Former top British runner David Moorcroft OBE would happily swap some of his world records for a sub 4 minute mile at Cooks Gardens in Whanganui.
The 64-year-old was back in Whanganui to thank the city on behalf of the rest for its long association with and promotion of the mile on the world stage.
Moorcroft was to have been part of the Sir Peter Snell International Track and Field meeting at Cooks Gardens that was postponed until next year because of athlete unavailability. The event was to include the Snell Mile Challenge featuring current Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz, The Mile Down Under Gala Dinner and, of course the Sir Peter Snell International meeting. Even the great man himself, Sir Peter Snell, was scheduled to attend.
Because Moorcroft was already in the air winging his way to New Zealand when the postponement was announced, the former 5000m world record holder agreed to attend and speak at a function on Tuesday night.
Whanganui's athletic fraternity were joined at the the function by invited guests including top Kiwi athletes Dick Tayler and Tony Rogers, who also ran at Cooks Gardens.
"My job was to speak on behalf of the rest of the world and thank Whanganui for making the mile such an iconic distance," Moorcroft said.
"I also talked about the influence New Zealand athletics and athletes like John Walker, Dick Quax and Rod Dixon had on world athletics - they certainly had a big impact on my career."
From Coventry in England, Moorcroft is a former middle distance and long distance runner and former world record holder for the 5000 metres (13m 00.41s). His athletics career spanned the late 1970s and 1980s. He was the winner of two One Mile races at Cooks Gardens in 1977 and 1980.
When asked if he rued missing the sub 12 minute 5000m by four hundreths of a second, his reply on Tuesday night was a feather in Whanganui's cap.
"I said I would much have preferred running a sub 4 minute mile at Cooks Gardens," Moorcroft told the Chronicle.
"It was a wee bit tongue in cheek, but showed just how much I rate Cooks Gardens and Whanganui. If you are going to celebrate the mile, there are only a few places in the world you would do it and Cooks Gardens is certainly one - it's the home of the mile.
"The mile is still the only imperial distance that still has world record status. When you mention Whanganui to top athletes around the world, they all immediately think of Cooks Gardens."
Moorcroft never broke the 4 minute barrier at Cooks Gardens mainly because of wind.
There have been 63 sub 4-min miles run by 41 different runners on the track since Snell set his world record of 3:54.4 in 1962.
The Sports Heritage Trust in Whanganui had planned to present former sub 4-minute milers attending the gala dinner with caps featuring a number to coincide with the order in which they achieved their individual milestone.
However, on Tuesday the trust presented special caps to four athletes who had not broken four minutes, but had gone on to distinguish themselves elsewhere during their careers.
Moorcroft was presented a cap as was Whanganui's own Kevin Ross. Ross, with household names Dick Quax, Dick Tayler and Wanganui Collegiate old boy Tony Polhill, still hold the 4x1 mile relay world record at 16.02.4 set in Auckland in 1972. Tayler was presented his cap for the same feat, while Cyril Vardon (Don) Evans from Taihape was awarded a cap posthumously, accepted by his family.
Evans represented New Zealand at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles in the 800m.
At the 1930 New Zealand Athletics Championships at Cooks Gardens he won both the 880 yards and mile clocking 4.23.4 setting a new track record.