Last month, I called Peter Snell on his birthday to wish him a happy birthday. “My birthday was actually yesterday…” hmmm, I thought I checked… Then he said; “I was born in New Zealand so it was actually yesterday!” I could hear Miki in the background saying; “I had to listen to this every year!!” ;o) So I’d be careful this time. It just turned to February 11th in the US and it is still February 11th in New Zealand!! Today, February 11th, 2017, marks the 55th birthday of “JOGGING” according to Garth Gilmour’s “Running for Our Lives”. This is very much a hidden story but something that must be told.
I go on a near-by trail or around the lakes in Minneapolis and see hundreds of people running. Men and women, young and old… Now that “running” has become such a huge business; they all wrap themselves in colorful technical clothes, wearing expensive footwear and high-tech watch that literally tells you what to do (based on God-knows-what!)… Watching them, sometimes I can’t help but wonder if any of them know how it all started…
I have been fortunate enough to hear the story from people who were actually there; Arthur Lydiard, Garth Gilmour…and Bill Bowerman. Garth Gilmour has published a book, “Running for Our Lives” and I highly recommend it. I wanted to get information on how it started as well as how it was done; but it is very much an inspirational book for anybody who is an aspiring runner. There had been a lot of books and articles and blogs about people who started running against adversities, telling us how that changed their lives… But this one…this one is special simply because it is…pretty INCREDIBLE!!
After the success at Rome Olympics where his runners won 2 gold medals and 1 bronze; Arthur Lydiard was invited to Tamaki Lions Club banquette. There he talked about how his runners were physically superior to their competitors because they were aerobically highly trained by doing lots of running to strengthen their heart which is muscle just like your arms and legs. After his talk, he was approached by a couple of middle-aged obese businessmen. Both of them had a history of a heart attack and had been told to take it easy and not do anything strenuous. “But,” they asked Lydiard, “according to you, we can work on our heart by exercising… Do you think we can do the same?” Being a thinking man, he gave it a thought and told them to check with their doctor to make sure they don’t have an issue with their heart and overall general health and get a go-ahead. After getting a clearance, on Sunday February 11th, 1962, twenty people gathered at Cornwell Park in Auckland, New Zealand. The youngest was 50-years-old, the oldest 72. After getting instruction from the Master Coach, off they went. After a few minutes…, or 100-200m later, they all turned into, according to Garth, a tree-hugger! ;o) A rough beginning? Perhaps. However, 8 months later, ALL OF THEM were running 20-miles WITHOUT STOPPING. On that particular day, a local newspaper reporter got interested and came along on a bike to cover the story. “He was probably thinking about a headline: ‘A Jogger Died on the Run’,” Arthur chuckled, “but he was the one who was huffing and puffing at the end of the 20-miler! Eight of these original 20 joggers went on and completed a full marathon, 26-miles 385-yards. “What time did they run?” I had asked Garth before. “Oh, around 4-hours,” he casually replied.
So the fairytale had now become reality. Now Arthur Lydiard, the maker of champions, had also become father of jogging – or modern distance running. Interestingly, he knew, all along, that the principles could be applied all the same. He always said: “The same principles can be applied to 60-year-old or 16-year-old; a 4-minute-miler or a 4-hour-marathon-runner.” The biggest one being: TRAIN, DON’T STRAIN! It is fascinating that, while he always believed in hard work and pushing you to the limit (running 100-miles-a-week ain’t easy!!), he also strongly believed in “keeping it within yourself”. “We all know our limitations,” he always said. “You keep within yourself, and you’ll improve.” Actually, that’s really the key! Far too many people try to do an impressive workout – like trying to run several 20-milers when you are actually not ready for it (simply because you read somewhere that you’ve GOT to do it in order to try a marathon). Far too many people today put a cart in front of a horse; try to do something above their head; consequently risking injuries. How many of you know someone – or have actually done it yourself – follow some cookie-cutter training plan only to find themselves getting hurt and forfeiting the expensive marathon entry fee? The key is to DO THE RIGHT TRAINING, not an impressive training. That’s what Arthur Lydiard did with ALL his runners; elite or original joggers. And that’s exactly what we had tried to convey with Running Wizard, our on-line Lydiard training program.
About 10 months from this launch of first ever organized jogging club – later to become Auckland Jogging Club –, Lydiard had a visitor from across the ocean; Oregon, USA. Bill Bowerman, already a very well-established athletic coach in his own right, brought a team of University of Oregon runners who broke the world 4 X mile record held previously by Arthur’s runners. Bowerman was an all-American football player in his days and, at the time, “only” 50-years-old and felt very fit and strong. One weekend, just as he was finishing up his breakfast, Arthur barged in and said; “Bill, would you like to join our jogging group?” “Well, whatever it might be, how difficult could that be?” Bill thought. They went to this park and joined this group of people – “There seemed to be a bunch of old people and young girls,” Bowerman recalled. “They said they would go for a 5-mile ‘jog’…” As soon as they started, Bowerman found himself at the back of the pack. Only about a half a mile into it, he was struggling. “Then came Steedman…,” Bowerman himself told me this story fondly…or, rather, with a mixed emotion! ;o) Andy Steedman was the oldest of the original joggers who, by then, 74 years old. “Mr. Bowerman, I see you’re having a trouble,” Stedman said. “I didn’t say anything because I couldn’t!!” Bowerman laughed. “That was alright, but then…” he fondly recalled. “He said, ‘I know a shortcut!’ THAT DID IT!!” and he laughed out loud. That humiliated him enough that he decided to cancel his original plan to go back to Oregon after a week. Instead, he stayed for 5 weeks and learnt the concept of “jogging” from Arthur. As their friendship grew, his belly size shrunk. He “jogged” everyday and became very fit and, in mere 5-weeks, he got to the point where he and Arthur could run 24-miles over 4-hours, which is quite amazing itself. By the time he went back to Oregon, his waist line was whopping 5-inches slimmer!!
The rest is history. Bill started a small shoe company with one of his runners at U of O but, perhaps more importantly to the world, he really got behind this “Jogging Movement”. The first ever “jogging” class in Oregon drew more than 2,000 people – of course, there’s a little story behind it. There was a rumor that a photographer from LIFE magazine will be there as well! Bang! 2,000 people showed up. The only one missing was a photographer from LIFE magazine!! Nice PR move, Bill!! ;o) People were hungry for something exciting, something to make them “feel good” – something I’ve written earlier; running DOES make you feel good!! Literally thousands and then millions followed. People became healthier and fitter. Bowerman was awarded with a Medal of Honor by President J. F. Kennedy. Never one to chase “alternative facts”, always a straight-shooter, he said; “I am but a disciple. Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand is a prophet…” And now more and more people engage themselves with running and other exercises, they became fitter and started to feel better and better about themselves…and the small company he and his pupil started benefitted and grew bigger!! And so did all the other shoes and apparel companies. Running, or any form of physical exercise, has become such a HUGE business!!
But I still have to wonder… As it had become such a huge money making business, so many people just jumped a bandwagon and falsely led people – using “alternative facts”. That has led so many injured runners and frustrated individuals. When we created Running Wizard based on Lydiard Principles, we also created Beginner’s Plans – Up-and-Running and Up-and-Racing. It is not as aggressive like “running up to 24-miles in 5 weeks (;o)), but we provide a sound, effective, and SAFE training plan to get you up to an hour’s continuous running. I feel far too many people just follow a cookie-cutter training plan that is overly ambitious to most of them; consequently they push themselves too much and get into a stress situation, not enjoying running as they should. Running – and jogging – should be an exhilarating experience just as hundreds and thousands of original joggers experienced back in the 1960s. Just think about it; 20 middle-aged obese individuals with a history of heart attack…zero to 4-hour marathon in 8 months. In a way, this is our goal with Running Wizard as well. Can we do that with “any” beginner? It is certainly worthy of a challenge…and a perfect way to honor the “Master Coach”!!