The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) has posthumously awarded Arthur Lydiard ONZ OBE the IAAF World Athletics Heritage Plaque in the Legend category.
The award was announced by IAAF President Sebastian Coe and welcomed by Athletics New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Pfitzinger in Doha, ahead of the start of the 2019 IAAF World Championships.
Peter said: “It is an honour and privilege for Athletics New Zealand to receive this World Athletics Heritage Plaque on behalf of Arthur's family, his champion athletes and the many others he trained over 50 years of coaching. Arthur was an innovative and highly successful coach, and generous with his time, sharing his coaching wisdom with runners around the world."
Arthur Lydiard’s ground-breaking system of training produced record-breaking runners, including a group of elite New Zealanders known as ‘Arthur’s Boys’ who won multiple Olympic medals and set numerous world records between them. The group included New Zealand and International sporting legends Sir Murray Halberg, Sir Peter Snell, Barry Magee and John Davies as well as other highly successful athletes such as Bill Baillee, Jeff Julian and Ray Puckett.
Sir Murray Halberg’s initial memories of Lydiard have blurred over the years, but he recalls quickly embracing his coach’s training load, which sometimes touched 100 miles per week.
“Arthur looked to develop stamina and prepared us as if we were marathon runners,” recalls Murray. “But it wasn’t just me that improved under the training, Bill Baillie, Barry Magee, Peter Snell all of us did. Success bred success.”
“Arthur created a family within the training group,” Murray explains. “We used to run from his home in Mt Roskill and he always took a great interest in our personal development. Without Arthur it would have been an absolute miracle had I become Olympic champion. Lydiard was the power behind all of us in our training group. He was a motivator, coach, mentor and friend.”
Athletics New Zealand Patron Sir Peter Snell recognizes the impact Arthur had on his multiple record-breaking and Olympic medal winning achievements. “A lot of people said that it was not Arthur’s coaching but my talent, which contributed to my success,” explains Peter. “That annoyed him but we both know that isn’t the case, his training made all the difference.”
Since retiring from international running in 1965, Barry Magee has carved a reputation as one of the country’s most influential distance running coaches in which Lydiard’s high mileage training model forms the template of his philosophy.
“Lydiard is the greatest distance running coach the world has ever seen. There is no greater model to preach”, said Barry, bronze medallist in the marathon at the 1960 Rome Olympics. “New Zealand should be so proud of Arthur Lydiard. To think a nation of two million could go out and conquer the distance running world was all thanks to him. He did the impossible.”
Read more about Sir Murray Halberg, Sir Peter Snell and Barry Magee on the new Athletics New Zealand Legacy page.
Photo credit: Getty Images and the NZ Sports Hall of Fame Museum