Arthur Lydiard

Running coach who was the true inventor of jogging

Arthur Lydiard, athletics coach: born Auckland, New Zealand 6 July 1917; three times married; died Houston, Texas 11 December 2004.

Arthur Lydiard, athletics coach: born Auckland, New Zealand 6 July 1917; three times married; died Houston, Texas 11 December 2004.

Arthur Lydiard was a supremely successful coach of distance runners, best known for guiding Peter Snell to three Olympic golds. But he was also the man who invented jogging, effectively the catalyst for the fitness boom of the last quarter-century.

Yet Lydiard never really wanted to coach. "I had never set out to be a coach - I didn't want to be one - but when these young guys began running with me and then winning New Zealand titles, suddenly I was one," he recalled recently. "Maybe architecture would have given me more money, but would it have given me the same satisfaction?"

Controversial when they first became known, his coaching ideas quickly gained acceptance after the New Zealanders Snell, at 800 metres, and Murray Halberg, at 5,000m, both won golds at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Now, Lydiard's training theory is conventional wisdom.

Yet the apparent contradiction in Snell, a two-lap racer, training by doing slow runs of two hours' duration or more, often over hills, took time to gain widespread favour. "He basically changed my life," Snell said of his mentor:

I was a run-of-the-mill-type runner and he encouraged me to dream big dreams. His influence in training for middle and distance runners has been so profound.

Although it began little more than half a century ago, Lydiard's coaching career was worlds away from today's professionalism: in 1960, it took an appeal in an Auckland newspaper to pay for Lydiard's ticket to Rome for the Games. Once there, he found his own lodgings three miles from the athletes' village, to which he ran or walked each day in the hope that officials might allow him in to supervise Halberg and Snell's training. And, in Snell's Olympic final, the New Zealander ran in a pair of track shoes hand-made by his coach.

Lydiard claimed that the main requirement of a half-miler was endurance, and Snell proved it. In December 1961, Snell ran a marathon in 2:41. Then, barely a month later, Snell set three world records at 800m, 880 yards and the mile.

The New Zealanders Dick Tayler, Rod Dixon, Dick Quax and the 1976 Olympic 1,500m champion John Walker all followed Lydiard's basic methods, as did Ron Clarke, of Australia, who broke 19 world records in the 1960s. In 1967, Lydiard was hired by the Finnish athletics federation and proceded to revive their proud distance-running tradition, with the emergence of Pekka Vasala and Lasse Viren, who both won Olympic golds.

Lydiard's methods have also influenced successive generations of British coaches and runners, from Dave Bedford and Steve Ovett, through to Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes.

The title of the "man who invented jogging" has been wrongly attributed before, but Lydiard espoused his methods for general fitness and well-being around 20 years before the likes of the American Jim Fixx and others adapted them for the millions of recreational and fitness runners around the world as they prepared to run marathons in the boom of the 1970s. Lydiard even invented the word, establishing the Auckland Joggers Club in 1962.

According to Garth Gilmour's book Master Coach, published in June, Lydiard's first joggers were a group of men who had had heart attacks but undertook gentle running to exercise, going counter to the medical approach of the time. "Lydiard came up with the idea of combining conditioning with the stimulus of companionship by slow, steady cross-country running done in loosely organised groups or 'jogging' clubs," the book recounts:

The active citizenry took to it in a big way. Whole communities, from toddlers to grandma, jog on weekends and holidays.

Quax, the 1976 Olympic 5,000m silver medallist, said of Lydiard, "He was a man many, many years ahead of his time."

Lydiard's own, relatively modest, athletics career presaged the marathon boom. A rugby forward, he only took up running for off-season fitness. He soon found the marathon, and while never world-class (his best time was 2hr 39min 05sec), he won the Auckland Marathon six times between 1949 and 1955, but also took the New Zealand national title in 1953 and 1955. He represented his country at the distance at the 1950 Empire Games.

If it was not his racing achievements that drew more talented athletes to him for training, then it was Lydiard's charisma and leadership. As Halberg wrote later:

I quickly found Arthur the sort of man to be naturally followed and listened to. He was a leader. He talked like one and he acted like one. My first impression of him was of a guy who didn't go halfway. You either did what he told you to do or you didn't. There were no short-cuts and he had no intention of wasting his time or yours on doing anything but what he said.

But neither did he turn anyone away who was prepared to follow, even if they had no prospect of doing anything significant. The

more I committed to and followed the development of his concept, the better everything turned out.

Appointed OBE in 1962 and to his country's highest honour, the Order of New Zealand, in 1990, Lydiard's latter years were spent lecturing and also seeking work as a coach to coaches, seeking to replicate his earlier successes, although he was known to be disappointed that his country was unable to find a modest NZ$40,000 annual budget to fund him.

Not that Lydiard claimed every success for himself. Of Viren, who won the 5,000-10,000m Olympic double in 1972 and 1976, Lydiard wrote,

He still sends me a card every Christmas and gives me the credit for his great successes, but I never trained him. I coached his coach to do that.

Steven Downes

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice