Eddie Gray, who rarely leaves Greymouth, was in San Sebastian, Spain, when he placed a sensational third in the International Cross-Country Championship in March 1971. Coming only four years after his close friend and club-mate Dave McKenzie won the Boston Marathon, Gray’s performance confirmed West Coasters’ belief that if you’re the best on the Coast, you’re quite likely the best in the world.
Gray was beaten that day only by two new England stars, Dave Bedford, future world record-holder at 10,000m, and Trevor Wright, who would place second later that year in the European Championships marathon (and later migrate to Tauranga). To show the quality of the field, behind Gray were Ian Stewart (ninth), Rod Dixon (tenth), Gaston Roelants (twelfth), and Emil Puttemans (dnf), all to be Olympic medalists. Dixon later emulated Gray by twice placing third in the World Cross-Country. Previously, it had been done only by Bryan Rose (1967).
Gray ran ...