© Copyright – 2011 – Christopher Kelsall
The following narratives contained in this fourth installment of Fartlek and Low Things in West Auckland are the adventures of protagonist brothers, Keith and Colin Livingstone of New Zealand. Within each of these submissions, madness and debauchery reign supreme, as does serious training talk to do with the sport of athletics.
The Livingstones and company, these raconteurs, were competitive distance runners during the late 1970s through to the mid-1990s, when they ran at the national level in New Zealand and Australia. Now they coach others.
Keith Livingstone is a Chiropractor with a practice in Australia and is the author of the very popular book, Healthy Intelligent Training, the definitive text on the famous Arthur Lydiard method. Colin is an author and illustrator living in England (he provided the illustrations for the book, Healthy Intelligent Training).
For no reason whatsoever, there is no particular order to these interviews and the yarns they contain. Perhaps this random and ad-hoc order to the events puts a greater shine to the luster of the rather allegoric-like adventures that make up this series of interviews. I think so.
The title, ‘Fartlek and Low Things in West Auckland’ spoofs – in spirit mostly – the legendary novel written by the Father of Gonzo Journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, which was titled, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.
Olympian bards who sung
Divine ideas below,
Which always find us young,
And always keep us so
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chris: Keith, what are your thoughts on serious cycling and it’s influence on running?
Keith: Good cross-training if you’re injured, or to replace a long run if you have a dicky knee.
We managed to get an athlete of mine to a debut track 10,000m of 29:07 a couple of years ago by using a mountain bike to replace the last portion of his Sunday long run. He had chronic tendonitis that would stop him running every time he got to 1 hour 40 minutes, so to deal with this we put him on a mountain bike where he went over the same very steep and undulating gravel road circuit for another hour or so.
We pre-empted the inflamed stage by getting him to hop over at 1hr 30. He was a former schoolboy standout at athletics, football, cricket, and by the time he got to me at age 27 he’d also included karate in there. He was always injury-prone, with masses of scar tissue from his earlier exploits, which was frustrating as he was winning 800m races at that stage. So we decided to take him out to the longer track distances and take the pressure off the intensity. He won the state 5000m title with a good finish that season too. Eventually he was operated on successfully, with scars from thighs to feet. He’d been competing with a torn labrum (hip socket cartilage), scar tissue all through his abductors and calf muscles, and adhesions on his achilles tendons. He’s back on track now at 31, out of pain and ready to go again, and the mountain bike is always there if he flares up again. I like the mountain bike as opposed to the road bike, as you can “stand up” as if you’re running on a mountain bike, stay off the busy roads, and go over rough ground on them as well. This is good because on the roads, cyclists can tend to get “collected”, and it’s all over, red rover.. this was how Jack Foster died, at about 71 years of age, when he was on his bike. And he’d been a rider for many years.
Colin: It is a good addition that complements running, aiding leg strength, power and flexibility…particularly good for recovery after a marathon, for example, but does not work the running engine in the same way…otherwise Lance Armstrong would be running the 2 hour marathon and Gebresellassie would be winning the Tour de France. Running makes you good at running…develops the capillaries, bones, connective tissue, and peripheral cardiovascular system in a unique way. As I said, you develop the specific skills needed for the job…you can’t develop the specific endurance for running by cycling, swimming, or any other fad.
Chris: Chris Pilone was a former national marathon champion in New Zealand and international over cross-country and then became New Zealand Olympic triathlon coach. He cycles a lot, yes?
Colin: Yes and he was my flatmate and training buddy for years…used to run in his sleep…or was that sleep with his sheep? When we used to run around Cornwall Park with Pilone…I swear the Spring Lambs were bleating ‘Da..aa…aa..ddy’.
Paul Fartier: Colin do you remember we got dressed in camouflage gear and painted our faces one night and did some “raids” on some pubs around the shore.
Chris: You what?
Paul Fartier: Yeah all was going well until we ran upstairs into some Chinese restaurant. I was standing there waving my fake AK47 about and the waiter looked at me in a Bruce Lee sort of way, that told me….I don’t know, but I was thinking, “f$#k I’m standing here looking dangerous and camouflaged like I should have a gun and this guys gonna kill me with his bare hands and maybe that large steak knife behind the counter he keeps for such occasions”…..
Back to Cycling:
Keith: I remember you giving the bird to the cops from your trail (motor) bike at the lights which diverged into a Y-intersection above East Coast Bays. We were in the car behind them. You did a mono (Wheelie) straight ahead to the left, then switched directions to the right , still doing the mono, while they piled on ahead to the left with the sirens going, and you still giving them the bird as you took off down the hill…..they had no hope….
A Word on Cross Training
Chris: It would be great if I could get someone to substantiate a story I have heard from time-to-time about Rod Dixon. The story goes that he was seen exiting the bush on a three-hour run while hunting, rifle in hand.
Rod Dixon: No guns, mate, just dogs and a knife.
Chris: Rod! You hunted a wild boar with a dogs and a knife while on a long run?
Rod: Yeah. We had seen a pig rooting on a training run. It was real fresh and the smell was very strong.
Rod: My great friend Roger Sowman. He was one of New Zealand’s best young junior runners in the 70’s. We are still great mates and he is a fantastic trophy hunter and big boar hunter to this day.
He can nail a stag with one shot from 250 metres! Top man, top animal hunter, big drinker.
Chris: I like him already.
Rod: We decided to get back to the area after the 2.5 hour run, grab the dogs and go back. We just get back and the dogs were off like shit. We just sprinted through the bush and up over the hill. The dogs bailed the boar out as we arrived and we realized this pig was f$&king huge, about 160-180lb.
Chris: That’s huge.
Rod: Yeah. Then it broke and was off with the dogs in full chase. We raced after it losing ground as the bush was getting thicker and thicker and harder to get through. Then we could hear yelping from the dogs, which meant one had got ripped. We arrived about 10 minutes after. F$&king chaos. One dog down another ripped front to hind leg and blood everywhere. The boar bolted again and off we chased, leaving the others; they weren’t going anywhere. Fighting under the growth towards all the barking, we emerged into a natural cove.
The dogs had the boar well contained. Roger went up around and behind a bank, called to me to focus the boar by running the dogs at it front and side and keep it pointed out. Roger jumped down onto the pig’s back and in one swift move stuck it into the throat.
Rod: Yeah, mate. Side to side thrust, he opened the wind pipe and throat-blood was spurting everywhere, Roger said, “F%#king brilliant!”
We took the hind quarters and shoulders and left the rest. That was about 60 lbs. It took us almost two hours to get back to other dogs. One dead and other needed sewing up with dental floss. Another hour back to the truck. We were rooted.
Chris: That’s like four or five hours after a 2.5 hour long run.
Rod: Yeah and no guns.
Colin: Yeah, no guns.
Chris: What of the legend where your brother John who was also your coach locked the doors of the car on you at the end of a run and made you find your own way home?
Rod: He had me run 13 miles at time trial pace, around 4.45 pace (per mile) and the understanding for me was when he was satisfied with pace and distance we would ‘wrap it up’. So at 13 miles at race pace I went to get in the car.
John said “nice work” and said “you know the way back, you have just run it” take it easy focus on easy aerobic recovery pace, see you home”
John rolled up the windows, locked the doors and drove home.
And I did! Focused on the task not the anger. All part of the process and I did understand that. It’s about preparation and adaptation.
Chris: And developing good character. Colin, in part 3 of Fartlek and Low Things in West Auckland, Chris Pilone told the tale of you running up to 300 miles – not kilometres – in one week. Was he exaggerating?
Colin: No and the 300 miles was accomplished mostly working a full week at TVNZ. In those days, I needed to run to let off steam…so nothing better than haring off for 3 or 4 hours after working shifts at TVNZ. I’d get wild energy surges in my teens and early twenties…The only thing that flattened me out was lots of running. The thing is, I had no idea what I was going to get up to each day…so damned if anyone else had a chance, really. I might start a steady 12 miles’ and it would become an electric series of surges all night for 43 miles…so not exactly keeping to a schedule.
That Howick 10 mile win over Keith was after two months of 150 to 160 mile weeks, off spasmodic running beforehand. I was just 19, I think. Before that, I beat him to win a cross-country champs and got good places in Auckland road races, without being too serious. Keith was one of the top juniors in NZ at the time …and I did a hard 33 miler two days before that race and I think, maybe a 16 the night before. We ran close to the leaders on the tough, hilly course, but it was a 29c (90f) December day. From memory, I was 8th in an international field with guys from US and Australia, Keith 9th.The only reason I got into training was because it was said I ‘did not have the temperament to be a serious athlete, or a serious anything’ by a dickhead at a running club.
Unfortunately, just after that race, which was probably as fast as any junior in the country…I slid down a bank by the cliffs at St. Heliers and impaled my knee on a rusty spike. A pity. I was sure I was in shape to do something special, because I was only 19, could sprint like hell and could run hard any night of the week.
I never identified with people much, having no understanding of their eccentric ways and the things they thought important. I got on with dogs …they understood the importance of spontaneous fun and did not seem too bothered about a 20 mile sand and bush run at 11pm…in brilliant moonlight. I felt like I was more like an animal…a dog maybe…because I ran all day…and dogs could get into all sorts of shit with you and never complain, or think it was a big deal. With dogs, I felt I could run like forty bastards.
The 300 Mile Week (…and yes, I did have a training log…every now and then).
That was late 1978 I think. I lived right by the downtown TVNZ studio and had flexible shifts. I’d start running a Waitakere loop to One Tree Hill via Blockhouse Bay/Hillsborough and quite a few laps around Cornwall Park and the Domain then back to my flat by Shortland St. I do have a diary from that period, where I did that off a lot of 160 to 180 mile weeks… and a few around 200. I could handle those off a working week, but the extra hundred was compounded by working all day standing up on concrete, building sets.
Chris: And the Eno?
Yeah..the diet was usually Eno, fish and chips, tea, apples and tons of bananas. Sometimes humungous roasts…and I could eat a meal for 4. However, the only reason I may have mentioned (David) Bedford …was because he ran 200 miles on the flattish area around London…..and I thought he’d be even better doing hills. I also thought he should pump iron…because you can only sprint if you have a strong upper body.
After a really long run, I always had a dry crust of salt when I finished …which is why I loved Eno. Sure, I had leg cramps after that 300 which stopped me sleeping…hamstrings seizing up and a cold bone feeling…but I never stropped running…I was always running on and off. After a week or so, I continued running as usual, sometimes real long ones.
In fact, when Pilone asked me if I’d run a solid 25 miler with him in the month leading to Fukuoka, I was not doing much…bits here and there, working evenings, gardening, tree topping and mowing lawns for a living too. We ran 2hrs 19 over the Waiatarua course on a hot day…which is a near marathon over hills. I guess if I had concentrated on just running, I may have done something, but I was into all sorts of other stuff. I sprinted everywhere..to the dairy, up stairs at work..and did long runs before or after work.
Mad Excursions, Gurkhas and Mad Japs
Occasionally I’d meet someone with the same mind-set. I once met two mad Japs in orange kit, on top of Tongariro when I ran all day. They ran with me near Ketetahi, across the Plateau and down the South ridge to Mangetepopo where I kept going on my circuit back to Ketetahi, which was near 6000′. On other occasions, I met up with Gurkhas, presumably training with the NZ Forces, well at home in the mountains…and we’d run for miles, looking at the steaming crater lakes.
In mountains or bush runs, I usually drank from streams and never struck any volcanic bugs, sometimes covering huge distances. True, I never chafed, had blisters or an injury in all those years, apart from falling off buildings, cliffs or trees.
Chris: Keith, you competed in a relay called, Round the Ranges Relay, what was that like?
Keith: Oh Yeah. Colin was supposed to pick me up early to catch an 8:30 train from Auckland Railway Station to get to Palmerston North for the Relay. This was a Friday morning. We had a young Australian junior cross-country champion with us (Bernard Burke), and Col never showed up until the last possible moment because there was a thick sea-fog and his car ran out of petrol in the driveway. We had 15 minutes to get to the railway station in the city, so he borrowed Mum’s little car, and drove all the way into Auckland Station on footpaths, and the reverse way around roundabouts, and the clock station read 8:29 as the train left the platform. First time it had ever left early I’ll bet. So we had to hire a rental car…felt like killing Colin!
Colin: Yeah-it was a habit I developed in my teens… so it was pretty routine by the time I was 29 or 30. Did you see all those Auckland Grammar schoolboys jumping off the footpath into the Mountain Road traffic queue when I tooted at them to get out of the damned way? They were SO obedient! And to think Mum was in the back seat…tutting away…but she admitted it was fun…we knew how to have fun. Since it was her car, I think she was more concerned that she’d be done for dodgy driving…
Keith: Yeah – that amazed me! I thought she’d be going berserk, but she sat there and enjoyed the moment! I think it was a high need situation.
Keith: Bernard was a very clean-cut boy wasn’t he?
Colin: Yeah…a good lad though. He ducked for cover when you and I had a wee punch up outside the athletes’ motel in Palmerston North…I can’t remember what about..fish and chips maybe.
Keith: Yeah, fish and chips maybe.
Eggs and Fartlek
Colin: How about the Maori guy at the all night petrol station when I bought 42 dozen eggs?
Chris: Do tell.
We gathered, 3.34 1500m guys, fast 5k men and even marathon boys, all getting together for Friday night hi-jinx…Pilone and Jelley running through the undergrowth and sliding down a bank.
THIS WAS GREAT FARTLEK.
We even got ‘sensible lawyer’, Lovegrove involved (he egged a wine shop full of customers) and Shaw turned out to be totally into it..it was as if he found his calling in life.
Attendant: “Hey bro, what all this for? “
Colin: “We’re making an omelette.”
Attendant: ” Must be a f#$king big omelette.”
Colin: “You work with what you have.
Attendent: “Oh Yeah.”
Colin: Yeah. For example, a world-class runner in Britain’s industrial Midlands in the 1960’s (let’s call him Foxy – to protect the revered) who was as hard as nails, in the days when top harriers were mostly working blokes, had to train to and from his workplace. That meant running along a busy road on dark winter evenings, facing the oncoming traffic.
Attendent: “Sounds like a tough guy.”
Colin: “One driver got into the habit of swerving in to force him into the muddy verge, often completely soaking him in water from roadside puddles. Foxy was a hard man and got pissed off. So one night he carried a brick as he ran into that section of road. Sure enough, the vehicle roared towards him, swerved in, and got the brick straight through the windscreen. Foxy was one of those 46:30 10-mile runners of the 1960’s.
Now how much for the eggs?”
<<Read part 5 here>>