Legendary New Zealand athlete Sir Murray Halberg passed away yesterday, November 30 at the age of 89. He was New Zealand’s 1st sub- four-minute miler – a feat which he achieved in Santry on August 6, 1958 in the original dream mile where Herb Elliott (AUS) ran a new world record and for the 1st time in the same race 5 athletes athletes including Halberg (3.57.5) ran sub 4. The following day, it was a 2 day meet, Halberg won the 4 mile race in the Stadium in a time of 18.22.6 a time that remains as to this day as the Irish all comers Record.
The Halberg-Santry connection continued as on July 17th 1961 a New Zealand team of Peter Snell, Halberg, Barry Magee and Garry Philpot came to back set a World 4 x 1 Mile record of 16:23.8.
Murray Halberg’s story is inspirational. As a young man he sustained a very serious injury to his arm whilst playing rugby which left him with a withered left-arm, requiring months upon months of rehab. Not able to pursue his first love of rugby he took up the sport of athletics linking up with coach Arthur Lydiard. By 1954 he was a national champion and in 1956 he became an Olympian competing in the Melbourne Games in the 1500 where of course Ronnie Delany took gold for Ireland. He was one of the athletes that Billy Morton signed up at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff to come to Santry for the ‘Clonliffe August Sports’ where of course history was made.
At the Rome Olympic Games in 1960 Halberg achieved the pinnacle winning 5000 gold for New Zealand. He completed again at the Tokyo Games in 1964 placing 7th in the 10,000.
After his retirement from the sport he became an advocate for children with physical disabilities setting up the Halberg Foundation where his work saw him knighted in 1988.
Murray Halberg along with the other 1958 milers is fondly remembered in the annual Morton mile at Morton Games. May he rest in peace.