I was up in Duluth, MN, a few weeks ago with my family. We had lunch with our daughter’s friend. Every time the waiter came by and handed out our menu, brought out water…, and fill out water again for us, I said “Thank you!” clearly. She picked that up and later asked my daughter about it. “Yeah, he learnt that from Arthur Lydiard,” my daughter replied.
The first time I met with Arthur Lydiard in person; that was on Thanksgiving weekend in Seattle, WA, in 1981. I was going to school in Moses Lake, WA, and I took a greyhound, about 7-hour bus ride, and arrived Seattle literally first thing in the morning (6AM). I walked to the hotel where Arthur was staying. I hang around at the lobby for awhile because I figured it was too early. At 8AM, I called his room. “I’ll be down in 2-minutes,” he said. He was fully dressed already; suit and tie. “Have you had breakfast?” he asked. Actually, I already have at Burger King at the greyhound depot but I didn’t have the nerve to tell this fitness guru!! ;o) We sat at the hotel restaurant and he ordered oatmeal with raisin and brown sugar. Every time the waitress brought him water, he said “Thank you!” very clearly. Here’s the world’s renowned athletic coach; acknowledging every “effort” any of us would put in and appreciating it. “How nice!” I remember thinking. This is the practice I’ve kept myself ever since! I had passed it on to my daughter—she had recognized it when she like in the elementary school; so I told her that “Arthur Lydiard had taught me.” She had practiced it ever since herself.
Anybody who had spent some personal time with Arthur AFTER the clinic or talk can relate to this; Arthur was such a fun-loving person. He loved to be with people and he loved to have a good time (with beer or two). While I was in New Zealand, he and his second wife, Eira, would come pick me up and we went to the beach or some bush track; Arthur and I would go for a run and had a picnic after the run. I remember this one occasion when Arthur and Eira splashed wine at each other, laughing. I have this one picture of him; here he is, the greatest trainer the world of athletics has ever seen, and he’s posing like a gorilla!! ;o) The last time I was with Arthur was in New York in 2004, a week before he passed away in Houston. Because of his bad knees, he couldn’t move around a lot so we just stayed at the hotel restaurant for meals. We would go down for each meal and just told jokes. He loved jokes—on and off the run!! He loved life. It is appropriate that he had given so many of us breath of life through running; many of us extra many years of life because of health and vigor running has brought upon us. Andrew Ness, a doctor in San Francisco who used to be coached by Arthur, once said that considering how many lives Arthur saved through concept of aerobic exercise, he should have been awarded Nobel Prize. “I get more gratification from helping 60-year-old start out running who otherwise would have died early from heart problems than Olympic champions,” he used to always say.
Arthur Lydiard was as generous as vigorous. When in 2009, our friend from Atlanta, Mark Coghlin, interviewed Peter Snell, he said he was very impressed with the Old Man’s energy. Back then, Peter was a young 21 year old and Arthur was more than twice of his age. But he had two jobs, running himself to prepare for marathons, and, at times, he was running up to 250-miles a week to find out the balance in training, and coaching other runners!! He didn’t like people who seek a short cut. With him, he tried it himself. He ran 50 miles a week and that was too easy for him. He ran up to 250 miles a week and figured it was too much. One hundred miles a week, from his own experience, was just right. So anybody who told him that running 100 miles was too much, he wouldn’t give time of the day. He definitely had the winning attitude and, for anybody who came under his persona, it certainly rubs off. One of my all-time favorite stories is of Ray Puckett; when Arthur told him to do three Waiatarua 22-mile runs in three days in a row. On the third day, Ray was feeling the effort. “Man, my legs are raw!” he said. “So are mine,” Arthur replied and pressed on. “That was the last time I ever complained!!” Ray said laughing.
I called Garth Gilmour, the co-author of all Arthur’s books and a life-long friend of Arthur, a few months ago—the first time for quite some time. We were just chatting about Arthur… And then he just said: “I miss him…” So do I. As much a great athletic coach as he was, Arthur Lydiard definitely was more than just a coach. He touched our hearts as a person.
On this day, July 6th, 2017, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Arthur Lydiard’s birthday. We would like to reach out and ask anybody who would like to share their stories with Arthur Lydiard and/or Lydiard method of training. We would also like to reach out and ask any support you could and would like to give to Lydiard Foundation so we can continue to restore the legacy of this extraordinary man and his training method. Please come and visit our donation page HERE and give us financial support; or spread the word through your own social media. Every bit helps!!