Biography

Barry Magee Born 1934

Though he never scaled the heights of his contemporaries Peter Snell and Murray Halberg, Barry Magee compiled a fabulous record as a runner.

He is best remembered for taking the bronze medal in the 1960 Rome Olympic marathon, a race made famous because Ethiopian Abebe Bikila won it and opened up international athletics to the African continent.
 
But there was a lot more to Magee's athletics CV than just that one race. In 1960 he won the Fukuoka marathon in Japan, at the time one of the two major marathons contested annually (the other was Boston).
 
He also took part in an amazing race when on July 17, 1961, he, Gary Philpott, Peter Snell and Murray Halberg broke the 4 x one mile world record, though at the time none of them were milers. The race took place in Dublin and the New Zealanders ran primarily to give the England team some opposition in their attempt at the world record.
 
Magee won two national marathon titles, in 1961 and 1962, but he was just as well-performed on the track, winning the New Zealand six-mile championship five times. At Helsinki in 1961, he won the 10,000m title at the World Games, the predecessor of the world championships, and authoritative American magazine Track & Field News ranked him No 1 in the world that year for 10,000m.
 
Though he was born in New Plymouth, Magee's family moved to Auckland when he was four. They settled near the Three Kings Athletic Club and that's where the young Magee got his start in running.
 
He was always a rather reserved and quiet character as an adult, but says that as a child he was terribly shy. Though he enjoyed running, he fancied himself as a rugby player, making various Auckland junior rep sides. However, once he joined the Wesley Club and soon after came into contact with super-coach Arthur Lydiard, his sports path was set - he was to be a runner.
 
Magee worked initially as a grocery assistant in a food market, then for many years ran his own grocery shop. He was always a committed Christian and in 1976 sold the grocery business to devote himself to putting Christ back into the Christmas and Easter perspectives of the commercial world.
 
When he retired from running in the mid-1960s (after attending two Olympics and two Empire Games), he turned to coaching. Among those he coached were Evan Maguire, Kevin Ryan and Kerry Rodger. He also developed a good relationship with the South Koreans and travelled to Korea to run coaching clinics. Often groups of Korean runners would visit him in Auckland.

He and his first wife, Lola, had three children.

In 2010 Magee was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.