Jack Lovelock is still remembered as one of New Zealand's greatest athletes, the first of that country's great middle-distance runners (cf. Peter Snell and John Walker). Best remembered as the Gold Medalist in the 1500 meters at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jack set a world's record in that event (3:47.8). Jack was born 5 January 1910 in Crushington, a mining town on the West Coast of southern New Zealand. His father, John Edward Jones Lovelock, was a sharebroker who had gone to Crushington as a mining battery superintendent. When Jack was very young his family moved to South Canterbury, settling first at Temuka, where he attended primary school, and then in the heart of the rugged and beautiful Mackenzie Country at Fairlie. In this small town, which lies beneath the Southern Alps, Jack's father managed the branch office of a transport company. The elder Lovelock died in 1923 when Jack was only 13 years old. In 1924 he went as a boarder to Timaru Boys' High School, where he was to remain until the end of 1928. It was not until his final year that he really emerged as an athlete of considerable ability, running a mile in 4:44.4. In 1929 he went to Dunedin to study medicine at the University of Otago. His mother, Ivy Harper Lovelock, had bought a house at 38 Warden Street in the Dunedin suburb of Opoho, and the family resided there for several years. (On 16 December 1964 the City of Dunedin created Lovelock Avenue by renaming that section of Cemetery Street between Clyde Street and Dundas Street.) In 1930 he took the Otago mile championship and at the New Zealand championships came in fourth, recording a personal best of 4:26.

Jack went to Exeter College, Oxford University, as a Rhodes Scholar in 1931, where he studied physiology and trained to run under Bill Thomas. He was befriended at Oxford by another Rhodes Scholar, [Sir] Arthur Porritt (a 1924 Olympic bronze medalist who was later to become Governor-General of New Zealand and godfather to Jack's daughter, Mary). In the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Jack finished a disappointing seventh in the 1500 meters. That same year he set a world's record for the three-quarter mile with a time of 3:02.2. The following year, running for an Oxbridge team against Princeton and Cornell universities, he set a world record for the mile (4:07.6), defeating American Bill Bonthron. At the World Student Games in Budapest, he won the 1500 meters. At the Berlin Olympics, Jack defeated two of the premiere middle-distance runners of the era, Italy's Luigi Becalli and America's Glenn Cunningham, by sprinting the final 300 meters. (An oak sapling, given to Jack--and all Olympic medalists--by Hitler, was taken to New Zealand and planted at Timaru Boys' High School, where it continues to flourish in 2000.)

Following a post-Olympic tour of New Zealand, Jack retired from competition and returned to Oxford, where he earned M.A., M.B. and Ch.B degrees in 1937. He practiced medicine in London, specializing in rheumatology. During World War II he joined the British Army and was stationed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, working as a specialist in physical medicine and rising to the rank of major. In August 1940, he suffered a bad fall from a horse during a hunt near London. He received a broken arm and leg, and one of his eyes was badly damaged, causing him to temporarily have split vision. From then on he would periodically have to wear smoked glasses or a mask over one eye. Jack served six years in the army and in 1946 he joined the staff of Brompton Chest Hospital. On 26 March 1945 he married his longtime fiancée, Cynthia James, an American from Brooklyn, NY, at the Parish Church of St. Peter with St. Thomas, Marylebone, London. In December 1947 the Lovelocks moved to the United States, where Jack eventually became assistant director of physical medicine and director of rehabilitation at the Manhattan Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, dealing largely with polio cases. They had two daughters, Mary and Janet. On the morning of 28 December 1949, Jack called Cynthia to tell her that he was having dizzy spells and was coming home. Standing on the platform of the Church Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn, Jack was seized by a spell and toppled onto the electric rails. The driver of the train was unable to stop, and Jack was killed, eight days short of his fortieth birthday.

Jack's medals and other memorabilia have been maintained since 1966 by the Timaru Boys' High School Old Boys' Association in their museum (the school also has a mural next to its running track showing Jack winning at Berlin). Jack has been the subject of at least three books: Norman Harris's The Legend of Lovelock (1964), Christopher Tobin's Lovelock: New Zealand's Olympic Gold Miler (1984), and James McNeish's biographical novel Lovelock (1986). During a visit to New Zealand in 1987, his son-in-law discovered Lovelock's Sports Bar in Wellington, which also contains photos and memorabilia. In 1990 Jack was honored by the New Zealand Post Office with a stamp in its Famous New Zealand Sporting Heroes series. Jack was elected to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and, on 26 July 1999, was named New Zealand's outstanding athlete of the 1930s by the Halberg Trust. His daughter Mary accepted the honor on his behalf at a ceremony held 17 February 2000 in Auckland.