Ron Clarke has been honoured with a World Athletics Heritage Plague as a Legend ©Getty Images

Australia’s rich athletics history was celebrated as legendary runners John Landy and Ron Clarke were honoured with World Athletics Heritage Plaques.

In a ceremony tied in to last month's World Cross-Country Championships in Bathurst, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe presided over a gathering that included a host of home talent.

Present were Rob de Castella, winner of the first men’s world marathon title in 1983, Steve Moneghetti, the 1994 Commonwealth marathon champion, Benita Willis, the 2004 world cross country champion, Craig Mottram, the 2005 world 5,000 metres bronze medallist, 1988 Seoul Olympian Jackie Perkins and Krishna Stanton, the 2002 Commonwealth Games marathon silver medallist.

Landy, who died last year aged 91, was the second man to break four minutes for the mile after the landmark achievement in 1954 of Sir Roger Bannister, who beat him later that year in an epic mile race - dubbed "The Race of the Century” - at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, when both men broke four minutes again.

The key moment of the race occurred when Landy, who almost ran clear, looked inside him to check if Sir Roger was still around, at a moment when the Briton was making his big effort on the outside.

Landy’s pre-Games mile time of 3min 57.9sec stood as a world record for three years.

Two years after Vancouver, Landy won 1500m bronze at the home Olympics in Melbourne in 1956.

He went on to become Governor of Victoria from 2001 to 2006.

John Landy, right, pictured at the crucial moment during the
John Landy, right, pictured at the crucial moment during the "Race of the Century" in 1954 against Britain's Roger Bannister, has been honoured with a World Athletics Heritage Plaque ©Getty Images

Clarke was also a hugely honoured world-record breaker – he set 17 new marks - who never won a major international title, gaining four Commonwealth silvers and an Olympic bronze.

In 1965 he became the first man to run 10,000 metres in under 28 minutes, taking 36.2sec off his own world record in clocking 27min 39.4sec - a time not bettered until 1972 when Finland’s Lasse Viren ran 27:38.4 in winning the Olympic title in Munich.

Like Landy, Clarke, who died in 2015 aged 78,also had a successful post-athletics political career, serving as Mayor of the Gold Coast from 2004 to 2012.

The two men are inextricably linked in athletics history because of something that happened in the final of the mile race at the 1956 Australian National Championships.

Clarke, then the junior mile world-record holder, was leading when he was tripped in the third lap of the race.

Landy, a little further back, caught Clarke’s shoulder with his spikes as he hurdled over him and instinctively doubled back to apologise and help him to his feet.

Both men resumed the race over the final two laps, during which Landy made up the deficit and earned a victory which secured his place at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics later that summer.

"It gives me great pleasure to mark the staging of the first World Athletics Series event held in Australia since the 2001 Grand Prix Final in Melbourne by announcing three World Athletics Heritage Plaques," commented Coe.

"Australia, which in 1912 was one of the founding members of World Athletics [formerly the International Association of Athletics Federations], has made a considerable contribution to our sport’s history and development, three important elements of which we recognise today with plaques.

"In the posthumous category of Legend we celebrate the achievements of John Landy and Ron Clarke , two of the greatest middle and long-distance world record breakers.

"While they missed out on ultimate Olympic glory, their successful careers exemplified grit and determination, and have inspired generations of runners around the world."

 A third plaque, in category of Culture, was awarded to Australian Track & Field Coaches Association Journal, formerly Modern Athlete & Coach, which was founded in 1955 by Jess Jarver (1922-2005).

"The journal remains one of our sport’s foremost coaching publications," Coe said.

The ATFCA Journal plaque will be permanently displayed at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

The latest announcement brings to a total of six the Heritage Plaques awarded to Australia since the programme was inaugurated in December 2018.

The previous three plaques were bestowed to four-times Olympic sprints gold medallist Betty Cuthbert (Legend, 2018), Stawell Gift (Competition, 2019) and coach Percy Cerutty (Legend, 2021), whose charges included the 1960 1500m gold medallist and world record holder Herb Elliott.