Distance Runner Bill Baillie Finishes the Race
Nelson-born athlete William “Bill” Baillie, who once held world records in the now obscure 20,000m and one-hour running events, has died in Auckland. He was 84.
At the time Baillie broke the records they had a higher status than today and were held by Czech great Emil Zatopek.
Baillie set both marks in the same race in Auckland in 1963. In one hour he covered 20.19km after reaching the 20K mark in 59 minutes, 28.6 seconds.
In 2013 he recalled that, “there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to do it on that particular day. When it finished, and everyone had gone home, I thought I better go home and mow the lawns.”
Baillie competed in the 5000 at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where he finished sixth. He also competed in four Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, 1958, 1962 and 1966.
In a Stuff obituary, Kevin Norquay writes: Coached by guru Arthur Lydiard, Baillie excelled in a range of distances winning 12 national titles from 880 yards to six miles.
Norquay includes a quote by athletics historian Peter Heidenstrom, who once wrote: “Better runners than Baillie there may have been, but none who left behind more truly memorable races.”
Baillie had an infectious grin, that belied a gritty and determined approach to his races, the article continues.
He foreshadowed, then ran in, an era where Murray Halberg, Peter Snell and John Davies took the black singlet to the top of the world.
An item published online in the obituaries section of The New Zealand Herald said Baillie “passed away peacefully in his sleep … Bill has just finished the race of his life, and only he knows what his time was.”
In the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Baillie was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to athletics.
Original article by AP, The National Post, December 26, 2018.
Photo by Photosport.