In 1996, on a steamy night in Atlanta, a women’s 5000 metre race was held at the Olympic Games for the first time. Right there, drawn in the opening heat, was a New Zealander who would go on to be a 10-year member of Wellington Scottish: Anne Hare.
It had been a 100-year wait between the revival of the modern Olympics and the first appearance of the women’s 5000, and a display of male ego made the wait even longer. The first heat was scheduled to follow the men’s 100 metres final, which was delayed again and again as the competitors posed and preened and stared each other down. Only after three false starts, a disqualification, and a long celebration of Donovan Bailey’s new world record were the women middle-distance runners given the track.
When the race finally started, they set off at a cracking speed. As runners dropped off one by one, Anne held tightly to the leaders and finished in sixth place, setting a personal best time of 15.22.
Four runners from each heat qualified automatically, so Anne faced yet another nervous wait to see if she could get through as a fastest loser. The second heat was slow; the third heat was slow; and as she finished her warm-down deep in the night, Anne was confirmed as an Olympic finalist.
Less than 48 hours later, Anne was back in the Olympic stadium, and she put herself in the mix early in the final. She knew that she lacked the speed to compete for a medal over the closing laps, but she was determined to run a positive race. For a time, she was settled in the lead. Wang Junxia of China sprinted away for the gold and Anne fell back to thirteenth, but she still finished in 15.29. She had run her two fastest 5000 metre times in the space of three days, and she had done it on the biggest stage in athletics.
Like so many epic journeys, Anne’s begins by passing through the Hutt. She was a decent but not outstanding junior athlete, with neither the results nor the body type to mark her as a future star. The foundations for her elite career were not laid until she was 18, when she joined Lower Hutt Athletics and signed up to be coached by John and Penny Hunt.
John and Penny had developed their coaching methods overseas, and Penny specialized as a sprint coach. Anne threw herself into gym work, skipping, technical drills, cross training, and highly specific mixed-pace running.
The training regime had both immediate and long-term effects. It launched Anne’s international career: by the age of 22, she was off to the first of three Commonwealth Games. And it introduced her to an approach to training that she would maintain in her own coaching career, as she developed a variety of methods that placed her well outside New Zealand’s predominant Lydiard-influenced training culture.
Anne worked with the Hunts throughout her time as an elite runner, tweaking their system as her career progressed. More and more, she came to understand the value of periodization. Her biggest mistake in training, she recalls, was trying to combine weights, long runs, and track work in the same build-up phase.
In the middle of her career, Anne benefited from moving to a ten-day training cycle. It enabled her to include more variation and balance in her training and it gave her a crucial extra three days’ recovery between long runs.
For all her experimentation, at no point was Anne converted to a high-mileage regime. She prided herself on performing well in races rather than accumulating miles in training. She had several years in New Zealand’s Ekiden relay team, competing in Japan and across Asia. Year after year, she remembers, she would run the team’s fastest leg. The next morning, she would wake up barely able to walk and looking forward to a rest, while her teammates would head out for a two-hour run.
The mid-eighties represented the latter part of one of the great eras of New Zealand running. As Anne entered the international scene, she had role models in Anne Audain and Lorraine Moller and received invaluable financial and moral support from John Walker and Arch Jelley.
Walker played a part in one of Anne’s most memorable performances. In Europe in 1986, Anne was not fast enough to gain entry to the major races, but Walker convinced the promoters of a meet at Crystal Palace to give her a spot in the 2000 metres. Anne made the most of her opportunity. As Maricica Puica and Zola Budd jousted at the front of the field, both breaking the previous world record, Anne came home in a sizzling 5.44: a New Zealand record that still stands.
Anne is remembered for her achievements on the track, but she found her true home on the high-profile American road circuit of the eighties and nineties. Her strength and endurance suited the undulating courses and regular racing. In a time of widespread illegal drug-use, the US road races were unusual in conducting frequent random drug tests. Several of the leading runners of the time avoided the circuit completely, and several others would show up and run, but would suddenly be beatable.
A big attraction of the road racing circuit was the camaraderie that developed as the runners travelled from event to event. The women got to know each other very well: so well, in fact, that they often knew at which time of the month each of them would be most likely to put in a slow race.
One story needs retelling. At a road race in Atlanta, Anne was ecstatic to finish in front of the great Kenyan Tegla Laroupe – until she looked back after crossing the line and saw exactly why Laroupe, in her white running outfit, had performed below expectations. If that took some of the gloss off Anne’s performance, it also won her a friend. To Laroupe’s boundless gratitude, Anne gave her a covering blanket and then dashed to her kitbag to find a tampon.
Back in New Zealand, Anne has contributed to the sport as a coach and administrator, and as a club runner. Today, she coaches at Wellington East, and with her husband Chris she advises a small group of Scottish runners. Anne’s time in NZ and Wellington running has sometimes been turbulent, as she has fought for respect within an establishment that has often treated her as an outsider.
Anne has served on the board of Athletics New Zealand and on the Athletes’ Commission of the New Zealand Olympic Committee. She took seriously her role as an advocate for athletes, winning victories for other runners where she could; she put particular effort into trying to win Olympic selection for Scottish’s Michael Aish. Never shy about taking her advocacy into the public arena, she is also known for her prominent efforts to improve conditions for women athletes and to get more women onto governance boards.
Throughout her international career, Anne was a member of Wellington Harriers. She left under acrimonious circumstances in 2005, having clashed too many times with club coaches and administrators. She intended to leave the club scene altogether, but after enthusiastic approaches from Andrena Patterson and Venessa Green, she decided to join Scottish.
The change in clubs brought quick success. Within weeks of registering, she was alongside Scottish legends Bernie Portenski and Melissa Moon in the women’s senior team for the National Road Relays in Akaroa. Scottish won in a tight race, beating WHAC into second.
From there, Anne became a fixture in the most successful team in Scottish history, the women’s Masters team that won nine national titles between 2006 and 2016. She speaks as fondly of her time as a Scottish master as she does of her international career, remembering the excitement of being in the NRR van and the delicious food the team would share during and after the relay, and reeling off the names of talented friends and teammates like Katie Kemp, Michele Allison, Trish Sloane, Helen Willis, Jackie Mexted, Mandy Simpson, Rachael Cunningham, and Lindsay Barwick.
Anne can be an intimidating presence. She is combative and sometimes sardonic, still stung by memories of having her opinions dismissed by older officials and of being lectured by male college and club coaches who were always sure that they knew best. Most of all, though, she is a rich and underappreciated resource, always good fun and full of entertaining stories and insightful advice.
Her main diagnosis of today’s club runners, unsurprisingly, is that they do too much running. She is a strong advocate of building running technique, which she sees as a forgotten component even of Arthur Lydiard’s system. Especially in his younger athletes, Anne recalls, Lydiard placed more importance on drills and technical instruction than on reeling off 100-mile weeks.
Coaching her own runners, Anne always includes exercises to build strength and flexibility. Her approach to speed training is detailed and scientific, paying close attention to the length and speed of repetitions and to what the runner does during recovery periods. She sees injury avoidance as one of the coach’s main tasks; given the psychology of most runners, she says, over-training is easy and dangerous, while under-training is difficult but often beneficial.
Failing a comeback, Anne’s career as a competitive runner has now finished, and her focus is moving away from running and towards her family and her professional life. By any measure, her contribution to the sport has been profound. She is our link to a glorious time in international women’s running, and she deserves her place as one of Scottish’s greatest athletes and coaches. And for anyone who asks, she is always good for a chat.
by Simon Keller