Lydiard training, part 1

Arthur Lydiard
Arthur Lydiard

Since it’s winter time and nothing spectacular is going on I decided to write a couple of posts about training. Firstly, I’ll introduce you to Arthur Lydiard and his training principles.

Arthur Lydiard was born in 1917, in New Zealand. Because of the great depression he left the school at the age of 16 and found a job in a shoe factory. He started running when he was 27 years old. At the time he wasn’t particularly fast. He tough that training methods of the time were to easy on him so he started experimenting to see how fit he can get. In his experiments he run up to 250 miles per week and found out that balanced distance and speedwork leads to improved performance in marathon as well as in shorter, track distances. Lawrie King, one of his training partners won provincial championship in 2 mile race which established Lydiard as a coach. As the time passed his coaching group was growing.

After 10 years of experimenting,  in the mid 1950’s Lydiard completed his training recipe. He now knew how to mix ingredients (base training, hills, speed work…) and how to plan it to reach peak performance at the right time. He knew that his principles work, but without formal education he didn’t know how it all worked. In 1960 Rome Olympic Games he received acknowledgement for his methods when Peter Snell won 800m event, Murray Halberg won 5000m and Barry McGee placed 3rd in marathon. Four years later Snell won double (800 and 1500m) and John Davies won bronze in 1500m.

Lydiard wasn’t trying to hide his methods and he started to train coaches instead of athletes. He spend 8 months in Mexico, and few years after that Alfredo Penaloza placed third in Boston marathon, Pablo Garido run 2:12’52, and Juan Martinez placed 4th in ’68 Mexico Olympic Games in 5000 and 10000m.

After that he spent 19 months in Finland, which led to renaissance in Finnish distance running. Olavi Suomalainen won 1972 Boston marathon, at the 1972 Olympic games Lasse Virinen won gold in 5000 and 10000m, Pekoe Vasala won 1500m and Tapio Kantanen came in third in steeple. When Lydiard arrived in Finland their distance records were 7 years old and few years after he left they owned world records, olympic gold medals and international championship titles.

Lydiard was forced to leave both countries because of  lack of support. He was never fully acknowledged by athletics community. His main premise was that even middle distance athletes (800 and 1500m) should train like they are preparing for the marathon and for experts of the time it didn’t seem logical, given the high anaerobic nature of these events.

In the following posts I’ll write more about Lydiard method and I’ll also throw in my own interpretation of the method.

To be continued…

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