Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
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Dick Quax (1/1/48-25/5/18)

Just before the ‘Great’ trio of British middle-distance runners Seb Coe, Steve Ovett & Steve Cram led the World of middle distance runners in the 1980’s, an equally impressive trio from New Zealand, light up the tracks around the World, in their all black strip in the 1970’s.

John Walker (The first ever to run under 3:50 for a mile and the 1500 Olympic Champion in 1976; Rod Dixon, who gained a bronze medal in the 1500 in 1972 and, much later won the New York Marathon) plus Dick Quax, a very popular man, who gained a 1970 Commonwealth silver and Olympic silver in 1976, besides achieving a World 5000 record. He was coached by John Davies, the New Zealander who came 3rd in the 1964 Olympic 1500 in Tokyo.

Dick Quax, who sadly died of cancer age 70 on the 28th of May 2018, was versatile by winning an event that was not his speciality and it was the marathon in early 1980 in Auckland, New Zealand and there were some very good athletes behind him that day. It was the Choysa International race. The first few were Quax in 2:13.12; Dave Cannon (GB) 2:13.74; Domingo Tibaduiza (Colombia) 2:14.41; Ferenc Szekeres (Hungary) 2:14.44; Brendan Foster (GB) 2:15.49; Trevor Wright (GB) 2:16.45 and Ian Thompson (GB) 2:20.17.

Perhaps it would be best to highlight Dick Quax three most notable successes briefly
1970 Commonwealth Games 1500 in Edinburgh. First four to finish 1 Kip Keino (Kenya) 3:36.6; 2 Dick Quax (NZ) 3:38.2; 3 Brendan Foster (England) 3:40. 6; the same time as Peter Stewart (Scotland) brother of 5000 winner Ian Stewart.
“I had beaten Keino in March of that year, though he had a long journey from Africa. So, as I had beaten him that once before I thought I could beat him again. Perhaps the British guys had seen him run at his best so many times that they figured he was unbeatable where as I had only seen him run once and I had beaten him; so that gave me the confidence to think he was only as human as me.”

30th of July, 1976, Olympic 5000 Final in Montreal. First six: - 1 Lasse Viren (Finland) 13:24.76; 2 Dick Quax (NZ) 13:25.16; 3 Klaus Hildenbrand (FRG) 13:25.38; 4 Rod Dixon (NZ) 13:25.50; 5 Brendan Foster (GBR) 13:26.19 and 6 Willy Polleunis (BEL) 13:26,99. (14 ran)
“I had a virus that I actually got the night before the Final of the 10,000. I spent most of the night on or over the toilet. For the 5000 I still had not recovered properly from my flu or my stomach virus but I was so fit.
Did that take the pressure off him for the Final?
“No. It put more pressure on me as people at home had said there goes Quax, he has blown again, as they did not know the full story and I got a bit of rubbishing from the not so knowledgeable TV commentators back home. I think there was a little a bit of extra pressure on me as a matter of fact. In the final my problem was I had all my confidence knocked out of me because of my illness. I remember at one stage early on it was very slow and in some ways I was thankful for that because I think if the pace had been hard all the way, I would probably have been dropped off because I was just not strong any longer after the illness.’
‘After about 5 laps Brendan Foster looked to me as though he was going to throw in a 59 or 60 quarter. He went for half a lap, looked round and saw everybody still with him and, I felt, he sort of threw it in a bit. I thought to myself—Thank God! I felt if a break had been made at that stage I probably would not have been in contention much longer.”

Before his 5000 World record of 13:12.9 on the 5th of July 1977.
Did he think he could do that?

“Yes I did. I planned to break the world record because it was on the same day and the same place that I had missed the record by one tenth of a second the year before.
I had planned it very methodically though, my plans did not really go the way I wanted them to go because first I got a bad cold in Helsinki. It was the second day of the World Games; I was sitting in the stadium and it was freezing cold-about 10 degrees too cold—and I sat there shivering and ended up getting a cold. In fact two days before I ran the World record I could not even stay with Rod Dixon and Jos Hermens in a training run so that sort of threw my plans a bit haywire.
The night of the race was cold and windy and not an ideal night but I think if you have made a plan you should try and carry it out and I was lucky enough to get under by one tenth—it makes a world of difference you know!

His love of running shines through when he said to me in 1980
“I guess what I really enjoy about running most is that I can run on a nice hot summer’s day, perhaps on a Sunday morning, when everybody is still in bed. I go with my mates on a 22 mile run through the Bush and through the hills above Auckland about 2000 feet up where you can look right across the city, two harbours and over the sea.That is what most people don’t get to appreciate. I enjoy racing and winning and competition, but it’s the actual running that I can imagine doing for the rest of my life.”

Dick was born in the Netherlands in 1948 Thedorus Jacobus Leonardus ‘Dick’ Quax and moved as a child with his family to New Zealand. He played tennis and rugby at school but at 15 he started running fairly seriously, as he was in an area that had quite a few runners of good quality. Amongst the various things he did, right up to his death at 70 was being a councillor for Auckland from 2011.
He had a good approach to life in general


“The way I look at it is that life comes before running. I like going to the beach, I like sailing, playing golf, tennis and squash for fun. I like to spend time with my family and have a few drinks at the pub”

Alastair Aitken

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