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Arthur Lydiard

Arthur Lydiard was a marathon runner and athletics coach whose most notable students included Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions. He is also credited with stimulating enthusiasm for jogging worldwide.

Lydiard joined the Lynndale Athletic Club, and, upon realising his own lack of fitness, began developing a system of training that involved daily running, maintaining a steady pace. Once a strong base fitness was established, strength was built by running up hills and over sand dunes. A disagreement over coaching methods saw Lydiard leave Lynndale in 1950 set up a harriers section at the nearby Owairaka Athletic Club. He soon attracted disciples and began coaching high-performance athletes.

His own athletic highlights came in the marathon. Lydiard won the national marathon title in 1953 and 1955 and placed 13th at the Auckland Empire Games in 1950.

As a coach, his earliest success came with Murray Halberg. The first New Zealander to break the four-minute mile barrier, from 1958 to 1962 Halberg was virtually unbeatable between 2 miles and 5000 m, winning two Commonwealth titles and breaking two world records.

Lydiard’s greatest training triumphs came at the 1960 Rome Olympics. First the 800 m was won by a near-unknown 21-year-old, Peter Snell; then Halberg won the 5000 m by sprinting with three laps to go. A few days later, Barry Magee came third in a world-best marathon.

Snell broke the world 800-m, half-mile and mile records in one week in 1962, and overwhelmed his 800- and 1500-m opponents at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Perhaps most significantly, Arthur Lydiard is seen as being responsible for the popularity of jogging for health and fitness. American running experts called him the distance coach of the 20th century, and the individual who had most influenced running in the second half of the century.

In 1962 Lydiard was made an OBE. In 1990 he became a member of the Order of New Zealand and an inaugural member of the Sports Hall of Fame. He was made a life member of Athletics New Zealand in 2003.

Adapted by Patrick Whatman from the DNZB biography by David Green

Read the full entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

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Arthur Lydiard, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated