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Rod Sutherland blown away by honour

The 2022 recipient of the Core Legal Lifetime Achievement Award Rod Sutherland was accorded a standing ovation as he took the stage at the Carterton Events Centre on Wednesday.

Sutherland received the prestigious honour for more than six decades of involvement in athletics, cycling, and multisport, initially competing to a high level, and then through volunteer and administration.

“It’s over the top, and I’m really proud, but there’s hundreds of people in Wairarapa who do a lot of work,” said the humble 78-year-old.

“I’ve been doing it for 65 years, and you don’t do things to get an award, and I just keep doing it, and these things come along at times.”

Sutherland was born in 1943, the sixth child born in a family of 16 who lived in a two-bedroom home in Millard Avenue.

Being one of the smaller kids in the family probably helped develop Sutherland’s speed, and competitive spirit – he had to be quick to get away from his older and bigger siblings. Athletics was in his blood though and he joined up with Masterton Harriers – now Athletics and Cycling Masterton [ACM] – and quickly showcased his talents.

At age 25, Sutherland ran a four-minute 13-second mile, which at the time was a world-class time, but not good enough to win on the night.

“It was club night at Cooks Gardens [Whanganui] on the grass in 1968, and where did I finish? Sixth, and the winner Kevin Ross just missed breaking four minutes, and I was coming into the straight when he was finishing.”

However, it was at the ultimate distance, the marathon, where Sutherland really came into his own.

Between the ages of 40 and 45 he ran 16 sub-two-hour 30-minute marathons, and won the national marathon masters championships in Rotorua, Auckland, and Christchurch. That led to his selection to represent New Zealand at the 1984 Australian Olympic trials, and the Fiji Marathon.

Remarkably this was all achieved while Sutherland was a quarantine officer on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour, where his training comprised endless loops of the small island on a track that he mowed and maintained. Sutherland won national titles in athletics, cycling and multisport events, with his personal highlight finishing runner-up in the Mountains to Sea multisport event raced over three days from Mt Ruapehu to Whanganui, and missing a trip to a United States event by six minutes.

Sutherland is a long-standing member and life member of ACM, having sat on the committee and assisted with the running of many local events.

He has supported several local people with disabilities and sight impairment as a tandem cyclist, allowing them to maintain physical fitness and compete.

Sutherland is a member of Parkinsons Wairarapa, has organised the annual Parkinsons Awareness week, and helped organise the Pedal for Parkinsons cycle ride in conjunction with the annual Huri Huri cycling event.

He is a member and former President of Masterton South Rotary Club. He has assisted with the Kid’s Own Playground, the Masterton Intermediate School reading programme, the Round Taupo Cycle race, and forming and maintaining the Millennium Reserve.

In 2017, he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for services to athletics, cycling, and the community.

Affectionately known as ‘Grumpy Granddad’, Sutherland is one of the true gentlemen of Wairarapa sport.


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Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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