St Pauls Harrier & Athletic Club identity Graeme Hyde has traded his running shoes for a bike to climb onto the pedalling bandwagon that is sweeping Southland.
The 66-year-old Invercargill landscaper for 45 years has sold that business to Central Pirates Rugby Football
Club coach Brad Anderson and has now eased into a quieter lifestyle as a lawn doctor and enjoys cycling for pleasure with good mate Ron (Sausage) Sasse.
"We've been biking about 10 years now. People say they never see us coming but they hear us going," Hyde quipped.
"We have done four Motatapu [Wanaka to Arrowtown] bike races over about 50km for all-comers and I also enjoy playing golf."
The Motatapu fixture in March was "reasonably tough" but still most enjoyable for cyclists who competed mainly for relaxation, he said.
Hyde has gradually phased out of running coaching and now restricts himself to assisting Riverton road and cross-country athlete Corey Mennell in the countdown to the 35-40 years section of the New Zealand Veterans Championships next month.
Bike riding, golf and retirement from his landscaping business have enabled Hyde to step back and enjoy more time with Lesley, his wife of 44 years, and their sons Craig, of Invercargill, and Gary, who lives in Melbourne.
"I have got my own gymnasium at home and Ron Sasse and I like biking for an hour or an hour and a half around places like Tisbury, Sandy Point, the Invercargill Estuary track and Riverton by way of the Pourakino Valley access route."
Running called for intense step-by-step focus and concentration, whereas cycling was a "more relaxed form of concentration" whereby a man could stop pedalling briefly and not lose momentum and could recover quickly, he said.
"Running was popular in my young days, with up to 70 competitors in a club race.
"I recall I won a 1975 Pleasant Point to Temuka road race over 10 miles with 180 competitors. There are now more sporting counter-attractions, with millions of dollars having been poured into cycling, triathlons, ironman and mountainbiking pursuits."
Simply, wheels had taken over from legs, and without the same impact injuries.
Hyde cast his mind back to Southland Technical College when a 13-year-old and his first day running for St Pauls with brother Murray and neighbours John Hyslop and Colin Brown at the late Frank Plunkett's South Hillend farm.
"We ploughed through mud and over hills, which was good for developing stamina, and I managed to beat Ronnie Dawson, the crack runner of that time, in the "Run In" over the closing stages.
"My own serious running times were from 13 to 16 years, before I played junior rugby for Lumsden for two years while working on Alister Hamilton's Lowther farm near Lumsden."
Graeme fondly recalled running for St Pauls when coached by John Cook and teaming with Marty Hansen and Charlie Russell over a 10-mile circuit taking in Yarrow St, Racecourse Rd, Layard St, Queens Drive, St Andrew and Isabella streets over two circuits and back to the club's Surrey Park headquarters.
As a runner, he won Southland cross-country, road and track titles "that were hard to come by" in the competitive 1962-64 years, invariably finding Selwyn Wills, of Grove Bush, "the hardest man to beat."
"Selwyn, Cam Gerrard and I were selected for the New Zealand under-20 championships at One Tree Hill in Auckland. That was one time I did manage to beat Selwyn."
The St Pauls cross-country team's success at the South Island championships - with Paul Brownlee, Peter Hodson, Alan Payne and John Cresswell - was a highlight of Hyde's career.
"It was unheard of in those days to beat Otago and Canterbury teams ... That St Pauls achievement was something special."
Long gone are the days of his coaching former Southland running stars in the mould of Brooke Eddy and Leanne Durry, distinguished national champions and household names in Southland's proud athletics heritage.
Hyde was also closely associated with Brooke's father, John Eddy, who won the 1963 national junior 440 yards title as a Southland representative in Lower Hutt.
"I cannot speak more highly of Graeme Hyde for all he did for my daughter Brooke as a runner. He devoted himself so unselfishly to her career and got the results," Eddy said.
New Zealand representative Brooke was a national record winning 1500m steeplechase holder in 4min 54sec, also in cross-country. Other national titleholders for Hyde included Chris Dagg, Geoff Durry (Leanne's brother), Kathy Johnstone, Heather Skerrett and Marguerite Sutton.
Leanne Durry's fifth in the world championships in England and being a prominent member of the New Zealand women's relay team that finished fourth at the world championships also put Hyde's coaching prowess in the spotlight at a high level.
His running career spanned 40 years, highlighted by gaining Southland Coach of the Year honours, St Pauls life membership and valued involvements with the Southland Athletics Centre.
- © Fairfax NZ News