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Nobby Hashizume, Co-founder of the Lydiard Foundation


Nobuya "Nobby" Hashizume

I want to thank Nobby Hashizume for his great insight on Arthur Lydiard and the Lydiard system of training distance runners. Nobby is regarded as one of the foremost experts on the Lydiard system and helped create "The Lydiard Foundation" which is dedicated to preserving Lydiard's methods for generations to come. Enjoy the follow interview and thanks again Nobby.

(The following is taken from Nobuya “Nobby” Hashizume

Nobby first came under the influence of “Run to the Top” when he was in middle school. But it wasn’t until he came across “Run –the Lydiard Way” in 1978 that he realized the significance of the Lydiard Method. He continued to study the Lydiard Method while going to school in Washington State where he earned a BA in Education. He was a regular attendee of Lydiard clinic during his stay in the USA. He visited New Zealand in 1984 for 12 months where he became acquainted with the original “Arthur’s Boys” as well as the next generation of world champions, including Dick Quax and Lorraine Moller. Upon graduation, he served as a professional coach for a corporate running team at Hitachi, Ltd., Japan, where he trained eight national level female athletes.

Nobby is the founder and the Executive Director of Five Circles

Question #1: How were you involved with Arthur Lydiard?
I read Lydiard’s book, “Running the Lydiard Way” in 1978 (a year after high school) and it really made sense to me. Then came Coe and there were a lot of talk about running less mileage fast—the pendulum was swinging the opposite way. But I made a conscious decision that I’d stick with Lydiardism—because it was a more logical approach to me. I met Joe Henderson at the Bloomsday in Spokane, WA, in the spring of 1981 and, for the heck of it, asked him Lydiard’s address. Joe did have the address and gave it to me. So I wrote to Lydiard. He wrote back to me and we kept correspondence. I first met him in Seattle in the fall of 1981. So Joe Henderson changed my life unbeknown to him. Arthur had been my coach, mentor and a good friend ever since until he passed away in 2004.

Question #2: What impact did Lydiard have on you as a runner and a coach?
Bar none. I never became the runner I wanted to be (only 2:44 for the marathon) but I pretty much went into coaching right after college. After I came back from New Zealand (I spent 12 months in New Zealand under Arthur), I met with the legendary Japanese marathon coach, the late Kiyoshi Nakamura, and discussed the Lydiardism. He recommended me to the newly formed corporate team at Hitachi so I was recruited. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t known Lydiard. Now I basically made a career out of preaching Lydiardism.

Question #3: In your opinion, what are some misconceptions that surround the Lydiard system of training?
People focus on numbers too much. Lydiard did provide numbers—100 miles a week, 10 weeks of conditioning, 4 weeks for hills, etc. But he also kept saying those are “nothing but a guide”. You’ve got to understand the principles of it and apply it to your own situation, based on your strengths, weaknesses, where you are on the progression stage of the long-term plan, previous training background, event you’re competing in, environment, etc. Probably the most important thing is to understand how to apply those principles. We have presentation (Lydiard Certificate Program Part II) to explain how to do that. Once understood, it’s easily applied to high school or college situation.

Question #4: What advice would you offer to a high school runner in regards to summer training?
During the summer break, it is the perfect time for high school kids to build their aerobic base; this means, simply put, running a lot. But I’d like to offer, if I may, a little more detailed advice based on Lydiard principles.

Recently I’ve read numerous articles in regards to weekly mileage for high school runners. It seems that even some of the top US runners like Bob Kennedy, Adam Goucher and Deena Kaster all said anywhere beyond 40 miles a week is too much. I don’t agree with that and I think it’s quite misleading. 40 could be too high IF you mix your training with demanding anaerobic training such as repeats and tempo workouts. I see 60+ miles a week, as I myself did as a high school runner in Japan, or 100km a week (converting Lydiard’s 100 miles a week into kilometers) with regular 30km (18 miles) runs. It’s easily manageable as long as you keep the effort nice and easy. I know some kids would go as far as 80 miles or some of them even 100. But as long as they keep the effort aerobic and nice easy, it shouldn’t hurt young developing athletes. What could potentially hurt them is when they mix high mileage with high intensity. Most of these runs should be done at leisurely fashion. For that, I recommend kids to go for a long run in the morning. It actually helps because your body (and head!) is still not fully awake and you’ll start out easily. Besides, early morning is more tolerable to run to avoid heat of the summer (depending, of course, on where you live). I would also recommend young kids to start experimenting doubling—to run twice a day. I would still not recommend to double everyday (too much pressure) but start experimenting it. This would develop running as life-style, a part of everyday activities. Throughout his collegiate career, Pre didn’t miss a workout. If you want to emulate Pre, don’t emulate his party habit, but emulate his attitude to training.

With all this high mileage running, many consider Lydiard program as long slow running (one of the misconceptions). But the truth is; he considered “speed” as one of the governing factors. With today’s high tech gimmicks (heart rate monitor and garmin, etc.), people are more concerned with exact distance run or minutes-per-mile pace. I believe it is much more beneficial for young kids to just go out and run around rugged cross country courses, beaches or muddy terrains. This would develop much more supple running form, strong and flexible ankles and good postures, etc. I developed my love for those wild courses when I went to New Zealand. Even today, when I go visit Lorraine (Moller) in Boulder, she’d take me to what I call “The Goat Path” (Red Rock Hill) around the foothills behind Boulder. Young runners should go over rugged cross country course as often as possible, go up the steepest of the hills, stride down the hills, don’t shy away from running in the pouring rain, cross the stream, etc. Make it FUN!

Speed development in young runners is very, very important. For that, I’d recommend young kids do some sort of hill exercises or sprint drills once a week even during the summer break. Ideally, get together with some friends and go on to nearby field or track and check each other’s form. I’ve noticed many coaches recommend “striders” once a week. But this is much more structured and specific. Make sure you don’t make them too demanding, in other words, too highly anaerobic. If you do hills, you shouldn’t simply run up the hill fast. It is more specific resistance and technique work. If you try to run up the hill fast before you develop good aerobic foundation, invariably your form will go out the window (because you start to struggle) and this would not only not help but could possibly hurt your future performance. It’s not “practice makes perfect”; but “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Lastly, a warning for those who pile up a lot of mileage during the summer. More often than not, young kids would get ambitious and run a lot during the summer. They step out on the first cross country workout when the season starts and they just cannot keep up with other guys on the team. More often than not, they’ll get discouraged and give up on this type of program. You have just logged tons of miles and your body is not sharp. It would take a few weeks to adjust your system. Don’t struggle to keep up or run faster than you should. Remember how Lagat was getting beaten in the early season but he was the sharpest when it counted (at Osaka)? It takes 3 or 4 or 5 weeks to get your speed back and sharpen up. The important thing is; you need to sit down and map it all up so you’ll reach your peak when it counts. You may get beaten in the early season by those who had been doing faster work without building up the base. Invariably those who didn’t work on the base will start to nose-dive (because they lack aerobic foundation) when you come to the peak. So have faith.

Question #5: What advantages, other than physiological, does the Lydiard way offer a runner?
I might have jumped the gun here (with the previous question); once you get the hang of it, you’ll know when you’re going to peak. In other words, there will be no guess work. You’ll know how to put all the jigsaw puzzles and when to put them together. Because of that, it is mentally more pleasing—less pressure or less worrisome. I was with this young 800m runner by the name of Toni Hodgekinson on the New Zealand team at Atlanta Olympics in 1996. She was complete unknown (previous PR being 2:03) and absolutely no pressure on her. She broke 2 minutes for the first time at Drake Relay before the Games and, every time she ran, she PRed and set the new national record. She was coached by John Davies who was coached by Lydiard on the straight Lydiard principles. She had a blast because there’s no pressure being a complete unknown and setting PR every time she ran!

Question #6: What is your opinion on the selection of running shoes?
Simple answer to this is; shoe has to be light and flexible. Heavy shoes would throw you off balance (extra weight below your knee would increase the oxygen usage, making it less efficient) and inflexible shoes put too much unwanted, and unnecessary, strain on your arch. The shoes have to flex where your feet flex; that means where your toes bend, as well as the arch area. If you feel any strain in your foot as you run around in the shoe, you should even cut in groove(s) to make it bend—you’ll really notice the difference. In other words, the shoe should never restrict natural movement of the foot. The shoe should also not have any pressure point. If you do, that’s where you start to develop blister or bunions. Also, while adequate rubber is necessary to alleviate the shock, too much cushion can make the shoe instable and consequently cause more problem than necessary. Lastly, where your foot makes a contact with the ground should fit into the shape of the sole. Some shoes are more straight, some are more curved. Some curves have quite a distinct shape that may not quite look like the natural shape of the foot. If your foot sticks out from the sole of the shoe, that’s where you start to pronate or supinate.

Question #7: What is your favorite memory within the sport of running?
I have been fortunate to have gone around places to run; met a lot of people through running. I’ve had some very memorable runs; the Goat Path run with Lorraine, beautiful iron sand beach in Auckland with Arthur… Last year I took this young lady whom I’m coaching to Colorado and we went up to Magnolia. It’s like a sacred running course to Japanese runners (Olympic champion, Noako Takahashi, made it famous). We ran a little over an hour up there (8000+ feet above sea level); up and down the undulating and winding dirt path… This was in September and it started to snow! We were wheezing from lack of oxygen, going up the hill, and laughing! Those are the runs you’ll never forget.

Speaking of last September, that was the time we visited Frank Shorter. He endorses what we are doing with Lydiard Foundation and we had a very nice visit. Frank is my all-time hero; I started running in 1972 watching him win the Fukuoka marathon so that was very special to me. It was like completing the circle.