Running with Lydiard

(authors: Garth Gilmour and Arthur Lydiard)

Perhaps the fact that I have consumed several other Lydiard books and articles cloud my view, but I found “Running with Lydiard” the clearest, most precise and focused of the Lydiard books.

As always, you simply lean back and enjoy the real-life examples and brusque prose of the old master, but there’s memorable sections here such as Lydiard’s recollection of how they tactically outmanoeuvred their competitors at two consecutive Olympics, how to understand whether you are middle-distance or long-distance material and advice on running form, nutrition and cross-training that has often been repackaged in recent years as new and innovative but was known to Lydiard thirty years ago.

“Running with Lydiard” is short and benefits from having “Healthy,Intelligent Training” as a companion volume as it’s low in production value and in graphics. The training program layout is quite confusing and takes up around 68 of the book’s 207 pages.

The main selling point for me was the clear descriptions on what type of pace and intensity should be in the aerobic phase, Lydiard talks extensively to this but I’ll offer the below quote as a taste:

You may have been under the impression that marathon type training involves slow running. This is not so, apart from the supplementary work. The top-class runners do not jog around in this phase of their preparation but run at speeds from 3 3/4 minutes to 3 1/4 minutes per kilometre. There are still some long-distance runners who believe they should run no faster than, say 4 1/4 minute pace and that to run faster will waste effort and produce poorer results; again, this is not so. The runner who keep their speed just within the maximum steady state will gain the same general cardiac development in far less time than the runners who train at speeds far below the maximum steady state.

I have previously reviewed Galloway’s disappointing “Cross-Country Running”;  in “Running with Lydiard”, Arthur crams in more useful information in four pages titled “Cross-Country Running and Racing” than that entire volume, explaining the benefits and differences to be aware of as well as putting the cross-country season in its proper athletic context: as a physical conditioner for next year’s training. He also fires a word of warning to cross-country organisers:

“In some countries, cross-country races are nothing better than glorified track races, particularly in many American states, which run cross-country on flat lawn-like areas. This is not cross-country; it lets you run almost as you would on the road, with fast, sustained speed running, which really does not help to develop condition because the exercise becomes sustained and anaerobic and encouraged cardiac fatigue. Many of the courses do not even have obstacles.”

Cross-country organisers take note! The above reads a fine endorsement of mountain running as well. Before I become tempted to quote the full book (you could), let me finish this review for you can’t go wrong buying this book.

[rating: 4.5/5]  (as good a training guide as any you’ll find but training programs are difficult to read)

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Director and coach at Borg Coaching Services
Rene Borg is the head coach of Glendalough AC and a passionate runner competing over all distances and terrains.