The System Still Works…

Oct. 20, 2020 — In the spring of 1983, two of the fastest marathon runners in history clashed in Rotterdam. American’s Alberto Salazar bettered the 12-year-old Derek Clayton’s marathon world record on his second attempt over the distance 1.5 years ago (later, the course was found to be 150m short). He also won Boston Marathon in 1982 and New York City Marathon for the third time in the fall of 1982 and was the hottest marathon runner in the world at the time. Australia’s Robert de Castella ran only 5 seconds slower than Salazar’s point-to-point marathon at NY 2 months after his record run over the out-and-back Fukuoka course with 1982 Commonwealth Games Marathon victory in the record time. It turned out; Deek (de Castella’s nickname) won the race convincingly over the would-be Olympic marathon champion, Carlos Lopes of Portugal in the thrilling sprint finish. Salazar sank to the disappointing 6th place. A few weeks after the race, Arthur Lydiard received a postcard from Deek’s coach, Pat Clohessy. “Another success for the Lydiard Training,” it read. Clohessy had been a huge Lydiard advocate since his days as an athlete back in 1960s and also influenced training of Bill Milles 20-years earlier before Mills’ biggest upset at 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Fast forward to the early 2001, I received a fax from Arthur Lydiard. It was a copy of a hand-written letter from this young coach at University of Colorado by the name of Mark Wetmore. The previous fall, UC cross-country team just completed the “sweep” by winning men’s team and individual (Adam Goucher) and women’s team and individual (Kara Wheeler —yes, later Kara Goucher!!) at the NCAA XC championships. “I have waited a long time to write this note of thanks; I wanted to be sure our accomplishments deserved asterisk on your resume,” it read. Both Adam and Kara Goucher went on to represent the US team in the Olympics. Coach Wetmore went on to produce multiple post collegiate Olympians including World Champions, Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn.

Fast forward yet again to the present time, I received an instant message from this young Japanese coach, Akira Kitagaki. “I have read ‘Lydiard’s Running Bible’ (translation of Running with Lydiard) in college (where he competed in the prestigious Hakone Ekiden Road Relay). Now I coach local runners and I share the content of your book (‘Lydiard Running Training‘ published earlier this spring)…”. One of his runners, a 50-year-old Mika Tanaka, following the Lydiard schedule, set the Japanese national records for 50-year-old in 1500m(technically, she ran this 1 day before her birthday so the record is for 45–49 years old), 3000m, and 5000m!! “She is still in the Anaerobic Development Phase,” her coach explains. “Her real target race is a half marathon in December…”.

I have written an article to Running Time magazine in 2005; how Lydiard training has no time-boundery. It worked for Snell and Halberg and Magee in the 1960s; it worked for Robert de Castella and the stable of Clohessy’s runners in the 1980s; and it worked for Coach Wetmore’s CU runners in the 2000s. And now, yet a couple of decades later, a 50-year-old Japanese lady successfully implemented the Lydiard Principles. “My training can be applied to a 4-hour marathon runner to a 4-minute miler; a 16-year-old girl to a 60-year-old man if interpreted correctly…,” I can hear Arthur saying that again and again. “How much human physiology has changed since we crawled out of the cave 5 million years ago?” Dick Quax, the Olympic silver medalist and the former 5000m world record holder, would say. “In fact, human physiology hasn’t changed at all. That is why physiologically correct training method (=Lydiard) can bring you success just the same. It is just as successful today as it was successful a half a century ago,” said Quax. — Nobby Hashizume

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