and I like a challenge, so I started running around the block and then I got off the block,” she said. “I just focused on moving my body, and I’ve been doing that since.”
A friend of her husband told her about a 10k run in Titusville. Dixon signed up for the race, her first. “I loved it from then on,” she said.
Although her job as department manager at Winn Dixie required plenty of time on her feet, Dixon couldn’t stop running.
“I would run before I went to work and then I would ride my bike to work from North Banana River Drive (in Merritt Island) to the store where I worked in Cocoa Beach,” she said.
She’s always been one to enjoy a good challenge. Years ago, on the spur of the moment, Dixon and a friend decided it would be a lark to ride their 10-speed bikes to New Smyrna Beach and back in a day.
“It took us all day, but we did it and we had a blast,” she said.
She doesn’t quite know where the love for running springs, because she didn’t consider herself a jock in her younger days. “In high school, we just had intramural sports and I did a little track, but that’s it,” she said.
About the only training regimen she had was back when she was in her 50s and for a while would join with the Brevard Community College track team during their practice runs.
‘I PREFER RUNNING IN THE HEAT’
These days, she averages 20 running miles per week, primarily solo. Florida’s unrelenting heat and humidity are never an issue despite her age.
“I prefer running in the heat,” she said.
She would once get up to run to catch the sunrise, but twice she has narrowly escaped being mugged at those hours, so she has adjusted her running schedule for safety.
Without access to a computer, she learns of races through word-of-mouth or from visiting the Running Zone to check out upcoming events.
She still takes part in half-marathons, but in her heyday, Dixon was a frequent face at these events.
“I’ve done so many marathons that I just can’t remember the total anymore,” she said.
Four different times she qualified for the Boston Marathon, although she only participated in three of the races. Her mom’s passing kept Dixon from joining the Boston runners for a fourth time.
50k races hold no novelty, since she has run so many of these. Twice she took part in 24-hour races, a particularly grueling competition where runners keep going as long as possible both day and night.
The first time she clocked in at 67 miles total. The second time she hit 97 miles. “I wanted to get to 100, but I was all bent over when it was over,” she said.
With running buddy Maureen Morley, Dixon has traveled the country, including Hawaii, to race.
WARM WELCOME TO SPACE COAST RUNNING SCENE
In Brevard’s running community, she has found many lifelong friends, and helped along many fledglings to the sport.
In 1989, a young runner by the name of Rebecca Sparks, newly assigned to Patrick Air Force Base, had no way to get to the New Year’s Eve run.
Dixon and two other runners went out of their way to pick up Sparks and welcome her into the fold of local runners.
Sparks would go on to be the first woman inducted into the Space Coast Runners Hall of Fame after breaking 27 Florida road race course records and being named Florida Space Coast Runner of the Year six-time champion.
She never forgot the warm welcome she got from Dixon.
Sparks was also inducted into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in May.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet so many great people like Rebecca through running,” said Dixon.
Dixon’s son continues the family running tradition in Washington, DC, where he lives and works. Her daughter and grandchildren are another story.
“Don’t mention running in front of them, because they’re so sick of it,” joked Dixon.
Ultimately, Dixon runs because she likes the process; she has no use for the glory.
“I’ve thrown my trophies out and I gave my race t-shirts away,” she said.