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.