After five decades of absence, the country's best middle distance runners will once again be able to compete for the New Zealand Mile Championship, and they will do it on the track that Sir Peter Snell made famous.
Following a very long period of negotiations, Whanganui Sports Heritage Trust co-ordinator Russell Sears and Athletics NZ life member Alec McNab have received the sign off to resurrect the three official Mile championships, which will be held at Cooks Gardens on March 14.
The 2020 Sir Peter Snell International Track Meeting will see Senior Men's, Senior Women's and Under 20 Men's mile titles being contested, and they are certain to attract a strong field of distance runners.
"The permit level for the New Zealand Mile Championship will be a World Athletics D permit, for the purpose of World Athletics ranking points," said the press release.
McNab and Sears said the chance to get world ranking points because of the national championship status is crucial.
In September this year, two-time Olympic medallist Nick Willis missed the first qualification invites for the World Championships because the 36-year-old did not have enough points.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) then sent out last-minute secondary invitations to 130 athletes, including Willis, but he declined as he had already stopped training after missing out the first time
McNab said having a points event guaranteed the stars of the sport in New Zealand will be heading to Whanganui in March.
"National championships earn more [points] than just doing the time at a normal meet.
"If you haven't got those qualifying points at your meet, they won't come."
Seeding for the Mile races will be based on the 1500m and mile finishing times that have been put up by runners on the national scene since May 1 of this year.
"Those athletes who do not qualify for the A race will be seeded in B and subsequent races and the Championship will be conducted as straight timed finals with seeded heats," said the press release.
Sears said they had to thank the support of many former athletes while they were pushing for the return of the Mile Championships, including the Olympic bronze medallist Rod Dixon, who won the last Under 20 Men's Mile title contested in the 1968-69 season, winning in 4m 19.8s.
Heather Thomson was the last Senior Women's champion (4m 52.5s) and the late Dick Quax, the former 5000m world record holder, was the last Senior Men's champion (4m 5.3s).
The 2020 Sir Peter Snell International Track Meeting will also be an opportunity to celebrate the night in January 1962 when Snell made Cooks Gardens famous by setting his first One Mile world record and breaking the four minute barrier (3m 54.4s).
Sir Peter died in his sleep in Dallas on December 12 (13th New Zealand time), and had also been a supporter of bringing back the Mile Championship.
While coincidental, Sears said Snell's death was not the catalyst for Athletics NZ to sign off on the championships returning.
Initial approval had been granted back in October, but under the rules of the governing body, it required another 50 days before being made official.
"It's taken 2-3 years, and Athletic NZ finally approved it on Monday," said Sears.
"It's taken a while to get it across the line."
At this year's Sir Peter Snell International Track Meeting back in March, Canberra's Rorey Hunter and Tauranga's Samuel Tanner became the 44th and 45th men to break the 4 minute mile at Cooks Gardens.
At 18-years-old, Tanner became the youngest New Zealander to achieve the feat, setting a new junior record that had stood since Willis himself set the benchmark back in 2001.
Hunter said it had been an honour to cross the One Mile finishline in front of the Sir Peter Snell bronze statue.
"It's incredible, that's the reason I wanted to come over here, there's so much history for this track."