Landmark book celebrates Aotearoa New Zealand’s proud running heritage


The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree (Volume One 1800s-1999)


Published by Inspired Kids, 01 September 2020, RRP: $29.99

‘Dreydon Sobanja has captured the Kiwi running experience with aplomb.  Never before has there been a book so packed with stories – many told here for the first time – about our nation of runners.  Thrilling and inspiring it made me want to put on my running shoes and compete all over again.’ – Allison Roe MBE, New Zealand’s fastest ever female marathoner

Aotearoa New Zealand is a nation of runners with a proud heritage dating back to the 1800’s. For the first time, the story of our athletes’ achievements and their inspiring legacy is told in forthcoming book The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree: Volume One 1800s-1999.

The book records and showcases the full gamut of the Kiwi running experience – from our sprinters, middle-distance, long-distance and marathon runners, to our hurdlers and steeplechasers, race walkers, Para athletes, mountain runners, ultra-distance and adventure runners.

Sir John Walker’s coach Arch Jelly says in the book’s Foreword, ‘In a country where it is traditional for the media to give massive coverage and publicity to rugby union’s national team, it is refreshing to read a well-researched book detailing the contributions and exploits of those people associated with athletics over many years.’

Like the branches of a mighty Kauri, The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree tells the interconnected stories of our Kiwi athletes, celebrating their remarkable achievements and careers, including:

  • Stand-out sprinters Lord Arthur Porritt, Doreen Lumley, Bevan Smith and Kim Robertson
  • Legendary middle-distance runners Jack Lovelock, Sir Peter Snell, Sir John Walker, Dick Quax, Anne Audain and Lorraine Moller
  • Extraordinary marathon runners Arthur Lydiard, Allison Roe and Rod Dixon
  • Remarkable Para athletes Trish Hill (née Keen), Cristeen Smith and Stuart Minifie.

The book also captures the spirit of our running experience, which saw exemplary coach Arthur Lydiard shape our most successful runners with his unique training methods. Those ground-breaking methods were the foundation stones for the way athletes trained – not only in running, but for most sports that require a high level of endurance and conditioning.

Dreydon Sobanja has loved running ever since he saw John Walker win his 1500-metre gold in Montreal. Dreaming of wearing the Silver Fern himself, he took up competitive running at school and crossed the line, wearing the Silver Fern, at the Triathlon Age Group World Championships in 2015 in Edmonton, Canada.

Inspired to inspire others, Sobanja records our rich running history by sharing the stories of more than 100 Kiwi athletes, including what they achieved, who inspired, coached and mentored them. Driven to immortalise their passion and hard work, Sobanja also interviewed more than 20 athletes, administrators and coaches, some of whose stories have never been told. 

For every copy of The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree (Volume One) sold, $1.00 will be donated to Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ).

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) is the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) for New Zealand. They are a charitable organisation whose overall vision is ‘Excellence and Equity through Sport.’ As a member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), they are part of a worldwide social change movement, which uses the power of sport to positively influence community perceptions of disabled people and to promote a more diverse and inclusive society.

‘We are proud to be associated with Dreydon Sobanja and his book The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree, which highlights the huge achievements of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Para athletes,’ says Fiona Allan, Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand.

Dreydon Sobanja has again collaborated with fellow Aucklander, urban artist and designer Murray Dewhurst to create The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree, which is peppered with scores of glorious black and white images. Together, they have produced four books about inspiring New Zealanders, including Bruce Wants to Go Faster about racing legend Bruce McLaren, which earned the pair a place on the Storyline’s Notable Books List for 2017.

The second volume of The Kiwi Runners’ Family Tree is scheduled for publication prior to the staging of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in July 2021.

DREYDON SOBANJA is an accountant by day and the independent publisher of three children’s books through his company Inspired Kids Ltd – Bruce Wants to Go Faster, Ed Climbs a Big Hill about Sir Edmund Hillary and Jean Dreams of Flying about pioneering aviator Jean Batten. For more, go to:

Since 2011, Dreydon has competed in more than 150 endurance events, including two Ironman triathlons, an Ultra-distance marathon, five Half-Ironman triathlons, two marathons, a 10-km swim in Lake Taupo and a cycle around Lake Taupo.

Dreydon grew up on Waiheke Island, was educated at the University of Auckland and now lives in Auckland’s Eastern suburbs.

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