Old white man of the day

Yesterday’s old white man inspired artists to paint for a prize: today’s old white man inspired athletes to pant for a prize. (Apologies, couldn’t resist.) Quote:

The gregarious, dogmatic, hyperactive running coach Arthur Leslie Lydiard is one of the few New Zealand sportsmen to have influenced millions of people around the world. His system of training produced record-breaking runners and stimulated the international growth of jogging for fitness and health.

[…] Arthur was born in Auckland on 6 July 1917. He attended Edendale primary, Kowhai intermediate and Mt Albert Grammar schools before leaving school to support the family after his father left. Working for a milking-machine manufacturer, the stocky teenager was soon breaking up pig-iron with a 26-pound sledgehammer. He biked to work, racing trams and fellow cyclists. […]

Like most contemporary athletes, Lydiard trained mainly by racing. He recalled that at the age of 27, an 8-kilometre jog with an older clubmate nearly killed him. Worried about his future health, he devoured books about exercise physiology and took the advice of the English coach F. A. M. Webster to train daily, alternating hard and easy efforts. He was soon going far beyond Webster?s schedules, running up to 402 kilometres a week. Lydiard discovered that even after running to exhaustion he could do lighter exercise on subsequent days. A week later he would be significantly stronger.

In the 1940s Lydiard continued to experiment to find the combination of distance, stamina-building and fast running that would produce top form. […] Once the essential aerobic base had been laid, strength was developed over hills or sand dunes, and speed through repeated short fast runs. The key was the optimal balance of these components. The inspirational Lydiard soon acquired followers and realised he had become a coach.

[…] He claimed never to poach promising athletes ? nor did he turn away anyone willing to follow his schedules, however limited their ability. He asserted that there was raw talent everywhere; only effective coaching was lacking. Lydiard was an instinctive psychologist who demanded unquestioning loyalty from his athletes. To some he was also a surrogate father. He often clashed with people, but was incapable of permanent enmity. […]?[In 1958] he became manager at his brother Wally?s shoe factory, where he developed stronger shoes for road running.

Lydiard won the national marathon title in 1953 and 1955 before retiring from competition. […] Lydiard?s fastest marathon was close to New Zealand?s best, but local distance runners lagged behind international standards until his coaching changed their approach. His first star was Murray Halberg, who started running as a teenager following a severe rugby injury. Halberg lacked speed, yet gained such strength from Lydiard?s training that he was the first New Zealander to break four minutes for the mile. From 1958 to 1962 he was virtually unbeatable between 2 miles and 5,000 metres, winning two Commonwealth titles and breaking two world records.

Lydiard?s greatest training triumphs came at the 1960 Rome Olympics. First the 800 metres was won by a near-unknown 21-year-old, Peter Snell;

Peter Snell beats Roger Moens, the world record-holder.

then Halberg won the 5,000 metres by sprinting with three laps to go.

Murray Halberg out in front by 20m

A few days later, Barry Magee came third in a world-best marathon. Lydiard was only in Rome thanks to public fundraising. New Zealand?s Olympic officials had refused to send a coach to avoid setting a costly precedent.

Lydiard came home a national hero and was made an OBE in 1962. As athletics was still an amateur sport, he supported himself by running a milk round and writing a newspaper column before being employed by the tobacco company Rothmans. This controversial arrangement at least kept him in New Zealand. Snell broke the world 800 metres, half-mile and mile records ? on grass tracks ? in one week in 1962, and overwhelmed his 800- and 1,500-metres opponents at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1963 another of Lydiard?s stable, Bill Baillie, broke the world records for the time to cover 20 kilometres and the distance run in one hour.

Athletes and coaches flocked to New Zealand to compete and to imbibe Lydiard?s growing understanding of the scientific basis for his regime. […] This began a movement for mass fitness, attracting men with heart problems, who unprecedentedly were encouraged to ?run for their lives?. Jogging went global when it was taken up by the US coach Bill Bowerman. By the late 1970s, 1 million Americans were running road races, and by 2005, 8 million. End of quote.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Quote:

[…] Lydiard trained Auckland schoolgirls from the late 1970s, encouraging a boom in women?s running that rivalled that among men and brought New Zealand women almost equal success.

Lydiard?s training principles were applied to kayaking, swimming, and even horse racing: horse-trainer Ken Browne?s jumpers worked over hills to build stamina.

[…] In 1990 he became a member of the Order of New Zealand and an inaugural member of the Sports Hall of Fame. American running experts called him the distance coach of the 20th century and the individual who had most influenced running in the second half of the century. He was made a life member of Athletics New Zealand in 2003.

Arthur Lydiard died of a heart attack in December 2004, aged 87. […] End of quote.

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