Saturday, March 07, 2009


I'm touched with nostalgia after stumbling across a fascinating documentary film from 1964. A year from my childhood. I was seven years old and remember all too distinctly the houses, the cars, the simple life, and Mum's cooking. I wasn't a runner, but did lots of running — playing games of hide and seek; chasing; British bulldog; cowboys and indians; backyard cricket and soccer. Like all children, we ran and walked to get places.

The film is about Peter Snell, "a tennis player who tried his luck at running". It's in two parts, and can be seen here. It shows Snell running in the Waiatarua hills, over farmland, up steep bush tracks and through suburban streets. You also get to see some of the races he ran on the grass and cinder tracks of the day. There's footage of some world records, including the 3:54.4 mile he ran on a grass track in Wanganui. In one particular race he finishes a distant third and says "I made up my mind after this disappointment I was going to get right into a build-up of 100 miles a week as soon as possible".

Most runners would know that Snell was a pupil of the legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard. Although Snell was a middle distance runner, with the one mile his longest race, Lydiard convinced him to follow training methods which included a base-building stage of many weeks of running 100 miles per week. In the documentary it's revealed that the 100 miles per week in seven sessions was supplemented by morning runs of five miles.

My training diary shows I've only missed a little running with my dodgy back. The stretching and strengthening exercises seem to be doing the trick. I'm yet to attempt any hard workouts or races. The ACT Masters' 5000m Championship race is on this coming Thursday. I may not run though, as I'm doing a long run and walk through the Blue Mountains on Saturday morning.

Mmmm, home cooking!Mum's kitchen looks just like this one from New Zealand!


Blogger strewth said...

Ahh memories. In 1964 I was 14 - a teenager and growing up in NZ and I'm sure our kitchen was just like that AND I had a mother who produced home-baked goodies when we arrived home from school. Those video clips are fantastic - really enjoyed watching them and seeing the scenery - pity they aren't in colour! Glad your back is improving.

9:01 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

Thanks for those clips Ewen, really interesting. I'm reading Lydiard's biography Master Coach at the moment and its been an interesting read. Such a shame Lydiard never got the recognition he deserved in his own country for being such a pioneering figure in distance runnng.

9:07 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Hey I remember Snell. Well.

A long run next weekend through the blue mountains sounds like fun. Can I join you?

9:48 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Really enjoyed those clips Ewen. Thanks. 1964 is somewhat special to me as it is the year I was born ;)

That kitchen is similar to ours except ours is usually filled with black smoke :)

10:43 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

In 1964 I was developing eyelids, but I appreciate your having dug up and posted this. What a great little documentary. And...hubba hubba. Snell was certainly easy on the eyes, as they say.

10:43 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

Good memories Ewen, looking forward to catching up before/during/after the little excursion through the Megalong Valley next Saturday!

10:49 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

1964! Never heard of it. I had an older sister born then apparently. Good luck Thursday and Saturday with that long run up here.

11:12 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

Thanks for posting that link, I really enjoyed those two videos, even though I didn't have the nostalgia factor on my side - the world still had to wait for 6 years until my birth back then.

3:00 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

1964...hey well my parents were around then but they hadn't met yet...some of my running mates are big Lydiard fans, and Snell is a famous legendary name for sure! Enjoy the blue mountains!

8:27 am  
OpenID canute1 said...

It is great that your back has not caused you to miss much training. I hope it continues to improve.
I enjoyed the 1960’s nostalgia. For those of us who had struggled to make sense of the unnatural training routines of Zatopek and other denizens of the 1950’s (eg rumours of 100x400m in army boots), Snell and Lydiard’s apparently simple emphasis on 100 miles a week, and the naturalness of hill running seemed a breath of fresh air. Though of course for Australians, the glory years of the mile had been the Landy-Banister contest a decade earlier. In the mid 1960’s our attention was on Ron Clarke. How could a runner set so many world records yet never win Olympic gold? In fact Clarke’s best Olympic performance was his bronze in the 10K in Tokyo in 1964. However I shouldn’t let stories about Clarke deflect attention too much from Snell and Lydiard. They were both heroes, and Snell came home from Tokyo with two gold medals.

10:53 am  
Blogger Sky said...

Thanks for posting that video, Ewen. I loved it. I hope your back comes around soon.

4:07 pm  
Blogger jen said...

Sounds like a fascinating movie! That is an insane amount of training for a miler, wow.

Hope your back is 100% soon. :)

9:29 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

Where'd my comment go? I swore I left one.

Why would someone run 5 miles a day MORE than 100 miles per week. I don't even drive that much.

10:03 am  
Blogger rinus said...

1964 is a good year!, nice short movie and a good runner.
Nice to see that old movies and 100 miles the week is a lot.
Good luck on the race this week.

8:48 am  
Anonymous glenda said...

It was a great year obviously cos I was born then.

2:19 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

I won't blog again until next week. I have 45k to traverse through the Blue Mountains on Saturday.

Sadly Speedygeoff you can't join me, as the run is sold out. Yes, it's hard to believe there are over 800 runners who want to do that sort of thing. At times I think I'd much rather be racing a quite little 3000 with the ACT Masters.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

1964 was indeed a fine year!

Good luck on Saturday in the mountains and I hope the back holds out!

Good to see you last weekend.

9:45 pm  
Blogger bill carter said...

HI Ewen

Sorry to hear the back is giving you some trouble. But kudos to you for kind of navigating your way through it and soldiering on. It seem that as runners we are always dealing with some sort of physical thing and for most of us it is a chronic back problem. My has been OK for the most part, but I really have to watch it on the high mile weeks.

Best of luck my friend!

11:17 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

I am glad to see that there are a least a few other comments by people older than me.

Great clips. I remember in the late 60's reading biographies on Snell and Murray Halberg when I first started running. Snell was a champion but Halberg's story was a very inspirational one for me at that time.

11:47 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

All the best with being there and "6 foot!" It's certainly better than being here with "3 inches".

5:32 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Good video, thanks for posting.

1:13 pm  
Blogger Eagle said...

Thank for the link to the new 60+ world record holder. What an amazing run and time.

5:40 pm  

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