Running for health and pleasure
In the seventies, jogging and running became popular, thanks to Arthur Lydiard.
He introduced running as a way to to improve your health and socialize in the same time, so people started seeing getting fit as an affordable way to have fun together.
How running became popular
Lydiard was a runner and coach in New Zealand in the sixties, but he still is recognized as one of the best running coaches worldwide.
The many Olympic medals for New Zealand on Track and Field, in 1960 and 1964, prove how effective his training method was, in which he adds speed after gradually building a solid endurance base. His method focuses on developing an efficient oxygen intake, by making slow but steady progress.
He’s seen as the father of Long Slow Distance Running (LSD) and started the first jogging club in the world in 1961.
After Bill Bowerman had met Arthur Lydiard, he wrote and published his book “Jogging” in 1966 in the United States, which became a huge success.
As a coach of 31 Olympic athletes and co-founder of Nike, he designed running shoes to take performance to a higher level.
It was also in 1966 when the first magazine of Runner’s World was launched (then called “Distance Running News”).
George Sheehan, cardiologist, started running again when he was 45, and became a medical editor for Runner’s World.
He contributed to the fitness and jogging boom in the seventies by his unique approach and his focus on the joy and benefits of running at any age of our life.
Another contributor to the running boom was Jim Fixx.
Within ten years he lost 60 pounds (27 kg) and stopped smoking 2 packages a day.
His book, The Complete Book of Running became a bestseller, as his changed look and lifestyle showed the physical and mental benefits of exercise and how it considerably improved his quality of life.
And then there was “Pre”…
Steve Roland “Pre” Prefontaine was an American middle and long-distance runner who competed in the 1972 Olympics and who once held the American record in seven different distance track events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters.
During his brief 24-year lifespan, Steve Prefontaine grew from hometown hero to record-setting college phenomenon, to internationally acclaimed track star. Since his death in 1975, Prefontaine has become a legend.
His rare combination of talent, discipline, determination, and star-quality with a human touch made Pre the idol of those he called “his people”; the devoted fans who came to watch him run.
The short but successful career of Steve Prefontaine and of other running heroes in the 1970s, like Jim Ryun, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers, were covered widely in the media and inspired many people to give running a try.
With the growing popularity of running, races started raising sponsor money, as elite runners wanted a prize reward for showing their best and to cover their travel costs.
The Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously held Marathon worldwide, started as a free event in 1897, but from the eighties on, participants had to pay an entry fee.
Sports brands started developing all kinds of running gear and cushioning shoes, to make running more easy and accessible, more comfortable and fun.
But at the same time, people started to get injured more often as well.
Resources / Further reading
Arthur Lydiard Foundation
Jogging by Bill Bowerman
George Sheehan, runner, writer, philosopher
The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx
The story of the Marathon