Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 49 A Conversation with Peter Snell

A Brief Conversation With Peter Snell

We’ve recently reported on the racing in New Zealand when Peter Snell set records in the mile, 880, 800,  and then went to Los Angeles and set the indoor 1000 yards record and 880 yards as well during that race.  Ernie Cunliffe put us in touch with Peter, and I sent him a few questions about the race at Wanganui, and he graciously responded. 

My questions centered around the effort of running on a short (less than quarter mile ) track, grass surface, what his expectations were going into the race, and what Arthur Lydiard’s role was in that week when the races occurred.  I also asked Peter about getting into his chosen profession of exercise physiology.   I enquired if he knew one of my former colleagues in the field,  John Ivy, who also works in Texas.  Below are the replies that Peter Snell sent.

Wednesday May 16, 2012


Ernie forwarded the piece on Wanganui written by Roy (Mason)  and quite frankly he has it all in a nutshell.  I’m not sure there is much I can add except my thought processes leading up to and during the race.  For example based on the New Years Day run mentioned by Roy, which was done 3 weeks after racing a marathon and during volume intervals in conjunction with long runs, I felt that 3.57 was conservatively realistic – in keeping with my preference for not raising expectations too high publicly. 

Perhaps you can give me some guidance. 


The above draft was written last week and I lost a large chunk of the text when my application crashed.  I was too bummed to try and do it over again.

I had seen very little of Arthur that summer so all he had to go on were race performances, including the marathon, leading up to the Wanganui event.  He may have been aware of my New Year’s day race and put 2 & 2 together, as did I.  He was present at Wanganui but I did not see him until after the race when news people found him and brought him over for a photo attached if I can find it)  His contribution was to publicly predict I would do 3:55 thus adding unwelcome pressure but it certainly filled the stadium.  The non-standard track was not a problem as many of the club tracks on which I did my training were 5 laps to the mile grass.

I preferred firm closely mowed well-rolled grass to loose cinders such as at Tokyo and Rome.  Californian clay tracks were the best and I hated the bitumen track at San Diego.  Too bad today’s rubberized tracks weren’t developed. 

Yes I know John Ivy very well.  My path to becoming an exercise physiologist started in 1974 when I enrolled as a freshman at UC Davis to educate myself out of an unsatisfying Sports PR job with a tobacco company.  Thanks to an invitation to Superstars late 1976, I made enough money to stay on after graduating in 1977 and spend 4 years at Washington State to with Dave Costill’s colleague Phil Gollnick. 
Thanks for the Jazy photo.  I notice Michael Bernard in the photo.  Jazy must have thought the 5000 was the easier race to win.



Wednesday June 6, 2012

George I just saw your photo of Ron Delany and find it interesting to see how well the 1960’s runners are aging.  With this in mind I’m attaching a photo of me, Jim Bailey (1st sub-4 on American soil, 1956) and Dave Wottle.  Also a pic of some good 800 guys at reunion organized by the late Bud Greenspan.



Peter Snell   Jim Bailey   Dave Wottle

800 Meters Olympic Champions
Peter Snell (1960   1964)
Tom Courtney  (1956)
John Woodruff (1936)
Dave Wottle (1972)

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