An emotional Rod Dixon says Dick Quax — who has passed away at the age of 70 — was the inspiration for a golden era of New Zealand running.

Quax, Dixon and John Walker will forever be linked, as the trio who became household names as they rose to extraordinary achievements around the world.

It was a partnership of competitive and forthright men, who all won Olympic medals and took New Zealand sports fans on a journey which came to mark the end of the great Kiwi running lineage.

Dixon, who lives in California, told Radio Sport's Mark Watson that they shared a sporting adventure and 50 years of friendship.

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"I'm in Connecticut right now and have just been for a walk in one of the beautiful forests here, near a lake, and said my goodbyes to Dick. It is a very tough time," said the 67-year-old Dixon, whose own crowning glory was winning the 1983 New York Marathon.

"Dick ignited the (golden era of the) 1970s with his incredible silver at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh behind the great Kip Keino.

"He was the only one to go out and give it a go (against Keino), and that inspired a lot of runners in New Zealand and I was just one of them.

"It wasn't long before I was racing him and he would be telling me to stay behind him, until it was time to go. He was a character. I loved the guy.

"I think at first a lot of us were in awe of him, he was a silver medallist, and we were a little shy in coming forward in those days. We didn't know how he would respond and we didn't have social media to form an opinion.

"It wasn't long before he was quite prepared to share his knowledge, give advice, encouragement."

Dixon recalled that the famous trio "travelled a lot, suit case in one hand, shoes in the other - it was amazing really".

"Dick was very good at getting us to balance everything — we were running four or five times a week in Europe.

"It was Dick who was the lead, who was very good at working with race directors. I was pretty good at organising travel. John was pretty good at winning races.

"We were a great combo and a threesome. We had to do it all ourselves.

"We always thought of it as 33 per cent each, all contributed equally. That followed right through to the rest of our lives. It was an incredible friendship that went on for 48, 50 years.

"He was very opinionated, very determined that his opinion was taken seriously. Somehow with all of this we got along brilliantly, we never had a cross word, never fell out, always found a way to compromise or put it behind us. That was the great thing about that man."

In one of the best Olympic finishes, Quax won silver behind the famous Fin Lasse Virén with Dixon fourth in the 1976 Montreal 5000m.

Dixon and Quax held some regret they had not been able to co-ordinate their tactics a little better as the race heated up. Quax went on to set a world 5000m record the next year.

"We talked about this...the world record was partial redemption, but it certainly didn't replace the gold," said Dixon.

Dixon described Quax as an "incredibly good, compassionate person, intensely competitive athlete, who cared for his community, fellow athletes, people...a great dad, husband to Roxanne, and a loyal friend you could always count on.

"If you asked him anything you always got an honest opinion. That's what carried us for 50 years of friendship."