Just got back from a 10-day visit in Japan. During my trip, Greg McMillan reminded me of 12/11 (today). Today marks 10 years since Arthur Lydiard passed away in Houston, TX. It was the final part of his last US lecture tour that I had organized. Greg was there with Arthur in the Houston hotel room. This formed the lasting friendship between me and Greg. Greg feels this to be almost his life-long pursuit to develop young up-and-coming American distance runners the Lydiard Way. And he had done a marvelous job I might add. When I helped Yoko Shibui to have a 2-month training camp in Flagstaff in 2009, Greg, myself and Yoko’s coach, Shigeharu Watanabe, also developed friendship. Whenever I listened to the theme song from “The Lord of the Ring”, I think of this picture of 3 of us with a beautiful sunset over the sacred mountain as a background. It was “fellowship of Lydiard”. Lorraine (Moller) and I had announced the forming of Lydiard Foundation at the Boston Marathon in 2004. With Arthur’s passing, it had become even a stronger “mission” to restore his legacy. With the Lydiard Coaching Certificate Clinics though out the country (and beyond), we always feel that the Old Man would have been very proud and satisfied.
While in Japan, I picked up a few running books. One was about the history of Japanese marathoning. It actually dedicated a whole chapter on “Lydiard Training”. A few years back, Coach Koide, the coach of 2000 Olympic champion and the first woman to break 2:20 barrier, Naoko Takahashi; he gave us: “Lydiard had taught us, as far back as 1962, what training is all about. Without Lydiard, we would have never had the Golden Era of Japanese marathoning…” Japanese culturally trained hard anyway. But that didn’t quite correspond to results. Within a month of learning the Lydiard Way of training, Japanese national record had improved for 5 minutes from 2:21 to 2:16. Toru Terasawa broke Abebe’s then world record for the marathon–by one second, but the world record nonetheless.
Another book was about famous Hakone Ekiden and training methods of various key colleges. “The level of collegiate distance running improved when the late Kiyoshi Nakamura brought the Lydiard training to Waseda University…” Toshihiko Seko was still at Waseda University when he beat Bill Rodgers at Boston in 1979 and made the Moscow Olympic team. Waseda University also won Hakone Ekiden championships under the guidance of Nakamura. “Nakamura’s training idea, based on the Lydiard Way, is very down-to-earth and dirty idea of ‘Kilometers Makes Champions,’” it reads. Yet another book I picked up, “From Hakone to the World” by Yasuyuki Watanabe, another young coach who led Waseda University in the recent years. “When I became Waseda’s coach, the previous coach, Tsukasa Endo, gave me a book (=”The Lydiard’s Running Bible”, a Japanese translation of “Running the Lydiard Way”) and told me to carry on the Lydiard Principles. He told me. ‘This was passed on from Kiyoshi Nakamura to Toshihiko Seko to me and now to you…’”
While in Tokyo, I had a dinner with the second fastest non-African marathon runner in history, Toshinari Takaoka with 2:06:16. He is now a coach at Kanebo running team. We had discussed, for 3 hours over sushi, how he could apply the Lydiard training more closely to his team’s training. Kanebo had always been a marathon power-house in Japan with Ito (a 2:07 runner) and Kamata (Olympic representative for track in 1976 and 1980). The first marathon great of this traditional team (founded back in the 1950s) was Sadanaga, Takaoka’s grandfather coach, who attended the first of Lydiard training camps conducted in Japan at Izu peninsula back in 1962. “I wish I had you and Coach Sadanaga together and learn more about the Lydiard Way of training…,” Toshi said.
Sachi Yamashita, herself the silver medalist from 1991 Tokyo World Championships marathon, is leading her team to the national team this weekend for the national women’s ekiden championships. She coached another silver medalist in 2009 Berlin World Championships, Ozaki, and also a young up-and-coming runner who beat the Kenyan runner in the thrilling sprint finish in the last month’s Yokohama women’s marathon, Tanaka. She came out to our Lydiard Boulder clinic last September. “Too many people are listening to scientists today.” she said. “They are running less mileage faster… And the results show. I believe Lydiard is the key to get Japanese marathoning back on track,” she said.
I visited my old high school friends in Japan about memories of a man (or a woman). “They say a man would die 3 times,” one of them said. “When that person actually dies, but memories of that person go on among his family and friends… But when all his friends and families die, then that person’s memories would die too. But there’s one more level. His legacy may go on for a long, long time–possibly forever–even if nobody remembers who he was as long as his contribution continues to benefit us…” This topic came up because of the 3 Japanese physicist who received the Nobel Prize with their work on blue LED. I personally had no idea what it was or who they were!! But this LED had been used in the traffic light and we continue to benefit from it. I could not help but think of Arthur Lydiard and his legacy. When I first talked to Toshi, he didn’t have a clue who Arthur Lydiard was. Upon sending him the Japanese translation of “The Athletic Training”, he said, “Wow, this is actually what I did!! Lydiard’s contribution to “jogging” is perhaps even more prominent and long-lasting. I wonder how many 5-hour marathon runner remotely know the name Arthur Lydiard? It is our mission and Lydiard Foundation’s job to keep his legacy.
Long live Arthur Lydiard.