CK: Arthur was not a scientist by any means so it is interesting he was a little like Magellan in that all his early work was discovering the method, but he did and he also fine-tuned the delivery and application of the system I got that, but how in the world did he manage to get people (in the beginning) to believe in his passion. He must have been quite convincing.
KL: Well, results talk, don’t they? Initially people in Auckland in the late 1940’s saw this little ex-rugby player with a bit of spare padding join a running club to get fit. Then he’d be seen training at any time of the day or night, because he worked a number of jobs to support his family, then he started winning long road races at an age where most men would’ve quit competitive sport. So people gravitated to him out of curiosity I think, and found that he made sense! I don’t think he ever set out to change the world or anything – he just wanted to get himself fit and healthy, and it grew from there….
I never really met Arthur that much, despite the early connections of living in the same suburb and running for his club and being coached by one of his original pupils. Arthur wasn’t around in New Zealand for a long time: he was often overseas, and as a youngster in my late teens and early twenties I was living in other cities with my job with Radio New Zealand, and then I stayed on in Australia after coming here to study in 1982. So although I’ve written a book about his methods, and feel like I know the guy, in truth I was in his actual presence for only a few hours cumulatively. But that included a great Waiatarua run with him in our club running group in 1976, when he certainly was the life of the group, and extremely positive and encouraging. He was 59 then, but was like a little steam train. If I were to describe him from that, and from the lectures I attended, I’d say “fun-loving force of nature”. He was extremely dogmatic, and would bridle at questioning he thought was insolent, so no one messed with him, really. Some did, apparently, and got quite a bit more than they bargained on.
If you can appraise a man by the people he surrounded himself with, then he must’ve been a really fun guy! You can’t build a following without being genuinely interested in others, and being fun is a big part of that! Distance runners around the world are a good bunch of party people; pretty easy to get on with and very social. My memories of running as a youngster are all fun, and some of the guys would get up to all kinds of stuff!
Keith monologues on…
I’ll never forget, as an impressionable youngster, some of the amazing feats of recovery that New Zealand’s top distance guys could perform off the track. One of our guys, Paul Ballinger, personally coached by Arthur, was a tiny little fellow like Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island; not fast on the track, but he could run like the clappers over country or road, with his tachometer on the red-line the whole way. He won Fukuoka in 2:10 one year, which says something. Anyhow, I’ll never forget seeing him carried out of the presentation and function hall around midnight after a New Zealand road championships in which he’d been just pipped on the line in an extremely fast time. He was staggering all over the place, looking like he had bilharzias, malaria, cholera, and dysentery combined. He was doing the old Technicolor yawn all over the place, but the infective agent was beer and l lots of it; truly awful to behold. It all came up, with requisite chunky carrots, and then more, gallons. It went down the gutters of Whakatane, into the storm-water drains with so much flow that they couldn’t cope. The grates got blocked with a glutinous sludge of chunky carrot, bile, and poorly metabolized Steinlager beer.
CK: Surely you jest.
How a guy so small could bring so much up and survive was the question.
Then the next day, very early, he’s up bright as a button for his long run like nothing had happened! Come to think of it, beer seems to feature in a lot of my early memories of the Lydiard system and the athletes. Barry Magee didn’t drink though, which shows how disciplined and special a man he is.
One older guy, who we’ll call Fred X to protect the guilty, was famous for being able to whip out his equipment during a long run and pee with uncanny accuracy onto the socks of the person beside him, often after climbing the big Waiatarua hill. They’d be basking in the relief of having knocked over ‘the hill’, then feel a warm sensation on the right sock. This was OK until he did it to a handy newcomer to the group, a redheaded 2:17 marathoner who wanted to punch his lights out and chased him at sub-5 minute miles along Scenic Drive. Fred could run under 2:20 for a marathon at 40, from memory, so he was no slouch, but he got a damned good VO2 max workout in during that run.
The New Zealand running scene in the 70’s was so much fun that every man and his dog would come down to Auckland to train. This was all a legacy of Arthur’s fun approach to running I’d say.
You didn’t have to leave Auckland to meet all the top dogs from around the world, and they’d often be looking for some decent training hacks to show them around the key courses. Chris Pilone, who lived to train, was on shift work and lived in Auckland for years, so he became number one training hack for all the greats, and that’s probably why he’s such a good coach these days. It was very enlightening; some ‘superstars’ found our southern heat, hills and humidity pretty tough going. We realized that these guys were working hard on our regular turf, so were obviously beatable.
I remember training with the little Swiss guy Marcus Ryffel, the silver medallist over 5000m in Moscow later in the year, early in 1980 on Shaw Road. Shaw Road is the poor man’s Waiatarua, exiting off the main course early, cutting out the dirty big hill, but still a toughie.
One moment he was there with Pilone and me, the next he was gone. He got picked up by someone in a car I think or did he wander in many minutes later to Kevin Ryan’s place? It’ll be in one of my training diaries somewhere, no doubt. Anyhow, it was revelation to me that a world-class Swiss guy could find our hilly courses difficult, but then I guess they don’t have the humidity and roadside fern trees there do they? So as I watched Moscow I got a real surprise when he did himself proud: I was saying to myself things like “So what if he got an Olympic medal? He couldn’t stay with Pilone and me on Shaw Road in January!” Perhaps I had my value system slightly distorted, but that’s what it was like.
CK: Again your book is labelled for ‘serious middle distance runners and coaches’. However, Lydiard applied his principles, to some degree, to joggers and heart patients. Of course the same physiological effects apply to everyone of any ability, but saying that, do you think you are selling your book to more of an exclusive audience than otherwise might be possible.
KL: You’re probably right, and I’m considering a generalized H.I.T book that can be applied to all sports and levels of ability. That’s my next project after finishing my shed. However, I really didn’t want to attempt something that was all things to all people in running – where does one stop? Some books even tell you how to tie shoelaces; now come on! We’ll be running with ponytails and lycra compression tights next! Oops…sorry Chris… that’s a nice ponytail you’ve got there, mate! And I like the 2XU scrunchy, nice touch….
(defiantly he jests on)
But really, if we’re writing about the Lydiard system, it’s got to be all or nothing. The long work CANNOT be compromised. If it is, then it is no longer Lydiard’s system, and I’m scared of Arthur even though he’s been dead over 4 years!
Too many personal trainers and “sports scientists” with ponytails and compression tights have been assiduously chipping away at the edges of Lydiardism, peddling their compromised versions, till all we get is meaningless articles in popular running mags for the masses warning people of the dangers of good old-fashioned, decent mileage. What a load of cobblers!
Next thing we’ll have these guys shortening the marathon distance to avoid the dangers of glycogen depletion! If you increase loads sensibly and wear good shoes, you just adapt and get as fit as hell, and get so strong that your friends who religiously follow all the carefully prepared and balanced “get your PB 5k in 6 weeks” speed programs just get blown away. Period.
(Keith’s pen makes deep gouge marks through paper into desk surface as he completes crude stick drawing of personal trainer in ponytail)
I’ve seen plenty of people who couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night just get stuck into mileage and totally embarrass more highly talented people cautiously and carefully coached by people with ponytails. One guy coached by Magee or Dick Quax ended up with a sub-30 10k track title and a 2:15 marathon, and at full speed he resembled a Clydesdale towing a full harness and plough. Forgotten his name at present, but he did the job, didn’t he? That’s all that counts in the end.
CK: Apparently you have added to or used a fair amount of space to feature the under appreciated hill phase. I read where many athletes do limit the hill phase, run their own hill phase or just run hilly environments all the time, therefore avoid the specific 4 – 6 period of time that Lydiard created, using bounding, repeats and circuits.
How important is the hill phase in relation to the speed, coordination, sharpening and marathon conditioning phases.
KL: Hill training, correctly performed, is wonderful for polishing sprint technique, improving efficiency at speed, and introducing flexibility into the tendons and joints of the lower limb. Jim Bush, who coached 1992 Olympic 400m champ Quincy Watts, was a big advocate of Lydiard’s hill exercises.
I’d say it gets more important the shorter your race distance. For marathon, it’s useful in developing a certain running economy, but then marathon isn’t about springing like a gazelle for 42.2 kms, is it? If you can master the basic exercises over several weeks each season, then it’s a very good thing to do. I read Peter Coe’s book that he wrote with David E Martin in the 1990’s, and after reading it couldn’t tell you one more thing about Coe’s mileage phase, (which as we now know was really intelligently Lydiard-based all along) but what I could see for certain once the smoke disappeared was that Coe phased in a block of longer hill sprints at slower speeds, then shorter hill sprints at faster speeds, and various hill-based resistance exercises. He did OK, didn’t he? He had several different types of hill circuit near his London base, on a hillier part of the Thames valley.
But to answer your question, I put all that stuff in because it was very much a part of the very successful original programmes, and I’ve never seen it explained in detail before.
Actually the bulk of that material came from Nobby Hashizume, our energetic Japanese-American co-founder of the Lydiard Foundation.
Everyone in the known world seems to know Nobby; he pops up anywhere Lydiard’s name is mentioned, and must have his hard drive bursting with archival stuff. If you want to know what brand of diaper Lasse Viren’s mum favoured, just ask Nobby. If he can’t get it for you straight away, he knows someone who can. Honestly!
He was a career triple jumper who wanted to run a decent marathon, and rather than buy a Lydiard book and get a coach, he did one better: he went and stayed with Lydiard for a year; drank his beer, warmed his bed, ate his food, shared his razor, fathered his children.
I just found out more about the original circuit from two of “Arthur’s boys”: Barry Magee and Vern Walker. The history interests me as much as the physiology, and I’ve recorded it for history’s sake. Maybe one day a kid growing up in Whitney St. Blockhouse Bay will become a good runner and realize he grew up on Lydiard’s original hill circuit!
CK: Anything else on explosive power.
I have also explored the physiology of this plyometric work as far as re-activating the most explosive muscle fibres, the type IIB fast-twitch.
We go into some detail because if coaches can see what is being attempted, and understand the physiology of it, then they can take those ideas away with them and insert those sessions creatively into a schedule. If you don’t understand it, and can’t see it demonstrated, then you’re likely to skip it.
Plenty of world-class athletes have abbreviated this phase or not done it, with no apparent loss, but then we still see that the guys who did it best, like Halberg and Snell, were capable of some of the fastest finishes ever recorded in international track titles. Halberg ran a 53.8s last 440 yards to win the 1958 Empire Games 3-mile title, yet his best-listed time for the 440 yards was 52.5!
Snell… well… if you ever watch footage of his 1964 Olympic 1500m win, you’ll see what hill training can do! One moment he’s with the pack, the next he’s burst clear, making great world-class athletes look like pack-horses, and then he relaxes into the finish with his arms in the air, having cleared out by over 10 metres while he relaxes! All over, Red Rover! Too easy! His last 300 took 38.6, with a last lap of 52.5, but the real action took place in the back straight 100 and last curve 100, covered in 25s flat for 200m.
The hill work phase was practiced by different people in different ways. Pekka Vasala, who along with Lasse Viren was one of Lydiard’s great Finnish success stories, apparently he used hill resistance work deep into his Munich Olympic track program.
CK: Ron Daws, a Lydiard advocate, Olympian and Author had said that it is within the average male’s capability to manage a 2:30 marathon if trained properly. What are your thoughts on that statement?
KL: Absolutely yes! Ron would know! He made the Mexico Olympics in the marathon with next to no natural speed or talent. His was the ultimate “ugly duckling” story – a guy with a best mile time slower than 4:25 who used his brains and trained methodically. I knew Ron; he was Lorraine Moller’s coach in her early marathon years, and her first husband. Very encouraging guy – a bit ‘crazy’- but which top runner isn’t? Ron wrote a top book in 1985 –“Running Your Best”, which greatly clarified many concepts and approaches for me. It’s worth getting a copy if you can find one – I’m looking at my copy right now: ISBN 0-8289-0559-2. I saw there were two old copies on Amazon when I checked it out a few minutes ago – only $40! Ron died young in 1992, unfortunately.
When I was on the Lydiard program in New Zealand, 2:30 was definitely considered a time any solid club runner could do. Many did. It was simply no big deal at all! In fact, for a good runner it was Sunday run pace for 22 miles or more. I know of one guy here in Australia, Damien Cooke, who was a late-starting fun-runner when he first joined our Sunday run group in outer Melbourne, around 1984. His marathon debut was around 3:58, in the Melbourne marathon, maybe slower. However, he loved the running life and was keen as mustard. Over the years he got more serious and by his late thirties he’d recorded 2:21, and 14:25 for 5000m, as well as sneaking under 4 minutes for 1500m. That’s not bad for a fun-runner, is it?
CK: That is brilliant for a fun runner. Can you define crazy when you refer to Ron.
KL: Ron was famous for never having a car worth more than $500. A hangover from the 60’s hippie thing maybe; I don’t know. Lorraine told me that on one occasion he invited all his mates to his place in Minneapolis to have a car burial party for one of his recently deceased. The idea was to smash the car up with mallets, drink lots of beer, dig a big hole communally with this male gathering, and bury the car. They achieved the first two goals admirably, but then everyone was too tired and sleepy to dig a hole, so that was that. That would’ve impressed the neighbours, surely!
On the one hand he was like that, and on the other he was a self-made Olympian, brilliant running writer, and coach! Isn’t humanity fabulous? He was also famous for being able to demolish a whole 2-litre tub of ice cream at one sitting, and seemed to prefer this stuff to real food. Heavens knows what that would do to the endocrine system! He dropped dead from a heart attack at 50, which was a great shame, but on the cards. Running is great for the heart, but it can’t protect us from excess like that!
CK: Earlier you mentioned Blog site chats. Do you visit Let’s Run or NZ Run?
KL: I’ve seen the former (Let’s Run dot com) – a very good site. Will check out the latter, and I should as a passport-holding New Zealand citizen.
CK: I found your index on the net, you have pages on such sausage study as, page 102 ‘A study of Sausages’, Page 207 ‘Sausage Country’, Page 205 ‘The Story of Sausages’ and others such as, Nutritional Benefits of Sausages and Sausages for Beginners.
I don’t even have a question really; just hoping you might enlighten me.
KL: Oh, sausages! That stuff is all from Professor Roger Robinson, a running mate who was the best masters distance runner in the world for a few years. Roger managed to represent New Zealand and England in world cross-country titles. He co-developed a great method of structuring cross-country training for groups of very mixed abilities, early in the 1960’s while a student at Cambridge with Mike Turner, also a cross-country international. Because it was based on long intervals of constant running over whatever terrain came up, with short recoveries, it could be described graphically like a string of sausages. Great article, very funny, very useful progressive training to insert into the cross-country season, so I “borrowed” it, just like Robbie’s (Johnston) article on Walker and El Guerrouj.
The funny thing about this was that my original manuscript deliberately avoided getting into nutrition, because I didn’t want to get away from the pure physiology and principles too much.
However, my publishers are German, and one of the keen-eyed Saxons must have glanced quickly at the same index when writing the blurb for the book in the Meyer & Meyer catalogue. Being German, I guess he or she saw the word ‘sausage’, and decided that I covered nutrition in detail as well as everything else. So as that was promised in the sales blurb, and I then felt duly obliged to write a chapter or so on this. It turned out for the best, though, and makes the book more complete.
Pages: 1 2