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Training Secrets from New Zealand’s Legendary Long-Distance Running Athlete Lorraine Moller

Training Secrets from New Zealand’s Legendary Long-Distance Running Athlete Lorraine Moller

You’ve heard it before: go hard, go long. But do we need to go hard all the time? Many people think that harder is better. However, overtraining and overexertion can reduce your gains and also be detrimental to your long-term health. Let go of this mindset and take on a healthier view of your body.

Legendary long-distance running athlete Lorraine Moller joins us in this episode to talk about how training and racing should not be about winning at the expense of your own body. It's all about your personal journey of learning more about yourself and growing from it. With the Lydiard approach, Lorraine shares how her career was mostly injury-free. Her body's performance is stellar, proving the merits of her training!

If you want to know how you can adopt a holistic approach to your training, then this episode is for you.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn how the Lydiard approach to training is a safer and healthier way.
  2. Discover the ways we can achieve peak performance and how to remove the obstacles towards it.
  3. Understand the ways your body adapts and why it's essential to listen to it.


  • Gain exclusive access and bonuses to Pushing the Limits Podcast by becoming a patron!
  • Harness the power of NAD and NMN for anti-aging and longevity with NMN Bio
  • On the Wings of Mercury by Lorraine Moller
  • Episode 27 - Gary Moller - Functional Nutrition Consultant, Elite Age-Level Mountain Biker  
  • Episode 189 - Understanding Autophagy and Increasing Your Longevity with Dr Elena Seranova
  • Episode 183 - Sirtuins and NAD Supplements for Longevity with Dr Elena Seranova
  • Episode 194 - Inside the Mind of New Zealand Olympic Runner Rod Dixon 
  • Connect with Lorraine: Lydiard Foundation | Email

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Episode Highlights

[05:19] Lorraine’s Background

  • Lorraine grew up naturally active and part of nature. She was engaged in the community and local athletics. 
  • At some point, Lorraine became more interested in her school running events and just kept going. 
  • During the 60s and 70s, being a professional athlete wasn’t a career choice. It was commonly discouraged and seen as for men. 
  • When Lorraine’s talent was discovered, she was brought to a neighbouring town to train. She competed against women a lot older than her.
  • By 16, Lorraine was representing New Zealand. Listen to the full episode to learn about Lorraine’s running journey!  

[14:37] The Lydiard Approach to Training 

  • The Lydiard approach to training is primarily based on endurance training. 
  • Building your aerobic capacity is the core of the Lydiard approach. 
  • In a way, Lydiard is the father of periodisation. He found what worked and incorporated it into training. 
  • Lorraine shares that you need to understand the principles first then apply your own perspective in training. 

[19:52] What’s the Overall Picture?

  • Some people get lost when looking at the details. You need to know the overall picture first. 
  • When you don’t understand the overall picture, you may overshoot the mark and get burnt out. 
  • We have a culture that thinks more is better. 
  • But training can give you more than the capacity to win. 
  • It’s really about the inner journey taking place and what you’re learning along the way. 

[24:25] Take It as a Personal Journey

  • As you're growing, you are influenced by external factors like other people's expectations. 
  • But you’ll also reach a point where you start dismantling these expectations to uncover your true self. 
  • Running was a choice Lorraine made for herself. Through this, she developed a deep connection with her father. 
  • When Lorraine didn’t do that well, she kept things in perspective. 
  • She always came back to being in love with the journey of the race. 

[28:51] From Track Athletics to Long-Distance Running

  • In Lorraine’s experience, long-distance running doesn’t make you slower. 
  • You’ll need to do the work to run faster, but long-distance running lets you sustain your fastest possible pace. 
  • The body responds to whatever stimuli it receives, which is why a holistic approach is vital for achieving the best results. 
  • The Lydiard training, for example, has different phases for training that consider more than just your endurance. 
  • Don’t neglect the foundational elements of mobility, coordination, and strength.

[39:51] Let Your Body Adapt 

  • The Lydiard training first started with helping people with cardiac problems fit enough to finish a marathon. 
  • The approach is considerably different from the ones professional athletes consider. But, the Lydiard training is safer long-term. 
  • People can adapt to different situations. You can direct your body into what you want to be. 
  • Pay attention to your body, especially when it gives danger signals. Learn to back off and give yourself recovery time. 
  • Burnout and overtraining usually come from a lack of confidence and trust in your own body. 

[46:46] What Keeps Us from Peak Performance

  • Hard work is redundant. Things don't have to be hard — just do the work!
  • Lorraine feels a state of flow and happiness in races. The flow state is peak performance manifesting as coordination of body, heart, mind, and spirit. 
  • People often don’t reach this state of flow because of tension and excess energy. 
  • If you don’t give yourself time to rest when your body needs it, it will become detrimental to your health over time. 
  • You need to identify the fine line between putting your body under strain to get stronger versus pushing it until you break.

[56:22] Don’t Let Age Stop You

  • People need challenges and goals no matter their age. 
  • Invite new experiences and learnings into your life. 
  • Don’t let age stop you from living your best life. 
  • As we get older, we also accumulate more wisdom. 
  • Society needs to acknowledge the value of elders more from that perspective. 

[1:08:11] The Strength and Beauty of Our Bodies  

  • You don’t need to be perfect; you just need to inch your way forward on your own time. 
  • There is a way back even if you’ve beaten your body with overtraining. 
  • Your body is strong enough to regenerate itself. 

7 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

‘What I did with the Lydiard system was look at what were the principles, not looking at the hard and fast rules. Because as soon as you start looking at rules you have limited yourself, and it doesn't work that way. It's an experiment of one. Your journey as an athlete is completely unique.’

‘I think the journey of the athlete is a wonderful way to get to know yourself and to be able to tap that in the knowledge and to learn.’

‘That's the beauty I think of the Lydiard training is that It is holistic. It puts all the energy systems and every type of training response in its rightful place. So that you can be at your peak on the day that it counts.’

‘And that's why you go on principles. So you look at what you're trying to achieve, and then how best to achieve it based on the level of that person.’

‘You want a cooperative relationship with your own body and it will give you the information that it has and which is better than if you're trying to perform to these external measures.’

‘We approach a lot of the things that we wish to do, or the things we wish to create in our lives from a state of fear… And then we can't get into this natural flow.’

‘I think that as we get older, our world should be getting bigger, not smaller. You know, and, and I do think that a lot of what we attribute to old age is just bad habit.’ 

About Lorraine 

Lorraine Moller is the only woman to have run all of the 20th century Olympic marathons for women. She is a 4-time Olympian, Olympic bronze medalist, world track and field finalist, multiple Commonwealth Games track medalist, and winner of 16 major international marathons, including the Boston Marathon. 

Lorraine’s career started as an exceptional 14-year-old middle-distance runner, coached by John Davies. This continued into a 28-year stellar career as an undefeated master runner. Her wide range of accomplishments earned her title as ‘New Zealand's greatest women's distance runner’.
Lorraine credits her mostly injury-free career and high-performance longevity to the Lydiard training approach combined with her unique ‘inside-out process' philosophy towards competition. 

Since retiring in 1996, Lorraine has helped establish charity running events in Cambodia, Mongolia and East Timor, served as vice-president of Hearts of Gold and NGO in Japan and co-founded the Lydiard Foundation, which educates coaches and athletes on endurance training. Lorraine also wrote her autobiography, On the Wings of Mercury, which became #2 on the New Zealand Best Seller List. 

“Sports is a powerful spiritual path. When one seeks their most excellent self, they invite the noblest of human qualities into their lives.”

Interested in Lorraine’s work? Check out the Lydiard Foundation.   

Reach out to Lorraine through lorraine@lydiardfoundation.org.

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To pushing the limits,



Welcome to Pushing The Limits, the show that helps you reach your full potential with your host Lisa Tamati, brought to you by www.lisatamati.com.

Lisa Tamati: Hello everyone and welcome back to Pushing The Limits this week. Today, I have another athlete to guest, for a change. It's not a doctor or scientist, it's an athlete. This is an incredible athlete. One of my role models from childhood, Lorraine Moller. Lorraine, if you don't know her, she's an absolute legend. She's a four-time Olympian. She won the Boston Marathon, that’s a serious marathon, that one. She has won the Osaka marathon four times. She was in the first four marathons for women in the Olympics, which is an incredible thing. She also was a middle distance runner before doing marathon. 

She's also the sister of my good friend, Gary Moller, who I've had on the show previously. Lorraine, she has her insights on what it is to be an elite athlete. Lorraine is still training athletes today as part of the Lydiard Foundation. After Lydiard she came through that school, of Arthur Lydiard's training style. It was really interesting to talk to her and sort of go head to head on ideas around coaching. She is available there for help if anyone wants to find out more. 

Yeah, really interesting conversation with a very, on-to-it lady. I hope you enjoy this conversation. I certainly did. It's really nice when you get to meet your heroes from yesteryear, so to speak, or when you were a kid, and they’re just as cool as you thought they would be. Before we go over to the show, make sure you check out our patron program. If you haven't joined already on the podcast family, we would love you to be a part of our VIP family. There are a lot of member benefits when you do, if you wouldn't mind helping us out. Keeping this great content coming to ear, we've been doing it for five and a half years now. It's a globally top 200 ranked podcast now on health, fitness and medicine. 

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I'd like to also remind you to head on over to our website, www.lisatamati.com. Check out our image genetics program. This is all about understanding your genetics and how to optimize them, and this is our flagship program, the one that we've been doing for a number of years, we've taken literally hundreds of people through this program. It's been a huge success for people changing their lives and helping them optimize so they’re no longer doing the whole trial and error thing or the one size fits all. Medicine and fitness and all of these areas, nutrition should all be personalized now according to your genetics, and that's what you should expect from your health professionals. This is a very powerful program that can help you sort of optimize that so go and check that out at www.lisatamati.com and hit the ‘Work With Us’ button. 

We also have our NMN, our longevity supplement, an anti-ageing supplement that I'm recently started bringing into the country and from New Zealand or Australia. I've teamed up with molecular biologist Dr. Elena Seranova. This is an independently-certified, scientist backed and developed product. This is a longevity supplement that is aimed at upregulating the sirtuin genes, which are longevity genes in the body and science, it’s too complicated to name here.

But I would love you to check out those two episodes that I've done with Dr. Elena Seranova. Also, head on over to nmnbio.nz. That’s N-M-N-bio.nz, if you'd like more information and more on the science behind it, or reach out to me and I can send you a whole lot of information around it. I've been on it now for over seven months and my mom's been on it too for that period of time. I've had huge changes. Actually my whole family has, and we've all had different things that it's really helped us with. It's working on a number of levels, so make sure you check that out. Right over to the show now with Lorraine Moller. 

Hi, everybody, and welcome back to Pushing The Limits. Today, I have an amazing woman to guest, certainly one of my role models, Lorraine Moller, welcome to the show. Fantastic to have you here with me. 

Lorraine Moller: Thank you, Lisa. Fantastic to be here with you.

Lisa: I'm excited for this conversation already. Before we got recording, we already dealt with some deep topics so who knows where this conversation is going to go, but I think it will go pretty deep. You are a legend in the world of running. You have so many, four times Olympian you've won the Boston Marathon, you've won the Osaka marathon three times, you're an author, you're still involved with running. Lorraine, can you just give us a little bit of your background for starters? When did you realize that you were this amazing, incredible athlete? What was your childhood like? Should we go back that far? 

Lorraine: Usually, not in my childhood, although, you know, we were brought up in a time where we were naturally active and very just a part of nature and engaged in the community and local athletics and swimming and you know, all those things. Walked their feet and just went to the beach on the weekends and got sunburned. All those sorts of things. So it was a very lovely, free, close-to-nature sort of upbringing in my little town of Putāruru, right in the middle of the North Island, and where everybody knew everybody and it was just pretty easy-living, and our needs were pretty simple. 

Those were the times when we had the quarter-acre section, with the garden out the back and like okay, go get a cabbage for tea. So you'd go cut one and bring it in. So it was, yeah, I suppose it sounds idyllic, but in certain terms that was. It was just a fabulous basis for growing up healthy. I had my trials as a kid. I was in the hospital a few times, and just that separation, and just the emotional eggs have been taken away from my family for long periods of time. It's very lonely. 

I think that was, I think, you know, we have things that happen to us, and they sort of set you up. They set your story up, and then it's like, okay, go see what you make of it. So I had, I think, running for me was a real freedom. Something that just, I don't think it was something that I really decided to do. I just think it's something that took me.

Lisa: It happened to you.

Lorraine: One of the key events was, when I went to high school, and we graduated from the little kiddies athletics, doing 50 yards, 100 yards, you know, yeah, I met all that was. We graduated to being able to do the full 40 yards. In my first full 40 yard race at the local club, I could beat the girls who beat me in the sprint. It took me a little bit longer, but I've got your number, you know. So I was really excited by that. 

So I started to get really keen and show up during the school events, and I won just about everything in the school events. 

Lisa: Just naturally talented at the event, sort of. 

Lorraine: Yeah, but you know, at that time, and that would be in the 60s, there was, it wasn't like the girl thing to do. It was nothing in your vocabulary. The four-bill athlete or woman-athlete, professional athlete, even, that just didn't exist back then. That was not a career choice,  being an athlete. It was even discouraged, somewhat. It was considered as a man's sport. If you did too much of it, you would become manly and—

Lisa: Your uterus might fall out, as Catherine told me once.

Lorraine: That’s universal, you know. People tell you that all across the world I think, that yeah, that was just a popular meme. You had to wear clean underwear in case you got run over and taken to the hospital, they find out you've got dirty underwear on. Those things sort of just become popular culture, but nobody really thinks about how true they are or whether they really apply. We just accept them. 

I accepted that as a girl, we didn't have longer events, that we didn't have official events. The cross country was unofficial, usually. So we would have a men's race. Then they would have a little short bill’s race, but, you know, that's just the way that it was, I didn't think I was disadvantaged in any way. You just get on with what's available and go like it, and I loved it.

Lisa: How did you develop, because even back in the 60s and 70s, there wasn't any official thing that you could go to. How did you actually get—I mean your later career was phenomenal. How did you actually bridge that? Was it a time change too that in the 70s, things started to open up, and or how did that sort of unfold?

Lorraine: People were really kind and the club system was very nurturing. So as soon as they realized I had some talent, they took me in hand. I was taken to a neighboring town of Tokoroa, which was sort of like a big town, and introduced to John Davies, who was the bronze medalist from the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. They wanted me to have a proper coach. I was introduced into the Lydiard training theory, from about the age of 14, and for races, et cetera. My event was the 80 yards. I really loved it, and so laps of the track. 

I also did cross country. But those events I competed in, there were no junior woman. So I was competing against women who were probably 18 years my senior. I did go to my first national championships and the senior women's at the age of 14. Yeah, and I made the final. I came last in the final. We're like a mate. We're pretty darn good. You know? 

Lisa: Yeah. You were 14? 

Lorraine: Yeah, sort of, like hanging on, I can remember coming around the straight. I had two people behind me, and I could just see them going, ‘I'm not letting this kid beat me.’ Yeah, threw me off, but you know. I was going—representing New Zealand from the time I was 16. That provided opportunity, and that was so damn exciting. Just to be going overseas, and wearing the silver uniform, and getting on a plane and going somewhere, and it was just the most amazing time, and I absolutely loved it. I was put into a competition at a time when I was young enough not to have any respect. 

Lisa: You had no idea what was coming at you yet. 

Lorraine: So I sort of figured I could run with the best of them. Yeah, so that was sort of part of my make-up or my set up. Which really, you know, it just went from there, until finally, I sort of took off on my own and went to the US and just sort of, seeking greener pastures. That makes a big wide world and yeah. 

Lisa: Oh, wow. So tell me a little bit, like Arthur Lydiard. What was he like? Tell us a little bit, you know, so I've heard you say on articles or something, there's a bit of a misrepresentation of how he trained. What was his actual philosophy as an athlete that was actually in under him for a while? What was he like, and what sort of training regime did you have, and how did that develop you?

Lorraine: Yeah, I think I was really, really fortunate to grow up in New Zealand, and his system was pretty much adopted by the New Zealand running culture, and I think still has—is part of the culture, yeah. It's based on endurance training. So that's the first thing that John Davies did, was give me a training program. He used to write it, handwrite it on a— and send it to me by mail. So I would get a letter with my training program written down. It would be so exciting. 

I ran with my dad. So my dad didn't want me going out there by myself, or we ran on the bush a lot. We got lost a lot, but wouldn't have me there by myself. Although I'm sure if I'd navigated, we wouldn't have got lost, but anyway. Yeah, I mean, we just—and we had a great time. It was really fun for me to get to know my dad. I don't think I would have developed that closeness without having that running. It was just fantastic. So we just ended up doing longer and longer runs. It was just building up mileage, just getting some aerobic base, which is really the crux of the Lydiard training, is that you build your aerobic capacity, and that's the main engine.

Lisa: Yeah. Because a lot of them, you know, like I had Rod Dixon on last week, on the show. He's also trained under that. Of course, a lot of the great runners that have come out of New Zealand, and there's been many, have trained on that system. Then, you know, was it a real high mileage system? Like, was it—is there anything that you do different now? Because I know, you're still involved with Arthur Lydiard? The groups that you're taking through now, is there any change in the approach that you’ve had? Because you know, a lot of the listeners out there are runners that are listening to this. So is there anything that you've learned along the way that you do differently now?

Lorraine: No, no, the Lydiard system was sound. I mean, the only thing was, as an athlete, I'd come off a season and then I'd go, ‘I'm gonna just train harder than I've ever trained before,’ and then I jump in and overdo it and sort of mess it up. That's what we do, we overtrain. So the Lydiard system itself, I think if you just take the way that he put it together, and the, he was the grandfather of periodization, we didn't call it periodization. The exercise physiologist came along a lot later and then just started to put the jargon onto it, and all there is. 

Arthur was very practical. So it's just what worked, it was about 60 years in the making. So you will find Lydiard, that he evolved it with just trial and error. Then, as more people started to do research, he started to incorporate other things. But he was really like, just what works, and what he put together worked really well. What I did with the Lydiard system was look at what were the principles, not looking at the hard and fast rules here, because as soon as you start looking at rules, you have limited yourself, and it doesn't work that way. It's an experiment of one, and your journey as an athlete is completely unique. You occupy your own place, and space and time that nobody else can occupy. If you can respect that, and get away from any sort of cookie-cutter staff.

Lisa: I love that personalization approach. That's what I'm heavily into now. It's not like we have access to genetic testing and things like that now, where we can actually tailor things to people's genetics even. But back then that wasn't the case. But to make it your own, so here's the framework, and then you make it yours. That fits with you and your style of being, in your style of life, and in everything that fits to you, rather than just forcing yourself into the confines of just, this is black and white. I think that that's pretty insightful, especially back then. Yeah.

Lorraine: Yeah. So what I'm teaching now, and I teach courses through the Lydiard Foundation, two coaches, on how to apply the Lydiard training. The big thing, I think, is to look at things and the overall picture because the, you might say the devils in the details, but the details can completely tell, like the devil, the wrong story So it's very easy for people to, and most common, I think, to overshoot the mark. To put in too much. Then if you put in too much energy into the task at hand, you will get the opposite of what you intended. 

Lisa: Yeah, overtraining and burnout. 

Lorraine: Also we live in this culture where we think more is better. He said also, we pander to outsourcing our information, and so not tapping into this incredible vehicle that we have that can synthesize and put the information together that is specifically tailor-made to you. That is there. It's innate within all of us. We're just not tapping it. I think the journey of the athlete is a wonderful way to get to know yourself and to be able to tap that in the knowledge and to learn. 

So the focus, and this happened to me, during my own running, there was, initially you're motivated by the—just winning or getting a faster time and all those kinds of things. Then you think, well, what is it really payback? It's pretty silly, you know, you're all just running around the house and in circles. Somebody goes, ‘Oh, I'm really great, because I finished in front of you.’ You get all worked up. Does that really matter, in the big scheme of things? 

Well, in certain terms, it doesn't. The exercise is, and I just gave a talk to our advanced classes on the hero's journey. The hero's journey is that the focus is then on the inner journey that's taking place. Yeah, and is a path for us to get to know ourselves. Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.’ It's really sound advice, because, I mean, what else are you going to do to see, you know, you go through life, and then suddenly you get to the other end?

Lisa: You don’t know what the hell it was about. I mean, this is, this is exactly in line with what I like to talk about, which is like, you know, that we, we learn so much when we do these, you know, athletic endeavors, and I don't care whether you're good, or you're really not talented, and you don't have any ability. It's all about yours—your personal journey. That's why any athlete who's just starting out and doing the first kilometer, you know, is on a journey, to get to know their own body, their own mind, what they're capable of, and we find it, you know, and it's, I hate comparing, you know, like, the actual winning of races and stuff is amazing, but how many of us are actually going to have a career like yours, where you're actually at the top of the podium? 

For 99% of the people, it's about what they learn along the way, the health benefits that they gather from the training, the strength—mentally. All of these aspects are just even more important, I think, than the, getting the gold medal put around your neck, or the silver or the bronze. It is much more about a personal journey for most people. I mean, you as an elite athlete, at the top of the pyramid, so to speak, did you find that as well? Has it had a bigger implication on your entire life and your life philosophies than just winning? Part of it?

Lorraine: Oh, yeah. In the end, though, the inner journey became more important to me than the outer journey. In a way, I think with life, you have your experiences and you're influenced by your parents and your upbringing and your ancestors and all the rest. So we have all these influences that make up who we think we are I think then—and then we go into our older adult life, and we proceed accordingly with this concept of self, which then I think starts to happen. You start to dismantle that concept themselves, and you start gradually stripping it away, so that, hopefully, when you're ready to go out the other end, you have connected with the essence of who you truly are. Not just all these roles and the expectations and put on yourself, you know.

Lisa: Was it for you, was there a lot of expectation, you know, like, I had a lot of expectation in my early years from my dad, who I loved dearly, and wanted to impress and wanted to please and so I had a lot of expectation all the way through. So a lot of the things that I did weren't necessarily what I wanted to be doing. They were things that I felt compelled to do, or expected to do. Was that a part of your journey with running? Or was that more, you just had this passion and actual, like Rod just loved running. You know? What was it like for you? Was it a cut and dried thing that this was a passion of yours, or was it more of an expectation that you would—because you were so good? 

Lorraine: Yeah. No, it was mine. I mean, it was completely driven by me, instigated and driven by me. My family was really supportive. My dad got on board with it. So my dad got into running because I was a teenager that got into running. He figured he was like the canary in the coal mine. If there was—if I was doing too much or overdoing it, you know, and he did the same as me. Well, then he would clog up before I would. That was very nice of him. He did, you know he actually died while he was out running. That was the way he wanted to exit. So he did.

Lisa: Well, yeah, it's never a good thing to go. But if you're going to go, I suppose doing something and being healthy until the last moment is the way that most of us would like to exit this world.

Lorraine: My parents were, oh, they were obviously proud. I mean, you get out there, and especially when you're in an Olympics, or Commonwealth Games, or something that's really big for your country, you do feel the expectation of your country and how you do and you know it really matters. It's quite personal. Sometimes when I didn't do that, well, and you get refreshed. 

Lisa: That's harsh. 

Lorraine: Yeah. Yeah, it is. You just, you know—I don't know, you get over it with pursued— you realize that you have to keep things in perspective. I think one thing I could always come back to and just be in love with the journey of the race and yeah. That it didn't go away. 

Lisa: That passion stayed right throughout you. So let's talk now a little bit about the actual—some of the highlights of your career because this is like for most of us, we're never gonna get to do these sorts of things at this level. What was it like to go to the Olympics? What's it like to compete in the first marathons that women were allowed to do in the Olympics? What was that like for you?

Lorraine: Well, the first marathons, my foray into marathons was another thing. That was sort of serendipity in a way. It just sort of came to me, and maybe there was a certain, I don't know, maybe openness, the new experience, I think that yeah, that just led me into different sorts of places. But what happened in—when I left school, and I was already a nationally recognized runner as a high school kid, and what to do? I didn't know what to do, so I decided to go to phys ed school because it was the closest thing that I could think of that’s for a woman. 

Lisa: It is, exactly. That’s all we had back then.

Lorraine: Yeah, yeah, you just, that's what sporty girls do, become a phys ed teacher. Gary was, my brother, was already at the phys ed school underneath. So it seemed really easy to hit off down to the need. I thought that was really great because it was really a long way from home. Yeah, you know, and I just loved being a student. I just thought that was so fantastic. 

So the first day I was there at the phys ed school I got, I was standing on the steps of the phys ed school, and I was sort of looking to my left and looking to my right, and I didn't know where anything was or which way to go for my run. This group of guys came running past. They were a bunch of lunchtime runners, and some of them are very good runners. One of them looked up and saw me standing there in my running shoes and shorts and said, ‘Hey, chick, you gotta come and run with the boys today.’ 

Okay, there's an invitation I can't refuse. Down the steps, I glommed on to the back of this group, I could barely keep up. But we did this run. The next day, I was there again, and the next day, and so I became the girl that ran with this group of guys. 

Lisa: Crazy girl. 

Lorraine: Yeah, and they sort of took me under their wing. So I did all the rounds with them. Sunday was like the Needham version of the white tacori run, was the white Eddie's. It’s just, just, you run out somewhere over a mountain and down the other side and you’ve gotten 20 miles, you know. So I started doing those every Sunday with the guys. As a 800-meter runner, you know, I was building this incredible base, and I just got stronger and stronger.

Lisa: Did it make you slower doing the long stuff, for the actual short track races?

Lorraine: I'm glad you asked. Yeah. No, that's not true, that. Yeah. Endurance running does not make you slow. No, it does not. Though, you do need to do the faster work to bring on your speed. But the endurance will enable you, eventually, to be able to sustain your fastest possible pace. That's the basis of endurance. So nearly all events over two minutes would derive their energy mostly from aerobic means, right? So the greater aerobic capacity you have, the greater capacity you have for any event over two minutes.

Lisa: But what about, I've never been fast, that’s why we’re long. So I don't have a comparison really, of having lost speed because I never had any to begin with. But doing the super long stuff, you know, the ultra marathon distances, I got dreadfully slow when it comes to the shorter distances over time. I always put that down to my muscle, fast twitch fibers mainly tuned into slow twitch fibers. 

Now, actually, like, in the last five years, where I stopped doing the ultra marathons, and I've been concentrating more on shorter, sharper, I'm still not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm a heck of a lot faster than I used to be over the short distance. So even in your 50s, you can start to go back the other way. But it’s interesting to hear you say that, no, you don't find that. Because that's—yeah, interesting.

Lorraine: With some caveats in matters that, if you—your body will respond to what you give it. In terms of training, stimulus response, so what training is, you are giving the body a specific stimulus to get a specific response from the body. It will do that really well. So the thing about the Lydiard pyramid is that you build the endurance, but you don't do that ad infinitum. Right? So then you go on and then you go through the faster phases and you develop the muscles on faster twitch and the different ones, right through to your peak events. 

So, we have quite a few ultra runners who come and do our coaching courses. They get in and they get really excited about doing the phases and getting the full development. That's the beauty I think of the Lydiard training, is that it is holistic. It puts all the energy systems and every type of training response in its rightful place, so that you can be at your peak on the day that counts. What I find with a lot of ultra people is that they've just lost their flexibility and range of motion because they haven't practiced it. 

Lisa: That's definitely a big part of our training and how we coach—a lot of strength and a lot of mobility, in proprioception, work and coordination and drills and things that traditionally, when I, because when I started back in the dark ages to when we had no idea, and I certainly had no coaching back in the day, I just ran and ran long, because I wasn't very fast, so just run longer than everybody else and I was good at that. 

But now I understand and what you know, that whole mobility piece of the puzzle is absolutely crucial, and the drills and the form and the strength training or all the foundational elements, to be able to run the mileage, you know, it's like a pyramid for us, how we how we build it. So yeah, I totally agree, and I think most ultra runners neglect that part. That's where they come unstuck to some degree. You get very slow and stiff. There's reasons for that. But you managed to finish the distance, but the quality sometimes goes down with the length of time you’re out there.

Lorraine: Also, if you're out there for a heck of a long time, you don't want to spend much time in the air. You don't need a lot of upwards motion, or that long, beautiful stride, et cetera. You develop a bit of a shuffle, it's just being efficient at the distance that you're doing, yes.

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Lisa: Yeah, that's really fascinating. It is like, I did, like I said at the beginning, everything wrong that you could possibly do wrong, I think in my early career. It was just like, go long, go hard, though, you know, but no strikes, no mobility, no drills. I didn't know what running form was. I just ran. Incredible that you can still achieve great distances and that way, but it's certainly not healthy. It was very high mileage in those early days, and that has its own toll. 

Now we try to train people efficiently because most of the people that we training are also, you know, got careers and kids and jobs and stressors. So we find that you can't train them like you would a 20-year-old professional athlete when they're a 45-year-old mum with three children and a full-on career. Then you're going to break them if you have that high mileage model. So it's much more about time efficiency and getting the best results that they can get with the level of stress that they're already under. 

So yes, it's just really interesting to compare notes on all this, especially as you've come from the elite level, in a lot of the things that I find with people who are not in that elite group, don't respond the same way that elite runners would, like when you were doing your top level stuff, the amount of mileage and manner of training that you would have been able to cope with is not what your average person can cope with, because you would have been focused on that solely.

Lorraine: I think if you look historically at Lydiard training, he started coaching the first joggers group in the early 60s. So the story is that he was invited, after his Olympic successes, to the Tamaki Yacht Club to talk to the businessman there about training, etc. He was asking them about their own levels of fitness. A whole bunch of them said, ‘Well, we can't do any, our doctors told us to take it easy, because we've had cardiac arrest’. And Arthur’s like, you know typical, Arthur, you know, ‘That's absolute rubbish. If you guys want to start jogging with me, I will teach you how to run a marathon.’ 

He had quite a group, of which quite a few of them were cardiac patients, and had this running group. He got them to run a marathon in about nine months. You're talking more than a couch potato? Yeah. 

Lisa: Exactly. He approached that differently than he would with his elite athlete, obviously? 

Lorraine: He had to, because if they couldn't start out on 100 miles a week and he realized that you can't expect middle-aged men getting run out to do that kind of mileage because they spend so much more time on their feet, that they're actually doing a lot more work than an elite runner, yeah. So then he changed the distance to duration. 

Lisa: Yes, that's what we do too mostly, duration, because then that's more of it. Because otherwise if you run your good marathons at incredibly fast times, but the person who is at the other end of the marathon is taking six hours, they're going to be athletes for twice as long or longer. That doesn't equate from an equivalent point of view. That's—yeah, so that's exactly what we do. Yeah.

Lorraine: Physiologically, it's about the same based on duration. Not based on distance. If you spend two hours out there, and you're just jogging along, and that's as fast as you can go, you will have about the same effect as somebody who runs at the same effort but is heck of a lot faster. The system is adaptable to all levels of runner. That's why you go on principles. You look at what you're trying to achieve, and then how best to achieve it based on the level of their person, but, you know, the—we're all, physiologically, we all basically work the same. 

We all have—we metabolize fats and glycogen and have the same energy systems and they are invoked at the same perceived effort or level of effort and can be developed. We all have this system of adaptation. We all are losing cells and regenerating them all the time. That is basically so, if you're becoming a new person, like they say, maybe 95% of our bodies are replaced every year, just cells dying and new ones coming on. Or in seven years you get a completely new you. So it doesn't really matter, the point is that, can you direct who you are going to be in the view. Yeah, you can. Athletes know that.

Lisa: Yeah. That's what our reputation is all about and why we do it, that’s why we train so that we get that reputation. In heavier like—what do you do with people, because we get a lot of athletes who are just head through the wall, type A personalities who want to go harder than what their bodies, and I'm putting myself in this category, to harder than what their bodies can actually cope with, they're burning themselves out, breaking themselves and not actually reaping the reward that they should be for the amount of effort that's going in to their training. How do you try to get them to back off a bit?

Lorraine: Yeah. Yeah. So, one of the key things that I teach is that we start right from the beginning, learning to pay attention to our bodies, and getting this rapport with ourselves and learning that you want to a cooperative relationship with your own body and it will give you the information that that it has, and which is better than if you're trying to perform to these external measures, which, there's so many of them because we can measure every frickin’ thing that we do, and post it some way of where other people can look at, and they couldn't care less, because they're too busy putting their’s up and wanting other people to pay attention to it. 

So this constant pandering to make ourselves into somebody that we think that’s something on the outside that's going to approve of us. So people who overdo it have a lack of confidence, and a lack of trust in their own body and their own physiology. Because my goodness, your body does an incredible job to keep us alive, and to keep us going and to perform the tasks that we give to it so we can achieve the dreams that we have. Then that will bust itself, for you. 

But we do have sort of certain sort of measures, then that will also put into place when you’re going to to kill yourself. But those that are well, I'm not doing this because yeah, our minds are incredible also. But most of them use our minds like a slave driver. 

Lisa: Yes. I certainly did. 

Lorraine: Yeah. You have to learn the hard way sometimes. But we have, being able to recognize, and to know where those danger signals are, and to be able to catch them and back off. Those, I started out my courses, were talking about the fallacy of hard work. Hard work is not where it said, everybody thinks, ‘Oh, God, you must be a really hard worker.’ Well, you know, I can knock a knuckle down, but you know, why put in more energy than the task requires? So hard is redundant. Just do the work. Don't make it hard. Because then now, as soon as you say hard, people start to stress, they tense up, you know, okay,

Lisa: It plops your brain and it becomes a negative, that you associate with, pain with your exercise and things and that it creates a negative loop.

Lorraine: It's horrible. When I won big races, it was actually you get in the state of flow, and it feels wonderful.

Lisa: Wow. So when you're actually at the top of your game, and winning these international events and things, you felt like—so it didn't feel as if you were killing yourself to get across the line on those days. 

Lorraine: I always get pretty tired of the marathon. 

Lisa: Yeah the in and out it. But you felt like you're prepared for this, but not overprepared for this, not burnt out and sorry about it. You actually enjoyed that, you enjoyed those top races that you really did well in? Did that feel like a flow state?

Lorraine: The system that I teach, it's a performance system, right? It's good, so that you get the best you possibly can on the day that counts. So that's getting yourself into a peak performance state from wherever you're at. Right? Everybody can do that. That feels amazing. I'm sure you felt it, that you just get there and everything's clicking right. You've got it. 

So it is a coordination of body, heart, mind and spirit. It's just, they all come together and you reach that state of flow. Actually, for most of us, we don't get there because we are working too hard. We have too much tension. That getting into a peak state is actually an act of surrender. Yeah. So, when you hit it a few times, you go, ‘Man, this feels so good. I'm gonna try and figure out how I got there again’.

As I said, when I was young, I'd just go on the on the train harder than ever before, and you know, and then it seems to sort of go away from you and then you get injured or something or you don't perform as well, because you're in the syndrome of hard work, you're overcooking it, you've got excess energy. That energy has to go somewhere, and all it does is that just messes things up. So that precision of giving the stimulus that is needed for the effect. The thing is that the effect of it takes place during the recovery period, not when you’re actually doing the task. So, you know—

Lisa: That's an important point. If you had a bad night's sleep, you're being under the pump all week with work, you've got kids who have slept in, everything's going to cast it, and then you go and smash yourself, because it's on your list today to do a really long, hard run. You’re not going to get the adaptation, you'd have been better to go hang on, well, ‘Life, come at me this week, I'm gonna actually take it a little bit easier.’ Having that confidence to do that, and back off, because I think a lot of people are like, ‘Yeah, but I have to go harder’. They congratulate themselves when they slave drive themselves, and they push them through the bad event. 

While that might make you mentally tougher, and there's some advantages of that approach for a while, it isn't going to get the adaptation that you're going to want, because actually, it's in the recovery, it's in the sleep, it's in the downtime that you're actually going to get that benefit. If you're not able to adapt, and then all that training was for nothing, or worse, it can be even detrimental to your immune system and to your health, your mental health. That's a hard sell, tough-minded athletes who think that they have to enter. I certainly struggled with us, and still do so on occasion, we, but I have to go harder, and I'm not, you know, doing enough, because I'm not getting the results, therefore, you know, a little is good, more must be better. That approach doesn't work.

Lorraine: Yeah, look, it's a lack of trust. I think a lot of us are brought up to sort of think in the negative all the time, and to talk about what we don't want to have happen. We approach a lot of the things that we wish to do, or the things we wish to create in our lives from a state of fear. That's a real shame, because that immediately puts us on the backfoot. Then we can't get into this natural flow. Look, the world has set up for us to be creative beings, and for us to have, be able to manifest our dreams and make works that are worthwhile and contribute it, so when we leave this life, we have lived something better, we have used our own talents and things are more enhanced, because of our being here. 

I think most people have a very huge drive, I think all human beings do, to be of value in this life in some way. I think, you know, we started out talking about this, that we have these systems in our systems, they're not human, you know, they’re just systems that are put in place that eventually become self-serving, and they don't serve us. 

So they will perpetuate fear, etc., because it just gets us putting our energy into the system, rather than putting it into ourselves and our own dreams. I think that what we need to realize is that it is set up in our favor. I'll give you just one really good example of that. When we train, and we give the body a training stimulus, so to meet that training task, that run or whatever we do, that workout, you have used this fuels in your body and you've broken apart all these bonds to provide energy to enable you to do the task, and then you stop doing it. 

As soon as you stop doing it, the body gets busy. It starts to reconstitute those energy bonds and etc. So all these adaptations are taking place. That brings us back to normal again. But it doesn't just bring us back to normal. It gives us more, it makes us stronger, more storage space, you know, stronger muscle fibers, better oxygenation. It actually adapts itself to better accommodate what we're asking it to do. Yeah. So nature has given you a bonus. I mean, if you can't see that everything is set up in your favor just by that little thing alone, it’s like, ‘Wow.’

Lisa: Yeah, biology is just incredible. These are hormetic stressors. So when we put our body under strain, we come back stronger. When we put ourselves under too much strain, we actually break it down. So that's the fine line that we have to, for us, for each of us individually, find where those points are. That will shift as we get stronger, and you'll be able to take on more training. 

But we have to honor the process, that honor the the hormetic stress, recovery, stress recovery, and then build on that so that we can then, you know, eventually you can be running at the best, if it's a training thing, but this is in every area of life, that we're more stressed, we're more resilient. Resilience, the word. We're more able to take on a load, this is just the beautiful thing of all these hormetic stressors and if we don't push ourselves at all, well then, we're going to definitely, the body is going to go well, this is a piece of cake, I can just keep being where I'm at, and then actually start to decline. 

What I'd be really interested in your take with older people. One of my passions in life is to empower older people to not give up on on their lives because society sees your past that, and that you've got a use-by date,  you've passed, you know, all of these sorts of attitudes that are just insidious in our culture that, in the Maori culture, it's a little bit better, where we actually respect their elders, and we value their wisdom, but in general culture, it's pretty bad. 

We also have this thing—when I retire, then I'll recover and I’ll relax. For me, that's the beginning of a downward spiral. So in the rehabilitation journey that I've been on with my mum for the last five years, you know, I set her tasks every day that she has to achieve. She has goals that we're aiming for. Of course, we have phases of recovery, and so on. But she's always on a mission of some sort or another, and she's 79 years old, and we're going forward. I will treat her like that until there is no hope, you know, to the end of her days, because I believe that humans need challenge. 

They don't need comfort. They don't need to be, you know, mollycoddled and stuck on the couch to watch telly all day, because you're older now. No. I'd like to see people having their challenge, whatever their challenge is, and it could be like, mum has offered art classes now and just loving the creative. She's got time to do something different and that's a goal that is helping her brain stay on point. What's your take on the way society sees people when they get older? How do you approach that from your personal standpoint?

Lorraine: Well, from my own personal standpoint, they’re getting older. Yeah, I'm with you 100%.

Lisa: I think we need to continually be adding new stimuli, and you know, they can be stress, you know, stimuli stress, it's all just, you're asking the body to do new things. So then you’re just inviting new experience into your life. I think that as we get older, our world should be getting bigger, not smaller. I do think that a lot of what we attribute to old age, it’s just bad habit. 

It's accumulating it for many years and makes it the typical aging things. I mean, we are all going to die at some point, but my goal is to live an extremely long life that is healthy until the end, that's my goal. None of us know what's going to come at us from left field. I’ve experienced an awful lot, I know that some things can still, but that's the goal. That's the approach that I take. So I'm doing everything in my life and in my family's life, to make that as best as possible. 

To have constant challenge and have constant goals that you're aiming for and new things that you're learning. It keeps you in this growth mindset for starters, and it keeps your body not knowing what's coming, so it's still having to adapt and go forward, rather than going backwards. As we get older, we get wiser, well, hopefully we do, most of us do, we've got more experience, we’re more able to cope with, you know, all the, the emotional things that we probably weren't able to cope with when we were 20, we've got all these experiences. 

It's just fantastic if we can look to our older generations as the one who provide wisdom for the ones that are coming behind, and they're seen as a valuable resource in our society, because and not as being your past that because you're over 50, or you're over 60, or you're over 70, or whatever, you know, this demarcation line is that people have and they put on themselves, you know, partly because society does this.

Lorraine: Yeah and it's a horrible thing for you to be made redundant and society in terms of your value to it. That is largely, I think, exacerbated by what runs the show is generally money. So people are not seeing older people as being contributing into. Yet we need to start valuing other things besides that.

I think we are at the moment, just with the times and what it's for, the time of shifting, and there's an invitation here to make sure that we reconnect with our humanness, and start to prioritise what things we value as human beings, because we're in danger of losing a lot of them. We look at our older people, and we also look at our children. Now children have a life expectancy less than that of their parents.

Lisa: Yes, horrific.

Lorraine: It’s the wrong direction, and you can't cut off your old people and your young people are not benefiting from the wisdom that is available, and that wisdom is something that you can't put a price on. We need to get back to, away from this sort of outside focus and measuring everything in those sorts of terms, and start to value our human relationships and our depth of experience and our connection to the divine spark which we all have within us. To value that journey and support each other on that journey. We're all in it alone, and we're all in it together.

Lisa: That’s beautifully put. I think we are in an age of change, and I hope things will gather some more momentum. We've got lots of problems in the world but we've also got lots of opportunities now to change things. In the areas that I'm working in, I'm seeing huge changes taking place within just the last few years and that's encouraging. Then there is lots of negativity, but I like to focus on the positivity. 

But I think, yeah, let's start valuing our elder, older population, and they have a lot to bring to the party. What we want to do is help people stay healthier, longer. That requires a bit of a mindset shift. When I take my mom to the gym, she's training her butt off there at 79 years old, and people know where she's come from, like being in a wheelchair for a few years, and not being able to do anything. Now she's doing all this, you know, crazy stuff, well, you know, compared to where she was there. That's a role model. She's a role model for so many older people who now have actually joined the gym, and, you know, we're doing stuff because they go, ‘Well, if Isabel can do it, I can do it.’

That's, to me, the greatest, beautiful thing that's come out of that tragic journey that we've been on. It's empowering now, other people to not give up just because they're older. To have that attitude of, ‘I'm going to fight my way back.’ Then it's a team event. I'm mum's coach, mentor and driver. She's the one who's willing to put in the hard yards and to do whatever I asked her to do to the best of her ability, and that's a winning combination. I'd like to see more people have that, if they've been on rehabilitation journeys. Even for younger people, that they've got someone in the corner that's willing to help them fight because when you're in a big health battle, you need people fighting with you and alongside you.

Lorraine: Yeah. When you're down and you don't have the energy, that's what families are for. That's what families are for. To help you when you need to help and how you can all be putting in and bringing it together. I just think this divorcing ourselves from old people and just giving them a bunch of pills, then putting them in front of the telly, what a waste, what an incredible waste of resources. 

Lisa: Yep, and loneliness and despair, and all of those things, and the value of that person's life history is just disappearing, when it could be being impassioned, if they, if we can keep their minds active, and their bodies as strong as possible for as long as possible, they have a great value. It's not like, from a societal standpoint, it's often thought, well, once you retire, you're no longer adding value to society, it's measured in monetary value, and you're costing more in the health systems. Hopefully, you don't live too long. That’s just an approach to me that is just horrific. The way that society treats its young, and it's old and it’s vulnerable, as is the mark of a civilization, I think that is, you know, is that is what we should be measured by, not how strong—

Lorraine: Yeah, and I think the example of your mum, is that, all we have to do is take care of what's in front of us and do the best that we can. That is being an example to other people, it just starts to, so she's going to the gym and other people see her and they go out, and they have a whole different mindset about the possibilities and what happens and, and that's all it takes.

Lisa: You like the work that you're doing, that's imparting your knowledge. You could be sitting back on a beach somewhere and just enjoying life. Instead, you're still teaching, you're sharing, you're imparting that valuable knowledge that you have to other people, and that is gold. It's so important. Gary, your lovely brother, who I absolutely adore and admire, thinks he's crazy and awesome at the same time.

Still world-leading mountain biker at his age, and he certainly helped me on my journey when I was broken and burnt out and came to him, a few years ago going, ‘But Gary, I’m broken, can you help me?’ He put pieces of the puzzle back together again, and helped, gave me actually a role model, because he'd done the same thing, burnt himself out and blown himself apart. He had found a way back. So that was a role model for me. There is a way back when you have smashed the crap out of your body and you didn't listen to it. The work that he's doing is, I think, fantastic.

Lorraine: Yeah, well, it's the same. It doesn't matter what age you are, your cells are still regenerating themselves. You can still direct that process to make a better you than you were before. 

Lisa: Day by day.

Lorraine: We do things in increments. It's just giving it just that bit of what you want, and the direction that you wish to go and go. 

Lisa: You don't need to be perfect, you can just be inching your way forward with one bite at a time and one exercise session at a time, and one good sleep at a time, all of these things add up. I think we've totally aligned. Lorraine, this has been a really interesting, amazing conversation. I think we need to have a couple more privately, because I think there's a lot more that we need to discuss and maybe do some things together. 

But I really just want to thank you for your time today. It's been really an insight. You are a legend in the sport and what you've achieved is just nothing short of amazing. I remember, as a kid, watching you and a lot of your fellow people in that age group who just did amazing things, and it was awesome to have, like, Rod on last week, on the show as well. Those are role models for me. I can never win in the Olympics or anything like that, but I did things in my own way. You pioneered a path, especially for a woman to be able to do long-distance running, and that's just gold.

Lorraine: Well, thank you very much, Lisa. It's been an exciting journey and I feel so privileged to have been born in this time and this body and to have had the experiences that I've had, and it's not over yet.

Lisa: Hell no! And you're obviously still doing that. Lorraine, where can people find you if they want to, you know, learn about what you're doing, read your book, On The Wings of Mercury, where can they reach out to you? 

Lorraine: Yeah, they can reach me at lorraine@lydiardfoundation.org. So you got to get your eyes in there, like Lydiard, with R-D. Yeah, just write to me. They can go to our website, lydiardfoundation.org, to see the programs that we've got. We have quite a few New Zealand coaches. They've been through the course and they're very popular and we've got a lot of wonderful things, expanding it all the time. 

Lisa: Awesome. Maybe we collaborate and go and do them. Do one of those as well. always adding courses to my list of things that I have to do. That might be a good one of them that I have to add.

Lorraine: You'd be most welcome, Lisa, we'd love to have you. 

Lisa: Thanks. Alright.

That's it this week for Pushing The Limits. Be sure to rate review and share with your friends and head over and visit Lisa and her team at www.lisatamati.com.

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What listeners are saying

My favourite running podcast by miles⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This is the best podcast for long runs. Lisa is just so relatable, honest, funny and inspires me to push my own limits. Awesome guests (I particularly enjoyed the podcast with Kim Morrison) and a wide variety of topics covered. Thanks for keeping me running, Lisa!
Jinni S via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 07/02/19


My favourite podcast ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Helps me get through my boring desk job. Absolutely love this podcast. Great topics and advice that has helped me to better myself and my approach to running.


Two thumbs up ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Always great guests, great insights and learnings that can be applied immediately for every level of experience.


Motivational and Inspirational ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I am getting my mojo back with regards to my health and running after treatment for breast cancer, I connected with Lisa as I was looking for positive influences from people who are long distance runners and understand our mindset. Lisa’s podcasts have been a key factor in getting me out of a negative space where I allowed others limiting beliefs to stop me from following my heart and what I believe is right for me. After 18 months of being in cancer recovery mode I wanted to get out of the cancer mindset and back to achieving goals that had been put aside. Listening to Pushing The Limits has put me onto other great podcasts, and in the process I have learnt so much and am on a pathway to a much better place with my mindset and health. Thanks so much Lisa for doing what you do and always being you.


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