One of the unintended positives from the pandemic has been the huge increase in running numbers, not just here in New Zealand but all over the world. The result has been higher participation figures in events such as Park Run. 

With the growing popularity of running, it has also contributed to a thriving betting market. Now punters across the world and in New Zealand have the opportunity to place bets at different nz betting sites on running events such as those in the Olympics. 

We will be turning our focus to New Zealand’s most famous runners, those that can provide an inspiration for future generations of sprinters and long-distance runners alike. Read on to find out about some of our country’s most famous and decorated runners.

Russell Prince

Where better to start than with one of the most incredible and resilient runners in New Zealand history and someone who you’ve probably never heard of? Russell Prince completed the Coast to Coast challenge a phenomenal 16 times, finishing first in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

He was also an ultra-marathon runner and holds the record for the fastest 100km time posted by a Kiwi for his 6 hour and 38-minute effort in 1990. Known as the ultimate test of physical fitness and mental fortitude, an ultra-marathon isn’t for the faint-hearted.

To put Russell’s time into context, he completed his 100km in just over half the time it took world-famous ultra-runner David Goggins to finish the Hellgate 100k in 2015.

Peter Snell

Born in Opunake in 1938, Peter Snell represented New Zealand at the 1960 Rome Olympics and the 194 Tokyo Olympics, winning three gold medals in the process. His first came in Rome when he scooped first place in the 800m, setting a new national record along the way.

4 years later in Tokyo, Snell defended his 800m gold medal and added another, winning the 1500m race – a feat that has not been achieved by a male athlete since. 

After finishing his running career, Snell put what he had learned about peak human performance to good use, becoming an associate professor at the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas.

Proving competition was something in his bones, Snell became a competitive orienteer and table tennis player in the latter stages of his life.

Norman Read

It isn’t all about running at top speed, sometimes it’s about going at a slightly slower pace – although if you’ve ever seen a racewalker in full swing, you’ll know that there’s nothing ‘walking pace’ about this sport.

Norman Read, the self-nicknamed ‘Pommie Kiwi’ was born in Portsmouth, England in 1931 but represented New Zealand. His crowning athletic moment came in 1956 when, at the Melbourne Olympics, he won gold in the 50km walk.

On that occasion he completed the walk in 4 hours, 30 minutes and 17 seconds which equates to a marathon finishing time of 3 hours, 46 minutes and 12 seconds. Not bad for someone who’s ‘walking’ ey?

John Walker

For a country famed for our rugby and cricketing prowess, we have produced an incredible amount of world-class running athletes. Born in 1952 in Papakura, John Walker is one such athlete who represented his country superbly on the global stage.

After winning silver at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in the 1500m, Walker went one better in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, holding off Ivo Van Damme and Paul-Heinz Wellman to scoop a gold medal.

Walker was also famous for beating the 1-mile world record, posting a time of 3:49.4 in Sweden in 1975 that was exactly 10 seconds quicker than the time Roger Bannister famously managed in 1954.

Marise Chamberlain

Whilst there have been a number of successes for male runners on the world stage, it has been a harder story for New Zealand’s female runners. Marise Chamberlain, who was born in Christchurch in 1935 remains the only female Kiwi to have won an Olympic medal.

Specialising in the 800m, Chamberlain ran her personal best of 2:01.4 in 1962 when she won silver at the Pert Commonwealth Games. 2 years later in Tokyo she finished behind Ann Packer (winner) and Maryvonne Dupureur (runner-up) to win Bronze.

Her achievements for her country have been recognised not just by her induction into New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 but by her 2003 awarding of a Member of the New Zealand Order or Merit by the Queen.

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