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Jan 23, 2005
Lydiard on LSD
RUNNING COMMENTARY 555
Somewhere Arthur Lydiard is shouting: "No, no, NO! You got it all wrong!" He always spoke in italics and exclamation points.
Published tributes labeled as "the father of LSD." He would say they LIBELED him by linking his name to long slow distance training.
I adopted parts of the Lydiard system soon after learning his name in 1960. Even these half-measures led to the best racing of my life, but they had little in common with what came to be known as LSD in my booklet by that title.
When first I met Lydiard, he had heard about the booklet, didn't like it and said so. He had spent the first half of his life perfecting a system. He would spend the second half protecting it against revisionists and explaining it to skeptics.
As far back as 1970 he saw me as a revisionist. He said without prompting as our first interview began, "Aren't you the one who wrote about L-S-D." He spit out those letters, one at a time, as if they left a bad taste in his mouth.
"Slow running is better than no running," he told me, "and it works fine for joggers. But my athletes do NOT run slow. They go as fast as they can without going into oxygen debt.
"And they do NOT run long all the time, but only during the endurance-building phase that lasts less than three months. They follow this with period of hill bounding, then sharpening with time trials and sprints."
In the LSD booklet I'd taken pains not to pass off what I was doing and recommending as Lydiard-light. I gave him just four paragraphs of praise. (These came after I'd named another Arthur -- Newton -- "the father of LSD.")
Train slowly, race swiftly -- that's all I did then. I'd never run one 100-mile week, bounded a single hill, or (since embracing LSD) run an interval or time trial. That simple combination of slow training and fast racing worked fine for me, but it wasn't Lydiard. He made sure I knew that, then and later.
Only three more times the next three-plus decades was I in Arthur Lydiard's company. He reminded me each time that the early divorce of his ways from mine was final.
On his final tour of the U.S. last fall, Lydiard visit my hometown of Eugene. I couldn't get to his lecture but dropped by afterward.
He was seated -- a bow to his 87 years, four strokes and two knee replacements. Given that we hadn't connected since the 1980s, I didn't expect him to remember me. My first words were my name.
Without a moment's pause he asked, "Are you still promoting that L-S-D?" This was another dig, a gentle one this time. By now he was shaky in body but as firm as ever in his beliefs.
A photographer asked us for a picture together. Lydiard rose with difficulty and put his arm around my shoulder, both for support and in friendship. His full height didn't even reach mine, but he stood as tall as ever in my eyes.