Who is Arthur Lydiard?

Arthur Lydiard He has been the acknowledged world-leading middle and distance coach for the past half-century since his personal team of five unknown New Zealand runners swept up two gold medals and a bronze at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. His revolutionary marathon-type endurance training system, which hones athletes to their peak performance on the days they most want to be at those peaks, turned traditional training methods upside down.

The next few years after Rome confirmed the system's perfection as his runners, most from a small area around his Auckland home, dominated national and international racing, set world records and featured in world and Olympic championships.

finlandThey were led by Murray Halberg, Peter Snell, Barry Magee, John Davies, Jeff Julian, Ray Puckett, Bill Baillie, John Robinson and Paul Ballinger and later by the phenomenal John Walker, trained by Arch Jelley along precise Lydiard lines. Walker ran more than 100 sub-four miles, was the first to beat the 3m 50s mile mark and the third New Zealander to become an Olympic 1500-metre gold medalist after Jack Lovelock and Snell.

His training technique has been adapted and proved successful across a wide range of sports which require a basis of stamina on which to build specific skills. Swimming, rowing, canoeing, cycling, rugby football, American gridiron have all produced Lydiard-system-trained champions and he is now credited with winning more than two dozen Olympic gold medals and even more silvers and bronzes.

Lydiard was made a member of the exclusive Order of New Zealand (limited to only 20 living New Zealanders) and Halberg, Snell and Walker have all been knighted.

But Arthur Lydiard never wanted to be a coach. He developed his system while trying, over tens of thousands of kilometres, to keep himself fit and then to run better marathons. Like the Pied Piper, he attracted a following of young runners and led them to levels of glory none could have anticipated. They called him "Coach".

But, despite the fame and honour they brought him, his greatest satisfaction came from his development of jogging for health. That began in New Zealand with a group of heart ailment victims puffing from one lamp-post to the next and blossomed into a way of living a healthier, longer life that spread around the world and embraced tens of millions who tried it and were captured by its simplicity, freedom and amazing results. Like the man approaching middle age who suddenly was running three-hour marathons or the even older, once-overweight physical wreck who set age records for long-distance running. The Auckland Jogger s Club, the world's first, will be 50 years old in 2012 and still hosts great fields twice a week.

This is the Arthur Lydiard legacy which The Legend marathon and Arthur's Half marathon are keeping alive over the Waitakere roads he and countless others have used for more than half a century to build the endurance base on which his training system is founded.

Arthur Lydiard died in 2004 but his gifts to the world of superior running and healthy jogging live on.

International Success

1960 Olympic Games, Rome
  • Peter Snell, Gold medal (1,500 meters)

  • Murray Halberg, Gold medal (5,000 meters)

  • Barry Magee, Bronze medal (Marathon)

  • 1964 Olympic Games, Tokyo
  • Peter Snell, Gold medal (800 meters)

  • Peter Snell, Gold medal (1,500 meters)

  • John Davies, Bronze medal (1,500 meters)

  • John Davies, Silver medal (1 mile), 1962

  • Murray Halberg, Gold medal (3 miles), 1958

  • Murray Halberg, Gold medal (3 miles). 1962

  • Peter Snell, Gold medal (880 yards), 1962

  • Peter Snell., Gold medal (1 mile), 1962

  • World Records
  • Peter Snell, 800 meters (1:44.3), 1962

  • Peter Snell, 1,000 meters (2:16.6), 1964

  • Peter Snell, One mile (3:54.4), 1962

  • Peter Snell, One mile (3:54.1), 1964

  • Peter Snell, 1000 yards indoors (2:06.0), 1962

  • Peter Snell, 880 yards indoors (1:49.9), 1962

  • Peter Snell 1000 metres (2:16.6), 1964

  • Bill Baillie, 20,000m (59:28.6), 1963

  • Bill Baillie, one hour (12 miles, 960 yards, 7in), 1963

  • Murray Halberg, 4 miles (unofficial, 18:22.6), 1958

  • Murray Halberg, 2 miles indoors (8:34.4), 1961

  • Murray Halberg, 2 miles (8:30.0), 1961

  • Murray Halberg, 3 miles (13:10.0), 1961

  • Jeff Julian, 30 miles (2:47.34), 1969

  • Jeff Julian, 40 miles (3:53.36), 1969

  • Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee and Gary Philpott, 4 x 1 mile relay (16:23.8), 1961

  • Arthur's Records
  • 2 National titles: Marathon in 1953 and 1955.

  • Best times - 20 miles in 1:54.52.4; marathon in 2:39.05.

  • Awarded OBE in 1962, Order of New Zealand 1990, Halberg Award for Service to Sport 1994.

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