Fartlek & Low Things in West Auckland - Part 6

Fartlek & Low Things in West Auckland - Part 6

Apr 18, 2011 by Christopher Kelsall
Fartlek & Low Things in West Auckland - Part 6


© Copyright – 2011 – Christopher Kelsall

Colin Livingstone is a European based writer and illustrator who was a competitive distance runner in New Zealand, representing Auckland in national competition over road and cross-country from the 1970’s to the early 1990’s.

Colin's twin brother, Keith Livingstone, was also a national-level runner in New Zealand and Australia, winning Wellington and Auckland titles, with top performances on road, track and cross-country. He ran 44.37 for 15k on the road in 1983, and won the final of the Budget 10k road race series in 1984.

Keith is the author of the best-selling book on the Arthur Lydiard method of training, Healthy Intelligent Training, which was written with the serious middle distance athlete in mind and to modernize Lydiard's method to today's language (brother Colin provided the illustrations).

Colin and Keith grew up a stones throw from the legendary Arthur Lydiard and in the same neighbourhood of many of his great athletes. Keith is now a coach and chiropractor in Australia, while Colin resides in Great Britain.

Interview is below. Read part 5 here.


Any views or opinions presented herein are solely those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent those of the columnist (although they most likely do). Contributors to this article are expressly required to make defamatory statements and to infringe or authorize any infringement of copyright or any other legal right by contributing to this article, whatever that may mean. Any such communication is complimentary to the article and outside the scope of pencil neck representatives of the politically correct faction. The columnist will not accept liability in respect of such communication (because he to is likely guilty as hell), and the contributor responsible will be personally liable for any damages or other liability arising. Take that, you suited up, prairie-dogging, corporate shill.

Keith Livingstone: How about: “Any resemblance to people living or dead is deliberate (of course), and not entirely coincidental, in the interests of historical accuracy alone. Some names may have been massaged to protect the vested interests and reputations of currently serving members of the judiciary, the parliament, on-line special-interest groups, and various Masonic Lodges.”

Christopher Kelsall: And the guilty.

Keith: Yeah the guilty.

Culture of Performance

Chris: So do you think the defining factor regarding the success in athletics for nations like Kenya or Ethiopia now or Britain, Finland, North America or New Zealand during the 1960s to 1980s, is a cultural thing?

Keith: Perhaps this is a Social Anthropological thing. Maybe some guy with 7 years up his sleeve can do a PHD thesis on this. Perhaps (Prime Minister, Margaret)Thatcher’s Government selling off all the school playing fields and parks in the heartlands of British distance running, during the 1980s contributed to a lost generation.

Colin Livingstone: Perhaps.

Culture of Fear

Keith: What about the media induced culture of fear…fear engendered hysteria…you can’t send little Jimmy down to the park or playing fields because there are no playing fields…or he’ll get shot, abducted or drugged up. So Jimmy is at home on the Playstation, watching MTV and eating pizza. Flabby, fearful, impotent lives.

In Britain now, athletics at the grass roots level, usually administered by busy parents or hard working locals is threatened by red tape. If you work with children in any capacity, you have to be CRB checked (Criminal Records Bureau) in case Mr. Bloggs, the long jump coach is a kiddy fiddler. This is a long and slow bureaucratic process and lots of volunteers can’t be bothered, so the smaller clubs suffer.

Colin worked alongside Police, having CRB clearances and was told he needed ‘Mountain Leader’ courses just to take youngsters between 14 and 18 hill walking. He had a part time job taking Young Offenders out on outdoor pursuits like kayaking and hill walking in Snowdonia and just found them to be bored, uninspired kids in poor condition. Too much red tape, poor parenting, no discipline...

Chris: And no playing fields.

Keith: And no playing fields.

Colin: Several things spring to mind. You have to picture New Zealand or Australia in 1967. There was no culture of fear, only fearlessness, optimism and the ‘have a go' attitude. The Edmund Hillary, Barry Crump or Arthur Lydiard spirit.

At school if you got in a fight, there was no investigation, you both got caned. I remember a kid at Grammar, lets call him Smith…

Chris: Fred Smith?

Colin: Howard Smith, say. He beat the shit out of a guy after school and knocked all of his teeth out. There was no fuss, I still remember the guy coming back with a brand new set of choppers the following term and getting in another fight with Smith. Which duly got smashed out again.

Chris: Political correctness wouldn't have saved his teeth the second time.

Colin: That's right. Must have been expensive. But that was the prevailing mindset of New Zealand in 1974. No doubt Britain, Australia and Canada as well.

A lot of the kids went to school barefoot, so they had these tough feet with pads like leather on the bottom. There was free milk in schools, plus fresh fruit and vegetables and a very healthy diet.

But mostly, it was the outdoors lifestyle….

Pig or deer hunting through miles of bush was a normal weekend pursuit for many Kiwis, as was hiking or ‘tramping’.

Being outdoors, surfing, boating, hill walking, fishing, playing rugby was all part of the culture. Runners of all ages were everywhere. A lot of our greatest runners came from farming or bushland areas, but even in cities you were never too far from bush tracks, hills or fantastic parks.

For example, Rod Dixon grew up near Nelson with mountain peaks and miles of native forests to run around. Dick Tayler (1974 Commonwealth 10k Champion) was a farm boy from Timaru. Peter Snell was a farm boy from Te Aroha and John Walker grew up on a farm near the Hunua ranges. Lorraine Moller was in Putaruru with all those forests. Chris Pilone grew up in remote lighthouses, so walked and ran everywhere. Ken Moloney lived in the Hawkes Bay region. The guy I coach, here in Wales, is a farmer in a lovely, hilly region. So, right from the start these guys were developing their Primary Energy System.

Chris: Their Primary Energy System – lifelong aerobic foundation?

Colin: That is what I call it. We have all heard the expression ‘ You have to walk before you can run’. Well, that is it. As kids in New Zealand, we used to walk for miles. By the time you were 14 you were a hiking veteran with a back pack, camping or walking bush tracks with your mates. Sometimes, you’d take a .22 air rifle and go after possums or wood pigeons. You would eat rock cod, crab, eels or freshwater crayfish. It was normal and it was no big deal, if most of your mates caught bigger eels, or could skin a rabbit.

So, the kids in Ethiopia, Morocco or Kenya are still doing that. Developing their Primary Energy System…the number 1 building block of endurance. After this is developed, the high end aerobic and fast stuff is just a natural progression.

Chris: Developed through being highly active!

Colin: Yes. The Primary Energy System is developed naturally, just by being an active kid, sometimes running, mostly walking, lifting packs and walking for hours on end up steep bush tracks. This develops the connective tissue, flexibility, joints and muscles so much, that the body is incredibly durable by teenage years. It is my theory that injuries occur when the Primary Energy System is not developed, putting a strain on the connective tissue when running at speed. The physiology and musculature is not developed enough to cope with the racing effort.

So, these urban kids of today get into running, without that hugely developed Primary Energy System and get injured. Their coaches tell them that running long is ‘wasted effort’, that these are junk miles that will slow them down…(although the reverse is proven) or that 60 to 90 minutes constitutes a long run. Well no, it does not.

Wrong Running not Long Running is the problem.

Let me reiterate that the Primary Energy System is only developed after two hours of running, or many hours of walking. So, if athletes leave out the longer runs, their speed endurance and tempo running may be catered for, but the base of the pyramid is missing…so they get injured. Lots. Plus they seem to run at the same level year round.

Also, it is expedient to point out that El Guerrouj, Steve Ovett and Peter Snell regularly trained for two hours or more in their condition. They could run 47 for the 400 metres and world records over 800 or 1500, so the argument about speed is just bullshit. Kipketer had a huge Primary Energy System but developed the speed to run 46 for 400 and 1.41 over 800. Coe and Joaquim Cruz too.

Chris: But you were more of a mountain hiker, yes?

Colin: Of course. Mountain hiking was my thing…which developed my Primary Energy System. So, if your body is used to 8-10 hours of walking around Stewart Island or the Alps, then a 3 or 4 hour run is no big deal. So, you don’t really know if there are ‘limits’. Let me repeat, I only did one 300 mile week, and probably only topped 200 5 or 6 times in that period. Pilone is correct when he said I did two 23 mile Waiataruas in a single day, which I strangely found harder than my other routine which was an easy 9 to 11 miler in the morning before work…and a 33 hill course at night. The other long run was the 43, which I only ran a few times. The Primary Energy System thrives on 90-110 miles a week for middle distance and 110 to 150 for distance runners. After 180, I found the law of diminishing returns applied.

Look, I was only 20 years old and yes…we were mad buggers then.

I apologise for any inconveniences or disruption we may have caused between 1958 and 1992.

Keith: Yeah, we are sorry we broke some stuff. Sorry. We won’t do it again.

Chris Pilone: What do you mean we won’t do it again! I was hoping you guys would be up for a reunion and blow up those toilets on Mount Albert all over again!

Colin: Cracking idea, Pilone! Oh by the way, to illustrate what life was like as a New Zealand runner in the 1970s or 1980s…we only have to remember the ‘Tale of Shithead the Cat’.

Chris Pilone: Oh f&*k.

Chris: What, the cat?

Colin: Shithead, well, it goes like this…

The Tale of Shithead the Cat not by Beatrix Potter

Sandringham…in the Central Suburbs of Auckland

Between 1985 and 1992 THE FLAT on Arabi Street was a communal running hole, a den inhabited by Chris Pilone and Ken Moloney, both New Zealand champions and international cross-country runners.

Moloney was near 6’5”, with hatchet features, a dark curly mop of hair and the stride of a racehorse. He won the New Zealand 10,000m track title (on a hot, windy day) in 28.19, the National Cross Country Championship and the 10-mile road title which he finished in around 47 minutes, all in the same year.

Pilone was a wiry, balding international over marathon and cross-country, with numerous New Zealand and Auckland titles over road, track and country. He was around 5’11”, with the coffee colouring of a Kiwi Italian, who spent most of his days in the sun, either running or fishing. Together, these two characters were a mainstay of Auckland distance running.

The flat was never locked, with ‘ranch slider’ doors, a sunny aspect and two 2nd floor balconies. At any time of the day, you could drop in and find a steaming pot of tea, with either of the occupants home, nobody at home, or a completely different set of runners entirely. There were other characters, like Brian Ward, Anne Hannam, Lesley Morton, Brett McIntyre, Whizzer Williams or Phil Clode to be found in the flat at various times, helping themselves to food or tea. Arabi Street became the pit stop for any stray runner in need of refreshment, a leak, or a seriously huge dump.

There were stacks of running shoes outside, with no attempt to keep them from the elements. Over the balconies lay various sweat dried towels or tee shirts: as beer bottles, fly blown pet food and tannin stained tea cups made an attractive entry to the front porch. Inside, the patented 1978 3-in-1 stereo would be playing, regardless of whether Pilone was in the house or not. The TV was usually stuck on Rugby League or Cricket 24/7…as the living room was littered with running magazines, socks, plates of yesterday’s bacon and eggs, or desiccated bananas in a bowl. Socks or shorts usually got recycled until they could stand up by themselves and smelled like Camembert. A weight bench was in the corner and a racing bike in the laundry. No pictures, unless you count Miss February on the Pirelli Calendar. All in all, pretty much a bloke’s flat of the day.

Once, I turned up in the middle of the afternoon to find the ranch sliders open with billowing curtains in the breeze, accompanied by the gut wrenching cocktail of cat piss, the aforementioned fly blown pet food and a sizeable turd (feces) on top of the washing machine. By the size of it, Hulk Hogan would have been proud of pushing out this sphincter ripping doorstop. However, sheer reasoning told me that a 300lb man squatting over a washing machine; in order to pummel out a bum cigar in Pilone’s flat was unlikely.

I soon found the culprit, hissing and yowling near the back door. The laundry door must have slammed shut in the breeze, locking the spitting Moggy in to do his business on the washing machine and spray all over Moloney’s Reeboks. I could not believe that such a small creature could produce a volcanic ejecta of this size. However, this may have been explained by an entire fillet of steak disappearing from the kitchen bench the day before…with Pilone blaming Moloney…Moloney blaming Wardie…Wardie blaming me…etc.

Grabbing the turd with Pilone’s Camembert sock, I flushed the chocolate doorstop down the bowl. There were no cleaning products like Dettol or Domestos in a Kiwi bloke’s flat in the 1980s. Only Sheilas had those. Clearing up the mess with turpentine, a bottle of bleach and Pilone’s t-shirt, I then set fire to the soiled garment in the dead pot plant by the back door. This was pretty normal in those days.

The communal cat was a feature of Arabi Street. He just turned up one day, as a flea bitten scrounger who decided to stay. Pilone and Moloney, despite their tough appearances, were compassionate souls who decided to feed the wizened, sneezing alley cat until it gained a sleek coat and a sneering, self satisfied persona.

Naming the cat was not a problem, as his early appearance of matted fur, seeping eyes and dribbling orifices lent him the title of ‘Shithead’. I still remember Pilone banging on a pot by the back door at dinner time, calling out “Shithead!….Oy Shithead! It’s time for your f*#&ing tea!!” .

A near neighbour worked on his pickup truck, scowling over his broken nose and tattoos …as the oblivious Pilone appeared to hurl abuse at all and sundry. Tact was never a Pilone strong point, as he must have appeared a troubled soul….. perhaps being recently released back into the community.

One day, Pilone seemed to prove this theory, as he took off in his sweat dried t-shirt and Nikes smelling of cat piss. It took a good hour of running over dewy grass before the smell dissipated, with Pilone wondering why we all ran ahead of him.

There were constant battles between Moloney and Pilone over letting the cat in the house. It was decided that Shithead could stay if the door was open, but had to be biffed out at night. The trouble was, once outside, disputes with other Toms and caterwauling broke the still night air. Moloney hated the broken sleep and smell of cat piss in his shoes once and for all, so one night biffed Shithead out in the rain. The Cat, possibly offended at this indignity, was never seen again at Arabi Street.

Every morning and night, Pilone would go out on the balcony calling out, “Shithead…where are you? Here Shithead!” ...followed by a banging pot …and “Shithead!…. Shithead ! It’s time for your f*#&ing tea!!”

Days and weeks passed and it had to be broken to Pilone that perhaps Shithead was no more, consigned to the great Sofa in the Sky. But Pilone, being a man of reason, would not accept that Shithead succumbed to a fate under the wheels of a car. No… Pilone noticed the aromatic sweet and sour spices of exotic cooking emanating from the neighbouring flats, the sounds of Mah Jong and Oriental music.

It was decided that Shithead ended up as a side dish of Won Tons and Chow Mein. Pilone knew. He was convinced of the fact, as he always believed Shithead would return. Whenever the subject of the missing cat cropped up (which was often), Pilone would lay down these theories as facts, without recourse to evidence, investigation, interviews …or the normal avenues of detective work. Soon, it came to be accepted by the running fraternity that Shithead was indeed reincarnated as a Peking Duck or Thai special. If only to get Pilone off his soap box.

Several years later, I was running through the streets of Mount Albert, a good mile away from Arabi Street…when I clipped a paving slab and stopped to check the grazes. Under the shade of a sun dappled tree, I heard a familiar yowling and looked up to see a fat, contented grey cat calling for attention from his comfortable patch of grass. Surely not….the same evil green eyes…the same calculating demeanour and feline hubris….the same ear piercing yowl…yet way fatter, with a glossy coat and a little red collar with a bell on it.

“ Oh George!…Georgie…now leave the man alone …and stop being a pest!” called a cultured ladylike voice from a garden chair, behind a thick, well manicured hedge. A tiny, elderly lady appeared near the garden path, fussing over the grazes and insisting that I had some Elastoplast for the journey home.

“Nah, I’m okay, don’t worry about me…thanks anyway. Nice cat…he looks a happy lad” I replied.

“Oh yes….George is a happy boy…aren’t you Georgie?…You are happy with Mummy” George gave me a blank look. ” Did you know that George is a lucky boy…he arrived as a stray, poor darling, but we fed him up. Now look at him!”

“How long ago was that?” I enquired. “He looks a pretty healthy boy now.”

“Oooh…two, maybe three years now. It was an awful rainy night and the poor thing was under the porch. Never mind….but we had to get him done…didn’t we Georgie? Tomcats can be a nuisance…but he’s happy now!”

He’s happy now…

I bid my goodbyes and ran on to Arabi Street, leaving Shithead to his new life as George, the neutered cat. I thought to myself….’There you go…a life of predictability and domestic comfort in exchange for your balls’. There is a life lesson there…but buggered if I know what it is.

Pilone: Sounds like marriage.

Colin: Despite my discovery, Pilone continued to believe in Shithead’s fate covered with rice and Soy Sauce, and probably does to this day.

Pilone's email message: (cc'ing all contributors) minutes after Colin told the story of Shithead the Cat:

To All:

This is all wrong. I know that Shithead ended up as a takeaway meal.
There were some Malaysians living next door and shortly before Shithead disappeared they asked Moloney and I about the economic viability of a noodle making business in New Zealand. So they were definitely in the cooking business and therefore guilty. After Shithead disappeared whenever the Malaysians appeared in the back yard next door, I would yell out: “MANSON!!!”

Our next cat was named Black Arse. He died of old age.
Subsequent cats have been called Blocker (after Blocker Roach, big head and ugly!), Bruiser and Cabbage Head. Cabbage Head got his name because he has a head like a cabbage!
I have now brought a property next to Cornwall Park. It has many of the attributes of the old Arabi Street flat BUT IS A LOT CLEANER. Current squatter is Hayden McLaren, a young promising 3:40 1500 runner who is displaced from the Christchurch earthquake. The TV is still jammed on the sports channel! Both Cabbage and Hayden eat a lot, watch a lot of TV. Hayden trains as well, but Cabbage just appears to be getting fatter! There is a Chinese restaurant across the road!



Chris: Pilone, did you not once kick Colin out of a flat?

Pilone: I chucked him and his friend Offsider out of my top-floor flat in Mt. Eden, so he secretly moved into the one right next door that used a different stairwell, but had an old through-door to our area. He used to come in and eat our food or drink our tea while we were in other parts of the flat, sneeky bugger.

Chris: Sounds like a cat.

Pilone: Then I found out and we all kissed and made up and created a “super-flat” with 6 bedrooms, two kitchens and two bathrooms. The cats are easier to get rid of; they go better with fried rice.

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