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Witnessing the world revolution of running

New Zealand Olympic medallist Nick Willis describes the new book When Running Made History as “a front-row seat to running’s most inspiring and historic moments, with New Zealand in a major role”.

Published by Canterbury University Press (CUP), world-class runner and journalist Roger Robinson’s latest book traces the evolution of running over 60 years – from minority sport to booming world movement – into what he calls “the biggest peaceful participant activity in human history”. His eye-witness account offers new insights into running and its significance beyond sport, with modern mass gatherings promoting goodwill and inclusivity, affirming communal values.

In the opening paragraphs, Robinson references the 1948 Olympic Games hosted in war-torn London, the 2014 Boston Marathon aka the ‘Race of Redemption’ held just one year on from a devastating terror attack, and the 2012 International Track Meet (ITM), which was the first major event held in Christchurch after the devastating 2011 earthquakes. All are examples of how running bolstered morale and built social resilience in times of dire need.

“I have recorded the growth of running as it became a new form of celebration, an expression of communal catharsis or an incarnation of unity and hope,” Robinson says.

Robinson witnessed many pivotal developments and events in the history of modern running, including the ascendance of African athletes and the emergence of women’s running. As a spectator he saw Snell and Halberg at the Rome Olympics; as a journalist he reported live on the Boston marathon bombings; he was running in Berlin when the wall came down for reunification, and in New York when the Twin Towers fell.

This is a social history as much as a history of sport and Roger Robinson’s compelling, witty, beautifully written narrative will appeal to a wide readership. Runners and spectators alike will relate to the theme of running as a form of celebration, commemoration or catharsis. Its publication is timely as Christchurch prepares to host the sixth annual Run to Remember on 24 February.

When Running Made History will be launched by 1974 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Dick Tayler MNZM on Wednesday 13 February at The Frontrunner Colombo.

About the author

Emeritus Professor Roger Robinson is remembered as an outstanding teacher of English at the University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington. The wider public may remember him as the stadium announcer at the Christchurch and Auckland Commonwealth Games, and as an acclaimed commentator for TVNZ. Previous works from Roger Robinson include Katherine Mansfield: In From the Margin, the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature and Heroes and Sparrows: a Celebration of Running.

When Running Made History, published by Canterbury University Press, February 2019, RRP $39.99, ISBN 978-1-98-850308-0

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