Remembering Arthur on His Birthday

5 min readJul 6, 2022
Arthur Lydiard and me in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1984

July 6th, 2022 — We have been doing a remodeling of our main bathroom since March. We just installed a new shower door recently. It’s a clear glass door and they advised us to use liquid soap; bar soap would make clear glass dirty more quickly. So my wife picked up liquid Dove soap and that turned out to be with coconut sent. Anybody who was close to Arthur Lydiard — someone like Kim Stevenson or Larry Wiechern??? — can tell you; whenever Arthur cleaned up and ready to go, he smelled coconut. I don’t know if it was aftershave or deodorant or whatever, in my memory, “fresh Arthur Lydiard” always smelled coconut. When I first got together with Arthur on Thanksgiving weekend in Seattle, WA, in 1981, I remember I smelled coconut. So now using coconut sent liquid soap reminds me of the Old Man.

Arthur Lydiard the milkman

Another thing I noticed upon my first encounter with Arthur, and ever since when I accompanied him for breakfast, is oatmeal to be his favorite breakfast. It’s always oatmeal with brown sugar and some raisins (“very high in iron” he said) and milk. I don’t know what kind of milk but, knowing him, most likely whole milk. He was always very proud of New Zealand milk. “You push the cap down and remove it from the glass bottle and you can see some cream forming around the top,” he said. Of course, he was a milk-deliverer way back in the 1950s and he had done some advertisement for milk as well. With such good milk comes dairy products — ice cream. In one of my favorite portraits of Arthur Lydiard, “The Man Who Never Stopped”, it says that he would eat “lots of ice cream” after the marathon or long runs to “cool and thin his blood.” Actually I think he just liked ice cream!! I remember in the spring of 1990 when I went to New Zealand with Hitachi Women’s Running Team, we had a nice dinner together and, when I drove him back to his Beachlands house, he insisted I stop by and have some ice cream with him. “New Zealand has the best ice cream in the world,” he said. It comes from good milk!

Arthur Lydiard, third from right, with the Hitachi Women’s Team in 1990

Arthur was a typical old-timer Kiwi who didn’t care too much about what he ate. “New Zealanders are lucky,” he told me. “There is plenty of good, wholesome food of the right kind here (in New Zealand).” When we had dinner with Arthur in 1990, he had no hesitation getting a big chunk of steak. “I eat red meat 5 times a week,” he said almost proudly. I remember Peter Snell telling me that Arthur actually had quite high cholesterol level. I can’t remember the exact figure but…quite a bit higher than what most doctors would assume as the “safe” level. I also caught him munching on reuben sandwich, which is another dish most doctor would not recommend readily to someone with high cholesterol level, for lunch when I accompanied Arthur during his US lecture tour in 1999 and 2004. “Rye bread has chromium which is quite rare,” he said. “Another good source of chromium is hop — in other words, beer!!” he smiled. “When you go to some countries where drinking water is questionable,” he told me, “drinking beer is more safe.” He was not too hot about me ordering Diet Coke when I dined with him. Whenever I ordered one, he would simply looked at me and shook his head without saying anything.

We were proud to have removed this stump (photo taken by Eira)

When asked about his master coach, Peter Snell replied: “What impressed me is just how hard Arthur worked!” With a small stature, Arthur was a human dynamo. I recall trying to remove this tree stump at his Beachlands land before he built his house in 1984. It wasn’t easy. He was 68 years old and I was 25. We pretty much worked equally — if anything, he might have worked harder!! In his younger days back in the 1950s when he was searching for his training method — the Lydiard System — , he was working 2 jobs. In “Run to the Top”, he explained: “For the next two years, I worked day and night at two jobs. I knocked off my daytime job at 4:30p.m., had tea (dinner) and went to bed at 6:30p.m. I was up at midnight to do a milk-delivery round, finishing in time to go home for breakfast and then start my day job…”. He applied the same zest to finding the perfect conditioning training. When he flirted with the human endurance limit by running 250-miles a week, he would run the near-marathon distance in the morning, went for a regular job, came home and ran another 10–15 miles. “I had to find out what’s too much, what’s not enough…and what’s enough and still improve…”. That’s how he came up with 100-miles-a-week formula. Arthur Lydiard was all about hard work. Train smart, sure. But Arthur wouldn’t approve of you if you were just “mucking about”. “Fun” comes from hard training with high-standard of fitness level. And you need to work hard to get it. In 2009, we had a running symposium in Colorado with 2 guest speakers — Dave Martin and Peter Snell. Dr. Martin got up on the stage and started with: “We always try to find out what’s the minimum amount of training and still improve…”. Peter got up after Dave. “It’s interesting what Dave said as the opening,” he said. “With Lydiard, we always tried to find what’s the maximum amount of training we can do without breaking down and still improve…”. This so-called “scientific approach” to eliminate “waste” within training program sounds good. But that type of thinking actually set the US marathoning way back in the 1990s and early 2000. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. There is no compromise with Arthur Lydiard; you either shape up or be shipped out. You work hard and you’ll be rewarded. That was his message and that was how he lived. Happy Birthday, Arthur. He would have been 105 today. — Nobby Hashizume