Central Leader - - NEWS -

In rain, hail or shine you will find Barry Magee with his stop­watch and marker cones in tow, ready to point the next gen­er­a­tion of run­ners in the right di­rec­tion.

The Olympic bronze medal­list has been coach­ing young ath­letes at Corn­wall Park for Auck­land City Ath­let­ics for more than 14 years.

And the 79-year-old says he can’t see him­self ever hang­ing up his well-worn boots.

‘‘I love what I do – age doesn’t re­ally come into it much. They tell me the se­cret to a great life is to keep breath­ing.’’

It is the joy of run­ning that has kept him go­ing long af­ter he crossed the pro­fes­sional run­ning fin­ish line, he says.

The Mt Roskill coach was one of six men – Mur­ray Hal­berg, Peter Snell, Bill Bail­lie, Jeff Ju­lian and Ray Puck­ett – de­vel­oped by ath­let­ics le­gend Arthur Ly­di­ard into world class ath­letes.

Ly­di­ard died at the age of 87 af­ter at­tend­ing a race do­ing what he did best – talk­ing to run­ners and pass­ing on ad­vice.

Magee cred­its Ly­di­ard’s train­ing meth­ods for reach­ing the top of the sport. He won a bronze medal in the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon and 18 national ti­tles, claim­ing his last one at the age of 69.

Now he spends his week­nights, of­ten dressed in his trusty gum­boots and with an um­brella at the ready, out on the field pass­ing on his ex­pe­ri­ence to ea­ger young run­ners.

‘‘Kids need sport. It helps to build their char­ac­ter and per­son­al­i­ties. I see them as a valu­able com­mod­ity.

‘‘They so­cialise bet­ter – it comes with the con­fi­dence they get through their run­ning.’’

In the past 20 years of coach­ing teenagers Magee has seen only one out of the thou­sands he has trained who has gone ‘‘a bit off the rails’’, he says.

‘‘They’re too busy for par­ties and drink­ing be­cause they’ve got run­ning and sport.’’

Magee took up run­ning at the age of 12.

Run­ning is the most nat­u­ral thing in the world, he says.

‘‘You can do it any­where, any­time. Row­ers have to find a har­bour, swim­mers have to drive to the pool but run­ners can just go out their back door.’’

He would run 100 miles a week un­der Ly­di­ard’s gru­elling train­ing rou­tine.

And Magee is still reap­ing the ben­e­fits of 50 years of run­ning to­day, with a blood pres­sure rate of some­one half his age. The dis­ci­pline and com­mit­ment has to come from the young­sters them­selves, he says.

Each train­ing night the young ath­letes will be wait­ing out­side the Corn­wall Cricket Club ready to get to work in what he de­scribes as one of the best train­ing grounds in the coun­try.

Magee says he can’t en­vis­age the suc­cess of Ly­di­ard’s ath­letes ever be­ing du­pli­cated but ev­ery one of his run­ners has the po­ten­tial to go far.

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