© Copyright – 2011 – Christopher Kelsall

Colin Livingstone is a European based writer and illustrator who was a competitive distance runner in New Zealand, representing Auckland in national competition over road and cross-country from the 1970’s to the early 1990’s. He relished fast ‘bush running’ on the wild hilly trails of Auckland’s west coast, long before the days that mountain running was an official sport.

He coaches British and Welsh champion, Tim Davies, a three-time winner of the annual Snowdon International Mountain Race, and top performer at the European and World level. Tim went from being 15th in Britain to 5th in the world within three years of this progressive endurance conditioning.

Colin’s twin brother, Keith Livingstone, was a national-level runner in New Zealand and Australia, winning Wellington and Auckland titles,with top performances on road, track and cross country. He ran 44.37 for 15k on the road in 1983, and won the final of the Budget 10k road race series in 1984. Keith is the author of the best-selling book on the Arthur Lydiard method of training, Healthy Intelligent Training, which was written with the serious middle distance athlete in mind and to modernize Lydiard’s method to today’s language (brother Colin provided the illustrations).

In 1990 Keith helped his current coaching colleague John Meagher to a debut marathon time of 2 hours 16 minutes, and later to a Melbourne Marathon victory, and three titles in the World Masters Games. Their “HIT Squad” currently boasts three nationally ranked senior 1500m runners.

Colin and Keith grew up a stones throw from the legendary Arthur Lydiard and in the same neighbourhood of many of his great athletes. Keith is now a coach and chiropractor in Australia, while Colin resides in Great Britain.

Recently I have had the occasion to discuss with both Colin and Keith the subjects of athletics and training principles that guided them during their years as competitive runners for New Zealand and Australia. The following is part 7 of the 7-part series of interviews.

You can read part 6 here.

Chris: Keith, in keeping with the title of this series of interviews, ‘Fartlek and Low Thing in West Auckland’, can I press upon you for more information on the creative forms of fartlek that you engaged in?

Keith: Sure. But this one is a Melbourne story. It didn’t involve Melbourne athletes, as I found most of them to be far too genteel and well-bred to hang out with; nothing like the diverse characters in New Zealand athletics. It was a Hell’s Angels house replete with barbed wire on top of all the high fencing. It was opposite the Fairfield Paperworks. I was with my friend Howie,a part-Maori, part Irishman, who was once Prince Edward’s personal bodyguard for a year, Dom Marziano, a Bud Spencer lookalike from Mildura, and Shane Reardon, a big lumbering country boy from Dubbo in New South Wales. All chiropractors and family men now.

Chris: Why risk your life to enter the Hell’s Angels house?

Keith: Well the aim was to get in and get out quickly, just to see what was there – a little fartlek work.

Chris: No fear of getting caught by them?

Keith: Hell no! I was betting that I was far more agile than a heap of surprised bikers. I’d done my “sorte” and was well on my way out when big Shane got himself all caught up clambering in. Could’ve been messy as he was making all kinds of racket. Didn’t matter though. I’d been in the back door and the occupants were all asleep in armchairs, and the back verandah was stacked with pokie machines. No dogs, from memory. You’ve gotta do these things sometimes, but I’ll tell my boys about them in about 30 years.

Chris: Would the cops have had any sympathy for you if you were caught?

Keith: Cops! That reminds me. Tony Alessi and I decided to try being cops in about 1988. He had a late-model white Commodore that looked like it could be a plain-clothes cop’s car. First of all we drove out to Airport West, to visit an old mate of mine called “Potty”. We borrowed a hair dryer from one of his daughters, and said we’d be right back. We then drove up the Tullamarine freeway a bit and pulled over to the left side of the road, about 1500m from the airport. Earlier, we’d both grabbed bluish colour tops. Tony borrowed one with lapels from our flatmate Jack’s laundry pile. Tony had his sun glasses on and had a very serious demeanour as he pointed the hair-dryer at the on-coming traffic.

Chris: Did that actually work?

Keith: Yeah. It slowed right down to about 40 km/hr.

When we’d created a sufficiently impressive queue of traffic that looked about 800m long, we thought it was time to move on a bit as we’d spotted real cop cars going in the Melbourne direction on the opposite side. So we then did a loop around the airport departures area and back out towards the same freeway that the real cop car was driving along. We pulled up at the lights out of the airport beside a “low-rider” packed full of Vince Colosimo haircuts, bouncing up and down, and like TV cops, we both stared across at each other, then at the occupants.

The guys in the back seat of the other car were nervous; the driver at first was oblivious. I grabbed my Kodak Instamatic camera with the orange ‘capture’ button, and talked into it back to ‘headquarters’. Stevie Wonder could’ve seen that I was talking to a Kodak Instamatic camera, but this is the power of suggestion and the creative imagination at work! Their car’s stereo system volume snuck right down, and as the lights went green we took off at 100k/hr while they dawdled off at about 30 km/hr. We pulled back into Airport West to drop the hair-dryer back.

Chris: What did Potty think of your escapade with his daughter’s hair dryer?

Keith: He had forty fits when we told him what we’d used it for. He reckoned that ‘impersonating a police officer’ carried a $5k fine at the time, which was probably the equivalent of a house deposit. These days we’d be on CCTV and it’d be all over, red rover.

Chris: Doesn’t sound like you were involved in any running in that one. Good thing you were not hurling eggs this time.

Keith: Eggs! …Eggs ! That’s right…I recall that Col and his regular accomplice O’Donoghue went egging all the parishioners’ cars as they left St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Parnell after a night service.

Chris: Ok eggs it is then.

Keith: Yeah eggs.

Pretty soon the only cars were cop cars, and O’Donoghue was champing at the bit. He got right in front of a cop car with its lamps on full-beam and pelted them. Colin, you told him he was crazy because he was always in the news, and Pete said “exactly-they wouldn’t believe it was me”. I think you both ran PB 800’s into Auckland Domain’s bushland that night…good workout.

Colin: Yeah that was a hoot…but not as funny as Pete biffing an egg through the sunroof at this ‘Medallion man’ in a BMW coupe from the footbridge over Judges Bay…you know, hairy chest…medallion…50-ish with 23 year old blonde. He probably owned a wine bar or a strip joint. This huge guy the size of a wrestler jumps out and says he’s going to kill Pete, seizing and wheezing up the steps. How did he know he was chasing a 3.34 1500 guy? The Medallion man had balls though, even though he probably had a heart attack trying to impress his bird.

Keith: You wouldn’t have gone down to check on him, exactly, would you? Yeah, Pete was “dead-eye dick” with any hand-held missile, usually an egg or some rotten fruit. I remember him blowing into a breathalyser once, protesting that he was asthmatic, puffing a pathetic wheezy little emission for the cop, just a few days after beating Steve Ovett over 1500m. The cop’s little female partner bought the sympathy vote and told the big guy to let up on him….if only they’d known.

Colin: Chris: Didn’t Pete do something pretty impressive while you were living down in Christchurch? I heard it involved a group of CB radio freaks in their utility vehicles and a chainsaw.Keith: Another Pete entirely. Pete O’Donoghue was Auckland-based. This was Peter Renner, who was a bit of an animal even by New Zealand standards. I lived in three cities in New Zealand while working for Radio New Zealand, and then moved to Melbourne Australia for another 7 years while I studied Chiropractic, and then hung around as a tutor for a year or so; I got to know and run with quite a few different characters. The Christchurch group was running on the very steep Port Hills trails overlooking the city, and Pete had to leave early to catch up with someone. So he went down the trail to the carpark on his own, where he was accosted by a gang of these CB radio freaks (remember the hit song “Convoy”?)

Chris: Ten Four! I got mee a Connn-vvoyyy!!

Keith:… well, these guys thought they were that guy who sang it! They thought it was cool to get together and swoop on anyone they could pick on. We heard a chainsaw way down the valley while we were up high, and then the sounds of cars accelerating hard.

Pete was 6’3” of raw-boned athlete and timber-feller, and apparently when the CB gang sauntered up on him he just reached under the tarpaulin of his ‘ute and started the chainsaw, as you do.

Chris: As you do, eh!

Keith: He ran an 8:14 3000m steeple eventually, and made a world champs final I think. Arthur liked him because he did his training after cutting timber all day. A real softie. His work and training partner Neil Lowsley was a damned good steepler too, and I believe he’s now a CEO of a brewery. Good work if you can get it!

Chris: Probably a good thing he had the chainsaw and not a hair dryer as a fake radar gun.

Colin: Well there was an incident with a starting pistol and a Maori gang.

Chris: Seriously?

Colin: Yeah. In a big old Chevrolet on Parnell Rise. We were in the Fiat Bambina. They were trying to force us off the road! I stood up through the roof-hatch and fired the starting pistol! Did they take off or what? How the hell did we end up with a starting pistol that was primed and ready to go?

I used to wake Keith up with that starting pistol…Keith, your heart leaping out of your throat..3 feet off the bed.

Chris: I can only assume there was revenge enacted.

Colin: He hated it…as revenge…Kieth tied the rear bumper of my VW Beetle to a tree with a thick sailing rope…and a smaller one on the windscreen wipers, well hidden. Next morning, I wake Keith up as usual at 0530 hrs and bugger off laughing…down the stairs to work. I start the car…take off…when a sudden jolt of clanging metal and snapping wood throws the car sideways as the wipers fly off through the hedge. I kept driving…later undid the rope, biffed the bumper by the Hospital and carried on my way.

Keith: I can’t remember doing that! What house was that? Was it Outhwaite Lane?

Colin: Yep.

PILONE: Don’t start on the car stories….I remember the Auckland Harbour Bridge Incident with the refined lady in her Mercedes 550SL and that old 1939 Singer Sports Coupe with perished brake fluid hoses…

Keith: Yeah- you painted a current motor vehicle registration on the windscreen!…that was a great little car with a torquey little long-bore straight four! You found it in an old barn at Bethell’s Beach and asked the old farm-lady if you could buy it. So for $40 you got yourself a little classic sports sedan, albeit without brakes for a while.

Chris: Pilone’s right, enough with the cars, what about your motorbike stories?

Keith: There was the motorbike in Mount Street. They’d finally had enough of Colin in Mount Street, and of his own volition he decided that it was finally time to move on as well,  after several months of huge hints like signed communal letters of eviction.  I seem to recall there was a tense period, a “Mexican stand-off” where they  plotted to change all the locks, and did just that. However…he was onto  the plan from day one, so he locked his bedroom door from the inside, duly  paid rent and left it on the dining table, emerging in the dark hours to raid the fridge, etc and carry out ablutions, but came and went by  scaling the pipe outside his window, but that’s another story.

Chris: And the motorbike?

Keith: Oh yeah. So  Carter and I were on his bike one day doing whatever in town, and decided to  make a spontaneous visit to that little blond lawyer guy who was a major  whinger, just for a social call. He had a sports car and was learning to be  a pilot, to impress women. Memory tells me that it was well past the  witching hour….We went up the concrete inside stairwell to the 2nd floor,  with me still on pillion, and the noise was absolutely horrendous as Carter’s big 2-stroke motorbike with the camel-hump tank belched white  smoke and fumes through the halls. Outside Colin’s old flat, Paul considerately turned  the engine off for a moment so that he as well as the occupants could have a  chance of a brief conversation.

The conversation went as follows:

Paul: Rap! Rap! Rap! (On wooden door).

Eventually…..weak little male voice inside door: “Who is that? What the devil’s going  on?”

Paul: “It’s Paul! Col’s mate. Listen-can you spare us 10 cents for a phone call?”

Weak little male voice inside door: “Oh… OK… Hold on”…( a minute goes by….). Several locks are undone, door opens about 3 inches , with newly-fitted high-security chains taut and visible through opening. Little  pale hand passes over the money dutifully.

Paul: “Thanks, brother”!

Then a big leap up and down onto the kick-start and a regulation Highlander yell, and equally noisy descent down stairwell with me as pillion.

Oh…and Colin, I remember when your flatmates there insisted you actually cook a meal for once instead of bringing in a pile of Chinese  takeaway. This was quite a risky venture, as you’d never been known to read  the Women’s Weekly recipe pages….There  was nothing in the cupboards except white rice. So you boiled it all up,  whacked it into a sieve, and put a mean little scrap of  butter over  the top to melt through. That little lawyer guy (still can’t remember his  name, but does it really matter?) was outraged! He said “But this is just…. just….. STARCH!!!” So Col says… “You don’t wanna eat it?” “No!!!! Says the lawyer….
“So wear it!!” says Col, as you turned the sieve upside down and he sat there with a neat Rembrandt hat of white steamed rice.

Chris: Did he do anything?

Keith: No he didn’t do anything. Terrible. You felt some remorse, then offered to go down around the corner and get everyone a meal of Chinese takeaway to atone……and they all ate it without mentioning the war once! What a nice guy!…..

Chris: But what about the guy in the flat when Colin showed up on the motorbike?

Keith: Hatfield. Nothing beats Hatfield. The guy was nearing 50 at the time and the biggest loon I ever met…when you guys rode up the stairs on your motorbikes at that Mount Street flat and scared the shit out of those flatmates. And that dog of his that went everywhere..farted all the time….Fanny. The guy had a major bike accident and ended up in Neuro-Intensive care and survived. The nurses were concerned about his recovery and mental state, because he was muttering  all the time with strange howls, jokes etc…but we could not tell the difference. In fact, he may have improved.

Chris: It takes all kinds.

Colin: Yeah, takes all kinds.

Around that time, shortly after the Pilone’s secret flat episode…

I still remember Dave Mann in his mint Rover 90..when we came across this mad woman, arranging piles of hedge clippings and leaves in the middle of the main road, not too far from the Oakley Mental Hospital. Traffic and buses were piling up, as she was darting in and out of this Motel with a freshly trimmed hedge, arranging the leaves in equal space across the centre lines. Dave was a roving Photographer, who engaged with the strange and bizarre, downfallen and hopeless, old and young alike. As a decree from the Gods, weird things happened to Dave and myself all the time. As we were in the same car, it was only natural that Karmha bestowed us yet another strange window to the invisible world.

Across the road from the Mad Woman, walked other slightly strange individuals bellowing and making strange head movements, so we assumed they had all escaped together. This was quite common around the Carrington, Point Chevalier area in those days.

The Mad Woman, in her floral dress and slippers, was still putting leaves on the road, wonderfully happy and free after having escaped from her Cuckoo’s Nest. A brick faced woman from the Motel muttered she had ‘called the Cops and the Funny Farm, to put this Mad Cow back where she belongs’. Of course, we both saw red. Dave being Dave, out of sheer curiousity and compassion, decided to be a Good Samaritan and said “Do you want a lift?”

The Mad Woman was bright and breezy, saying ” I like the Flowers ” with cars barping in the background…and Dave asked her what she was doing , to which she replied “Out Ghost, Out Ghost, Out Ghost, I don’t want to go to 8 Laurel Avenue Mt. Albert, 8 Laurel Avenue Mount Albert”.  I remembered there were quite a few halfway houses in that area for the mentally challenged. So, into the back seat of Dave’s mint Rover 90 arrives the Mad Woman, with her huge bundle of twigs and leaves saying “Out Ghost, Out Ghost, Out Ghost, I don’t want to go to 8 Laurel Avenue Mt. Albert, 8 Laurel Avenue Mount Albert”.

Meanwhile, one of the blokes with the swerving , flicking head across the road, stood up in his boiler suit and yelled ” Wotcha doin ? You gonna get yourself knocked up !! “. As the Mad Woman did not want to go to 8 Laurel Avenue Mt. Albert, 8 Laurel Avenue Mount Albert, we did not go to 8 Laurel Avenue Mt. Albert, 8 Laurel Avenue Mount Albert.

Dave got behind the wheel as passers by looked agog in disbelief…turned to the Mad Woman and said ” Do you like flowers? then we’ll take you to the Parnell Rose Gardens “. She beamed “Oooh lovely. That would be lovely….ooh…Out Ghost, Out Ghost, Out Ghost, I don’t want to go to 8 Laurel Avenue Mt. Albert, 8 Laurel Avenue Mount Albert”.

Meanwhile, not having woken up that morning with the idea of giving a barking Mad Woman a lift to the Parnell Rose Gardens, I said to Dave “Are you sure this is a good idea ?”

“Lets just see where this takes us. We could kill two birds with one stone.”

I replied…”What do you mean kill two birds with one stone?…she f-ing stinks like a tin of kippers, is off her trolley and we’ve got a bloody huge pile of leaves in the back seat…Jeeziz Dave…”

Meanwhile, the Mad Woman was muttering ” …Out Ghost, Out Ghost, Out Ghost, 8 Laurel Avenue Mt. Albert, 8 Laurel Avenue Mount Albert” as we headed through Western Springs.

” I mean there’s a guy who owes me money in Parnell. A bit of a prick actually. They are having a barbeque …wine and cheese party. We could kill two birds with one stone ”

So, we arrive at this trendy villa in Parnell, with all the beautiful people and their carafes of white wine, lawyers and advertising agency types, music wafting on a beautiful Summer day…and out jumps the Mad Woman with her f-ing huge pile of leaves and garish floral dress saying ” Ooh lovely…this must be the Parnell Rose Gardens”. Before I could say no, we were just waiting for……..Dave…..she was off, into the throngs of the rich, the young and the beautiful…heading straight to some ornate vases by a window.

Dave came out a few minutes later, as I watched the juxtaposition unfold. Somehow, she strangely fitted in, darting through the finger buffets and bodies with her pile of leaves arranged around the decking. She wasn’t coming back in a hurry. Dave and I looked at each other. ” Looked like she’s found the Parnell Rose Gardens then” Dave said, as we headed off to his mint Rover 90. We heard a shriek and a bit of commotion as we drew away. The car still stank with the windows open and the liberal use of an industrial can of Febreeze.

Chris: Good times.

Colin: Once, Col Henwood and I went for a long run, returning to the animal flat in Onehunga. Paul Martin’s horrendous home-made pig hunting buggy was outside, with 16 gauge steel slabs and roll bars. Carter’s and Martin’s motorbikes were also in bits in the living room, sending the female flatmates mental. Puss Puss, (the inherited senile 20 year old bushcat) had shat under the TV for the 10th time. We faced a shank of cold lamb, baked beans and pot of tea for lunch. Bugger all money. Henwood turned to me and said ” One day…we’ll think these were the ‘good old days’ ”

Which they were and still are…

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