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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick