The Golden Hour

Peter Snell winning 800m (left) and Murray Halberg winning 5000m in an hour

Sept. 2, 2021 — It’s been a while; I guess it’s “post Olympics burn-out syndrome”??? I challenged myself to write “memorable” stories of 1964 Tokyo Olympics every day for 2 weeks before 2020 (+1) Tokyo Olympics started. I think I did a pretty good job and I would like to put them all together to publish it eventually. Been trying to continue with monthly Lydiard newsletter and I do feel like I have plenty of “stuff” to write to continue sharing the message of Arthur Lydiard. It was such challenging Olympic Games with pandemic…. Even I had a doubt if they could pull it but, as it turned out, Olympic Games were Olympic Games; with or without spectator. Plenty of dramas…. Kipchoge’s marathon victory was quite impressive, knowing how tough the condition was in the heart of the Japanese summer. America’s Molly Seidel’s bronze medal performance was truly exciting! It showed the importance of “peaking”. And Allison Felix’s legacy continued…. Some day, when I can sit down and look more closely, I’d like to write a thing or two about these Games.

But once again, on this day of September 2nd, I cannot help but look back and reminiscent the Golden Hour of New Zealand’s athletics 61 years ago. The 17th Olympiad in Rome produced just as many dramas as would all Olympic Games. America’s Wilma Rudolf claimed the nickname of “Black Gazelle” by winning 3 gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4X100m relay…. And who could forget the unknown Ethiopian soldier winning the marathon barefoot!! But for us “Lydiardites”, September 2nd is forever immortalized as the day Lydiard training method became known to the world, not by words but action — by the unknown Peter Snell and more or less one-armed Murray Halberg winning gold medals within an hour (HERE is the previous blog that I had written). Then a mere week later, Barry Magee winning the bronze medal behind legendary Abebe Bikini (HERE is my previous blog).

Lydiard worked on this new “revolutionary” training method for nearly 15 years. He was considered “odd” around the neighborhood because he was always running. People thought he was crazy — crazy to have a middle distance man, like Snell who would race around the track twice, to run more than 20-miles at slow pace; and this “peaking” nonsense, to tell his runners that it’s okay to lose for some local level races. But he knew, in his mind, that he was onto something. He slogged miles and miles, rain or shine. up and down the rugged country side, up to 200+ miles a week…. He used himself as a guinea pig and tried all sorts of combination of various workouts. By mid-1950s, he knew his “method” worked well — well enough to win many provincial titles. But perhaps possibly “too well” — as we say in Japanese, “the nail that sticks out will be pounded in”…. There was some jealousy among officials and coaches. With 5 athletes of his out of 9 New Zealand Track & Field team, Lydiard wasn’t even nominated as one of official NZ coaches. Fans had to get together to raise money to send Lydiard to Rome. This whole story was beautifully captured on the 2012 documentary, “The Golden Hour” (you can watch it HERE).

Nine athletes on New Zealand T&F team; 5 of them coached by Arthur Lydiard and 3 of them winning the Olympic medal…2 of them gold. That’s a pretty impressive track record. The Lydiard legacy continued 4 years later in Tokyo in 1964 with Snell winning 2 more gold medals with his teammate, John Davies winning the bronze medal. Lydiard would go on to coach Mexico, Finland, Venezuela and Denmark as their national coach. And his influence would spread to Germany, Japan, South Africa, South Korea and, of course, United States. We have, as of right now, 988 photos of athletes and coaches around the world through the span of more than a half a century at our Photo Gallery page HERE. But it all started on the hot summer day of September 2nd in 1960 in Rome 61 years ago. Long Live Lydiard Legacy!!

Arthur Lydiard (left), Murray Halberg (middle) and Peter Snell (right)