In In The News, Nobby Hashizume

When Bill Bowerman had passed away on Christmas Eve in 1999, either Nike or University of Oregon created the website page to share our thoughts on him. There I once made a comment about I’d rather remember his birthday instead of the day he left us. I remember Joe Henderson wrote a very nice tribute to him, saying that it was perhaps appropriate that he passed away on Christmas Eve because he had brought us (Americans) the gift of “health” through “jogging”. Nevertheless, I’d rather celebrate the day he came to this world (his birthday is in February) than the day he left us. I remember his son, Jay, made a nice comment in response and that was when I made a personal acquaintance with Jay.

I felt the same way with Arthur. I’d much rather celebrate his birthday (July 6th) than the day he left us, December 11th, 2004. A part of a reason why I always tried to make a blog entry on his birthday. In a way, I sort of avoided 12/11 – denial, you may call it (I don’t care!!). Then I was just talking to Nabe (Shigeharu Watanabe), a Japanese corporate team coach. There’s a special term for “the day so-and-so passed away/died” and that doesn’t necessarily sound “bad” or “sad”. “Death is a gate (into the next world),” they said in the Japanese movie – “Departures”. I called Greg McMillan this morning and had a little chat. He was, of course, in the hotel room when Arthur passed away. As a coach, he was studying “Lydiard” for quite some time by then. But he actually got together with Arthur in person not even a week earlier. He drove him around the state of Texas and helped his clinics in Dallas and Houston (SunMart). “It’s incredible to think just a few days really change your life…,” he told me. It was, to me, like when I met with the late Kiyoshi Nakamura. I only spent about 8-hours with him one day, only a week before he passed away in an accident. It truly left a lasting impression on me…

One thing I wanted to make sure from Greg – that there was no suffering. There was no sign and it came so sudden… And another thing he told me which made me feel good. That was the eve of SunMart ultra trail race. Behind the race headquarter hut was a big wooded area across this lake with calm water (when we visited there in 2005, they told us not to get too close to the water…because of alligators!!). Greg told me that Arthur said that reminded him of Finland where his second wife, Eira, was from. And he sat there for hours, just watching the view calmly and peacefully. Eira was the love of his life, so had many of his close friends said. She passed away the day I left New Zealand in 1984. Perhaps he was preparing to join her in heaven…

I was listening to the radio while driving a few days ago. All of a sudden, I heard some songs about Finland came out. “Finland,” I thought, and automatically thought of back in 1970s with Lasse Viren and Pekka Vasala…the Finnish second Golden Era largely due to Arthur Lydiard’s guidance. Then they said that it is the 100-year anniversary of founding of Finland as a country. Interesting; Arthur and Finland shared the same birth-year!! ;o) It has been noted many times by many individuals; Finns had gotten soft, lost “sisu”, before Arthur’s arrival in the late 1960s. “Instead of 60km a week, he expected us to run 160km a week in the winter!!” says Pekka Vasala, a 1500m runner. Arthur really had ways to get you inspired and motivated. “After talking to Arthur,” said John Davies, the bronze medalist in 1964 Tokyo Olympic 1500m behind Peter Snell, “all you want is to get out and run!!” Greg said he was thinking about Arthur when he went out for a run this morning. “I hadn’t run yet,” I said, laughing. “It’s been so freaking cold here in MN!!” It was 27F today. But I did go run later today, reminiscing the Old Man. “Even 15-minutes,” he used to say, “if you don’t have time but even if you run just 15-minutes, you’re still winning!” I like this comment of Arthur. It really captures his personality. And as long as we run, he lives in you – he still lives in all of us as long as we run and enjoy “vigor” we achieve from being active, one way or the other. And THAT is the gift Arthur had left for all of us.

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