by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella. I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the first Lydiard Invitational Coaching Seminar in Boulder, Colorado this past weekend. It was humbling to be in the room with running legends of the past and present, hear their stories, and listen as they shared lessons learned and “secrets” they figured out. Six continents were represented (no one from Antarctica) and many common “secrets” gelled as these runners all came to the same discoveries, although worlds apart in culture and distance.
All of these “secrets” revolved around discoveries of legendary New Zealand Coach Arthur Lydiard (1917-2008), whose runners produced 20 Olympic Gold Medals. To learn more about Arthur go to his foundation site.
Olympic Bronze Medalist and Boston Marathon champion Lorraine Moller along with Nobby Hashizume were the seminar leads and introduced the innovative on-line training tools that will allow any level of runner to understand and apply the Lydiard methods. Their passion for spreading Arthur’s message of health and sustainability made this event happen and will continue Arthur’s legacy.
So what were some of these secrets or training and racing advice for runners?
Dr. Peter Snell’s lead talk “Why Slower Running Makes You Faster” set the stage. The three- time Olympic Gold Medalist and original Lydiard pupil emphasized that building endurance is the key for health and for fast running. Peter was only a 4:20 miler on his eighteenth birthday and after following the Lydiard principles went on to win Gold in Rome in 1960 (800 meters) and Tokyo 1964 (800 and 1500 meters) as well as set a mile World Record of 3:53 and 800 Meter World Record.
Other Lydiarian principles:
- Do lots of things to promote good running form and elasticity, strength, and mobility in the muscle tendon units. For Lydiard this was a lot of hill running and hill drills that involved hopping and light bounding.
- Intervals will make you faster, but only if you have an endurance base.
- Rest and recovery are vitally important. Understand progressive adaptation.
- The science eventually proves what all these legendary runners from different continents all figured out.
- Easy runs of 2 hours will help you get faster as you start to recruit fast twitch fibers to use glucose and fat as fuel.
- If you have target races, have a long-term calendar that breaks down your year in specific periods.
- These runners from a generation or two ago wore thin-sole shoes had little to no cushion, like the old Onizuka Tigers for training and racing.
- If you do not exercise what you eat will turn to fat. By exercise and depleting the tank your cells will accept the nutrients in a restorative way and not make you fat.
I shared a meal and a beer with Peter Snell and his charming wife Miki who was also a barnstorming of her day pressing the movement of women’s running. Peter shared the story over dinner of how he financed his PhD education in exercise physiology by winning the “Superstars” competition. For those who were kids in my era this was the reality tv show. Peter rocked the obstacle course and the bike. He is now researching and writing on fitness for the senior years. A fellow competitor Jerry Siebert who ran against Peter in 1960 and 1964 was there to exchange barbs Olympic Marathon Gold and Silver Medalist Frank Shorter shared his training stories and paid homage to Peter and the legacy of Arthur Lydiard. Frank is primarily responsible for making Boulder the running center of the Universe.
Rod Dixon, of New Zealand, a 1983 New York City Marathon Winner and 1972 Olympic 1500 meter Bronze medalist. and I shared principles of minimalist running and intelligent transition to barefoot and minimal shoes. In his racing years he used to cut his soles down to be thinner. Rod still looks like a million bucks at age 61. He is getting plenty of sun and health in L.A. coaching runners.
Likely the most gutsy and toughest marathoner of all time was also in the room. Steve Jones of Wales (now living Boulder) became world class in the marathon while still working full time as a flight engineer with the Royal Air Force. This is near to my heart as I’m still a United States Air Force Reserve Flight Surgeon. Steve set the marathon World Record of 2:08.01 in a solo all out effort. There were no pacers and in Steve’s mind no barriers. Steve coaches elite and club runners now and like all of us is still searching for knowledge.
Silvio Guerra of Ecuador, two-time second place finishes at the Boston Marathon, shared insightful lessons from over 10 years of international world class competition.
University of Colorado track and cross-country coach Mark Whetmore, who has produced 12 Olympians, shared his long term approach with collegiate runners. Some question the volume of running that Mark’s runners do, but he understands that they need progressively increasing volume if they are going to survive and thrive after collegiate running.
Likely the top high school protégé of all time Melody Fairchild shared some of her lessons learned and gave important perspective as a female athlete facing pressures of the collegiate system. She was the first high-school girl to break 10 minutes for two miles (9:55). Living outside Boulder, Melody is now hosting camps geared toward healthy living and training for young female runners.
So why was I at this meeting and speaking? Lorraine Moller and I have a shared interest in youth running and health and have gotten to know each other over the last two years. There is a growing interest from runners and coaches on the topic of running mechanics and barefoot running. The experienced runners and coached do not want to hear scientific theory without it being tested. Maybe my unique role is that of a medical doctor who can interpret the science side but also be a runner out there pushing the envelope a bit, discovering what it is all about, and teaching others. I have not won any Olympic medals but have achieved “sustainable runner” status by going against the status quo, taking risk, and becoming an experiment of one.
This was Arthur Lydiard’s legacy. Everything he suggested he tested on himself….an experiment of one. He did the opposite of what most thought to be true over 60 years ago and his methods are just as applicable today and they were in 1960. From a medical side he was the first to institute exercise as a therapy for heart attack patients. Doctors of that day felt rest was the correct treatment. Arthur believed the opposite and today the world of Cardiac Rehab is filled with treadmills, not La-Z-Boy recliners.