Who is 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.
They 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.