Record breaking athletics legend Ron Clarke dies

Australian distance runner Ron Clarke set 17 world records in the 1960s Credit: PA

Australian athlete Ron Clarke, who redefined distance running by setting 17 world records in the 1960s, died this morning.

Clarke never won a gold medal at the Olympics, taking home a bronze from the 10,000 metres in 1964 and finishing fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the longer distance in Mexico in 1968.

But at his peak in 1965, he destroyed record after record in distance running from the two-mile race through to the one-hour run.

He was the first man to run under 28 minutes in the 10,000m and his time of 27:39.4 in Oslo that year stood as the record until Finn Lasse Viren bettered it at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

He died in a Gold Coast hospital after a short illness, aged 78.

Athletics Australia president David Grace said it was a "very sad day for athletics in Australia".

"Ron will forever be a legend of our sport and we are grateful for his extensive contribution to the sport of athletics, as well as to public service during a life that should be celebrated," he said.