I like Tom Cruise’s “The Last Samurai”. Sure, it was very Hollywoody. Certainly for someone who is originally from Japan and spent a year in New Zealand, yeah, it was pretty obvious!! ;o) But I like the story this movie was (loosely) based on; during that era (late 1850s) there were handful of young Japanese who fought for the future of the country; some who decided to lean toward “Western” philosophy and others who tried to stay with tradition and honor of the ancestor, Samurai. The real Last Samurai, Takamori Saigo, who would have died for the Emperor ended up fighting the Imperial Army and the government, with the Emperor, that took the path toward “modernization” of Japan. He was a great leader and truly the last “Samurai”. In the end, the very government that defeated Saigo’s army honored him and built a statue that still stands on a hill overlooking downtown Tokyo (Ueno Park). When I go to Japan, I often stay at a hotel 5-minutes away from Ueno station which is the destination of Narita Express train from Narita airport – very convenient. And I often run around Ueno Park and, whenever I see this statue, I think of “The Last Samurai”.
I have to admit, I absolutely love the ending of this movie. When the young Meiji Emperor asks Captain Algren, who fought until the very end of life of Katsumoto – the Last Samurai in the movie – to tell him how he died; Captain Algren replies: “I’ll tell you how he lived…” I can’t help it; every time I see this scene and hear this line, I get teary eyes. And I can’t help but think about the life of Arthur Lydiard and our responsibilities with Lydiard Foundation. I often hear a phrases like; “larger than life”… or “a man/women ahead of his/her time”… These should not be used casually. There really aren’t that many people who can be in a rank of such phrases. At Arthur’s funeral, they played Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. I can’t think of too many people whose lives are so suited with this song.
Arthur Lydiard started running because he was worried about his own physical state at the age of 28. An old man twice as old as he was then took him out for a run and nearly killed him. This realization that he was not as fit as he thought he was pushed him to experiment on his own. He read all that he could read about athletics and training. He came across a book written by F.A.M. Webster that stated: “…we have speed to run sub-four-minute mile but we lack stamina to do so…” At the time, the world record for the mile was about 4:10. Lots of people can run faster than 60-second for a quarter-mile but none could put four of them together. This made sense to him so he went after the way to improve stamina. As he ran more and more, he realized that he could do a lot more than he – or pretty much just about everybody at the time – thought he was capable. Back in the days, nobody, except perhaps for a handful of runners in a small town of West (at the time) Germany…or young aspiring athletes in the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia…or a army soldier from Czechoslovakia…
He went on trial-and-error for over 13 years before he put together everything he had learnt as “the Lydiard System”. There is a wonderful article called “The Man Who Never Stopped” by Ron Clarke and Norman Harris that portrays Arthur Lydiard the man really well which we would eventually reproduce and post here. But he was completely driven and consumed with his own curiosity for the “training system that works”. Now the more he ran – upwards of 250-miles-a-week!! – the stronger, and FASTER, he had become!! This is pretty much the same discovery that I had enjoyed in the last 5 weeks or so (my previous blog HERE) – of course not as much as he covered though!! ;o) There were no such terms as Aerobic or Anaerobic that they knew about. I would doubt people even talked about the concept of Base Building back then either. But he knew, from his own experience, that the more he ran, the stronger and faster he would become. This is the foundation of “the Lydiard System” (first of the Five Principles of the Lydiard System). But, even though his track times improved, he wa annoyed with the fact he lost some of the important races; the ones that really counted. “We know all the training that’s out there and available,” he used to say. “There are long runs, intervals, fartlek… But the key is to put them all together in a correct sequence so you’d peak on the day.” Two of the Five Principles of Lydiard Training that Lorraine and I had come up with are in this sentence; Sequential Training and Correct Timing (more detail with Five Principles HERE).
Arthur had to drop out from high school because of Great Depression. What is truly amazing is the fact he put these all together and came up with a sequence of training, a pattern of training program and, more than a half a century later, science is now finding out how accurate his intuition was. Now that running has become such a huge business; that a lot of so-called “experts” had jumped on the band-wagon and are trying to re-invent the wheel…or post blogs or write articles as if they had discovered a secret to “breaking 20-minutes 5k” or “successfully ‘finish’ a marathon in 10-weeks”… But when you open your eyes and look closely, you will find out that Arthur Lydiard had found all those back in 1950s from his own experience. He didn’t need any lab or needles or graphs and charts; he simply put together “what worked”. Today I see so many people get blinded with some scientific jargon and completely overlooking the very purpose of why we train – to run better, which, in most cases, translates to “run faster”. Think about it; 8-minutes a day of quick Tabata sprints, simply because it improves VO2Max more than “cardio” training, works better to get you run a better marathon? Seriously, as Dave Martin would say, “You’ve got a brain. Use it!” Lydiard went after “what works”.
With the same token, he looked long and hard into how this “Aerobic Exercise” would affect heart attack patients. He applied the same Principles carefully and sensibly. Voilà!! “Jogging” was born. As I’ve written in my previous blog, he, along with the effort of Bill Bowerman, had provided healthy and vigorous live-style to millions of us mortals (the birth of jogging from my blog HERE). When you think about contribution to man-kind, what he has done with jogging cannot, and should not, be overlooked. We recently replaced our water heater and when the guy came out and saw all my running shoes and clothes, he started talking to me about running (he was on a track team when he was in high school). I mentioned “Father of Jogging (or, for our purpose, we call him “Father of Modern Distance Running”)”. He quickly said; “Oh, I’ve heard of him!! What’s his name…? Jim Fixx!! But be careful; look what happened to him – he died on a run, didn’t he!?” Well, here lies more work we need to do!! We don’t need “alternative facts”. The truth needs to be told and be passed on. The fact of the matter is; Mr. Fixx “wrote a popular book on running”. He died fairly young but he probably gained a good decade or so of healthy enjoyable life despite his genetics with heart diseases family history because of running. And that was Arthur Lydiard who made it alright for us, all of us, to get out and run regardless of your age or regardless of how fast or slow you may be.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Arthur Lydiard’s birth. It has a significant meaning to us. We had been working hard to formalize the infrastructure and identify our “products” and “services” in order to fulfill our mission and continue his work of helping people; young and old, men and women, fast and slow; to fulfill their running potential as well as to lead healthy lives and enjoy their superb fitness. We are running a fundraising campaign as we speak. Please join us and support our effort to spread the Arthur Lydiard story (please go to THIS page to make a contribution) and pass this message on through your social media – we need all the help we can get – so we can restore this extraordinary man’s legacy and continue to teach this Gold Standard training system and tell the world “how he lived”.