Remembering Arthur Lydiard, the Man

Lydiardtrainingandacademy
5 min readDec 11, 2021

Dec. 11, 2021 — This is one of my favorite Arthur Lydiard quotes: when an overweight reporter asked him why he ran; “Because, if I don’t, I’d feel like you do and I don’t like it!” Anybody who knew Arthur Lydiard knows he was feisty with sometimes fiery sarcasm like this one. But, as perhaps fewer people seem to have realized, he also had very kind and gentle side as well. Whenever I hear an old song from late 1970s, Sheena Easton’s “When He Shines”, this song really reminds me of Arthur Lydiard. He is a song that’s not easy to write…. One of my favorite pieces to describe “Arthur Lydiard, the Man” is from a chapter from “The Lonely Breed” (written by Norman Harris and Ron Clarke) titled: “The Man Who Never Stopped”. And there are a couple of parts from this article that I feel illustrate Arthur Lydiard so well:

…One day in the shoe factory he hit his thumb with the hammer, and everyone, as always, laughed. “At least,” he said instantly, “I’m not taking half-an-hour off like you lot.” He deliberately used his first finger in place of the thumb, and swung the hammer. He hit the finger, too. Before the laughter could fade he had pushed forward the next finger, successfully struck the nail at the third attempt, and was on with the job…

Here’s another story in this chapter that tells who Arthur Lydiard was during a losing rugby match. Annoyed by the attitude of his teammates who seemingly already accepted the defeat, Arthur declared to his teammates:

“…There seems to me to be a gutless attitude in this team which is starting to brown me off. We’re a good team, in fact we’re a hell of a good team. Another team can’t be a lot better than us — in fact it probably isn’t any better. I reckon we could beat them!…”

But also in this chapter, it mentions a gentle side of Arthur Lydiard as well:

…And he cared for people outside of athletics — for a pregnant wife who, during a long journey in the back of his little car, sat on an air cushion with a slow puncture, and he did not know about it until afterwards; he worried about that for a whole week….

I HAVE seen fiery side of Arthur Lydiard! One time when I was in New Zealand, we went to a shopping mall in his car. As we drove around a parking lot, slowly, this old man stepped in front of us. He must have not seen us and, startled, he flipped his finger at the driver — Arthur. Arthur stopped the car, rolled down the window and started yelling at this old man: “You stupid old bastard!!”… The passenger — me — literally had to calm him down! This one time, this runner asked him to coach him. Then, behind Arthur’s back, he was also seeking advice from other coach. Arthur found this out and, right there and then, he dropped him. Later, trying to patch up, he sent Arthur a nice Christmas card. “I just burnt it,” Arthur said. Sincerity is very important to Arthur (read about it HERE). Even the most prized athlete wouldn’t dodge his wrath if you stepped on the wrong side of Arthur Lydiard.

There was this one incidence, to me, that showed both sides of Arthur Lydiard. It was one of Lydiard clinics in Oregon back in 1983…. He was talking about building up the mileage. One guy in the audience raised his hand and asked him how long he though it would take to get you up to the level of, say, 100-miles-a-week. With a matter-of-factly straight forward fashion (as anybody who knew Arthur would know!), Arthur said: “I’m gonna talk about it now…”. He did sound as if he was annoyed. So, to that, this guy quickly apologized: “Sorry!” Right away, Arthur said: “That’s alright, that’s alright!! I welcome a question!” This scene and above story about a pregnant wife mesh-up well. “I don’t give a damn what others think of me; what I think of them is important…,” Arthur would tell you. However, HOW others are FEELING mattered for him, too. He cared.

To Arthur Lydiard, how fast or slow you run didn’t matter. How you sincerely tackled his advice mattered more to him. “When you help others (with training), you are giving a part of your life to them,” he always said. How you value his giving a part of his “life” mattered so much to him. I heard a story about this young female runner in Wellington he was helping out in the 1990s. He would drive from Auckland to Wellington over the weekend to help her out. One day, she offered him compensation to all this effort — money or something. “Tell you what,” Arthur replied… “How about a nice meal with you and your family when I come down to Wellington?” He never coached for money. He coached for love of helping others with running. “If you help some obese middle-aged man from death bed to healthy vigorous life with running,” Arthur often said, “and he wouldn’t forget you. He would appreciate you for life…”. He was, as I call him, “everybody’s coach”. He was a cheerleader to every runner at every level. He always liked to talk about this guy, Wills, who was 74-years-old at the time and weighed 280-pounds and had had a couple of heart attacks. Arthur helped him and, 6-months later, Mr. Wills lost 40-pounds and ran 20-miles without stopping. And he called that “gratifying”. Recently I saw this posting on (formerly) Facebook. This young lady “transformed” herself from 5:12 marathon in 2015 to 3:12 marathon in 2021. “Never in a million years would I have thought this would be my life…” she says. I had to share this at my Lydiard Training & Academy page. This is the kind of story Arthur would have been “gratified” with!! “This shows what can be done!” I can almost hear Arthur saying that! And he would be sure to be out there cheering her on.

Here’s to remembering Arthur Lydiard on this day he rested in peace 17 years ago; someone who was sometimes mild, and sometimes bold…like a song that’s not easy to write…but, when he shone, he certainly shone so bright!! He was a strong man, but he also was a gentleman. And I would like people to know BOTH sides of him. You were a good man, Arthur! We miss you.— Nobby Hashizume

Nobby, left, with Arthur Lydiard during the 1999 Lydiard US lecture tour that he organized. Arthur gave me the New Zealand All Blacks rugby jersey!

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