1950 - 1955

1950 - 1955: The making of a Legend

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1950 - THE ERA OF WALLY HAYWARD. ARTHUR NEWTON PAYS A VISIT

 

When the entry form of a middle aged building inspector from Johannesburg arrived on the desk of the race secretary, it raised a few eye-brows. First Cochrine and Ballington and then Savage, and now Wally Hayward was the fourth pre-war winner to have sent his entry in for another crack at the Comrades.

Wally was last on the Old Road in 1930 when he took the title at the age of 21, and now twenty years later, he stood in the early morning throng in Durban awaiting the stroke of six and the call of the Trimbourne crow.

The intervening years between 1930 and 1950 had been almost dormant as far as Hayward's running was concerned. Yes, like most novice Comrades finishers, he swore "never again". Hayward later revealed that he did have designs on running in 1931, but an accident while training put an end to his running ambitions for that year. In 1932 Hayward again had intensions on the Comrades Marathon, but he developed chest pains and was advised by a local Johannesburg doctor that his running days were over. A second opinion revealed that there was nothing untoward and that Hayward could indeed run. At the age of 29 Hayward represented South Africa at the 1938 Empire games in Australia, but his affair with the Comrades Marathon was at an end. Many years later, Wally Hayward revealed that he has never forgiven himself for this absence. If he had remained in the race in those intervening years, it is possible that he could easily eclipse the achievements of both Newton and Ballington. 

Was he a threat to the top runners of the day? It is difficult to tell. For the twenty intervening years, Wally had represented Transvaal and South Africa and he held a number of national titles from three miles to the marathon. He had been absent from the 50 mile and longer races for a long time. On the other hand, the 23-year-old bookbinder from Maritsburg, Reg Allison was in the field and his near miss of the record in 1949 had him feeling quite confident. He did not see the barrel-chested man from Johannesburg as a challenge. As in the thirties, age and experience would have to yield to speed and to youth, or that is what Allison thought.

The first race of the Fifties saw Allison take an early lead in the race and by 45th Cutting, Allison and Wootton were out in front matching stride for stride and setting a cracking pace at that. The Hill of Comrades Hills, Fields saw a few changes in the field. Wootton dropped off the pace and Allison took the lead. However, the big man from Johannesburg, Hayward was moving in on the leaders and by the top of Fields Hill, it was Allison and then Hayward only 75 metres behind and he was beginning to look quite menacing to the Maritsburg youngster.

Hayward was relentless, and by the time the two reached Hillcrest, it was Hayward that was leading the way to Pietermaritzburg. By the time he reached Drummond, Hayward was a full mile in the lead and the “Up” record of Ballington looked as if it was in danger. The only thing that proved to be a problem was a strong head wind that the building inspector had to contend with.

By the time Wally reached Camperdown, the pundits had their watches and slide-rules out and quick calculations were being made. At this stage Wally was 34 seconds ahead of Ballington’s 1938 time when he broke the record. He was also about 3 mins. ahead of Boyce’s 1940 time. The head wind was a problem, yes, but here the powerhouse of running was striding along in almost majestic style. Will Wally come back and break the record? The next few kilometres would provide that answer. The last formidable hurdle proved too much for Hayward, and he was forced to a walk at Polly Shorts. But Barring any real mishap the race would go to Hayward, as the lead he had built up was impressive indeed. He battled his way through the crowds and on to the winner's tape at Alexander Park. It was a full 13 minutes that separated him from his young rival Reg Allison. It was an astonishing feat to make such a comeback after twenty years and to win as he did as a youth of 21.

Wild applause broke out as the significance of this dawned on the big crowd. He was the first Transvaal winner since he last won the race in 1930. The newspapers may not have captured the moment on that day, nor the crowds watching the race realised it, but a new era in South African road racing had just begun.

Is man the ultimate running machine? or is something like the horse more adept at these great distances? The answer was fairly convincingly provided in 1925 when a farmer from Natal, George Robinson took on the race on horseback and rode the down race in 5hrs 14mins. But this was not the end of the saga. A horse was entered again in 1950. Miss Jackie Newmarch on her horse “Night” set out to repeat what farmer Robinson had achieved in 1925. This was an “Up” run and Wally was in the field. At Drummond, Hayward was a bare 120 metres ahead of Miss Newmarch when the horse faltered on the climb out of the valley and had to be withdrawn. Ha! The animal bailed before Inchanga, never mind Polly’s, man is after all invincible!

The public holiday Empire Day, 24th May, was to be enjoyed for the last time in 1951. Political changes had taken place in 1948, and the Nationalist Government was determined to change the public holidays in South Africa.

When Wally Hayward sent in his entry for the 1951 “Down” race, the record was already in danger. Hayward was certainly cast in the mould of Newton and Ballington, but was he better than they were? Wally was bigger than the others were, but he had an unusually large power to weight ratio. Wally had much in his running armoury that he hadn’t even used yet. As always it was cold and dark in Maritzburg at six-’o-clock. It was a clear morning and Reg Allison was in no mood to take it easy at the start.

Allison set off at a very business-like pace and seemed determined to take the race by the scruff of the neck. At Cato Ridge, Allison was 5 mins ahead of Hayward, and Wally looked as if he was struggling. A big crowd greeted Allison as he ran through Drummond in record time for that leg. A great race was beginning to shape up and barring any mishaps; a record for Allison seemed on the cards.

Hayward and recovered from his bad patch and was now running in an untroubled fashion and started closing in on Allison. It was on the winding Alverstone Hill that Reg Allison began to pay for his early excesses and Hayward began to close. On the Railway Bridge at Botha’s Hill, 24 miles from Durban, Hayward finally wrested the lead from Allison. As he passed the tiring youngster, he remembered Allison’s French antecedents; he shook Reg’s hand and said a cheery “Bounjour”. For a while they ran step for step, but it was clearly evident that Allison did not have the measure of the man and as they parted company he said to Hayward, “Wally, the French for goodbye is au revoir”. Hayward laughed, the two men shook hands and the Transvaaler drew away.

By the time Hayward ran into Pinetown, he was 5 mins ahead of Coleman’s time in 1939, and by the time he reached 45th Cutting, the record looked like it would be shattered.

Three thousand spectators at the Track Ground rose to cheer the strong-limbed, big-chested Transvaaler as he loped round the last circuit with his long strides to breast the tape 7mins 57secs ahead of Coleman’s record.

Age and experience seemed to have its say in the 50’s for of the first eight to finish on that day, only one, Reg Allison was under the age of 30. This seems to be a changing phenomena that continues into the modern day’s race. If one looks back into the 30’s this was certainly not the case. The winners of that age were youngsters by comparison, Dale at 20, Hayward himself at 21, Masterson-Smith at 19, Savage at 22 and Ballington at 20.

At the end of the race in the dressing room Hayward revealed that he was suffering so much from cramps that he had considered throwing in the towel. Another thing he did say in that dressing room raised several disbelieving eyebrows on that day. “ I believe it is possible to run the down race in under six hours”.

In 1952 Hayward was selected to represent South Africa in the Helsinki Games and was not a contender. However in 1953 Hayward was back. He said it in the dressing room two years previously and Arthur Newton said it, down in less than six. Could a runner achieve the impossible, the day’s events and the Old Road would provide that answer.     

The politics of the day was changing in South Africa since the National Party was elected to government. Empire Day, the traditional day of the race was no more. And so it was, on that clear Maritzburg morning, this time in the wintry dark July of the Queen’s Birthday, that the field set off on their annual trek to the coast. Certain traditions were being forged during this time, and although he did not run, the ubiquitous Max Trimbourne rushed to be at the start. He nearly didn’t make it. But on the stroke of Six, Max appeared “Don’t worry boys, I’m here: just made it”. He then gave his traditional raucous cockcrow and watched the small crowd of runners disappear in the dark of Commercial Road.

Two past winners, Trevor Allen and Allen Boyce were in the field that day. Another fine athlete who had the credentials to push the pace up front on that day was Syd Luyt, the 27-year-old Springbok marathon runner. Luyt had run himself into sixth place at the London Olympic games behind Coleman, a previous Comrades winner, who was placed fourth in London.

The credentials of those who would push Hayward were good indeed. Hayward took the lead in the early stages and was determined to push the pace for all he was worth. A punishing pace over Harrison Flats, a faultless ascent of Inchanga and the run down into Drummond was just not good enough. By the time Wally ran into Drummond, the crowds were large and they cheered him along mightily. But it was just not good enough. He was about 3 minutes behind Allison’s 1949 time. Looking at the statistics, using the trusty slide-rule and doing all the calculations, six hours looked a long way off at this point.

Luyt was beginning to look good, and started to close in on Hayward. By the time the leaders got to Hillcrest, it was Syd Luyt that looked like breaking six and not Hayward.

The dual between these two certainly increased the tempo but by the time the runners reached Pinetown, Hayward had domination and was drawing away quite effortlessly. At Pinetown Hayward was seven minutes ahead of his 1951 time and a full 12 minutes ahead of Coleman’s 1939 time.

The crowd in Durban was excited; it looked like the six-hour barrier may be broken after all. Hayward reached the Westville Post Office at 11h02. Never before in the history of the race had this been achieved. Fate, the gods and of course a road that even today is under perennial construction could be the thing that would finally rob Hayward of his chance. The finish was moved to Hoy Park a mile further than the Track Ground. This could be the undoing of a dream. But.. no as Wally Hayward dashed down the Old Fort Road, the Post Office clock was still eight minutes short of the hour. Wally looked up, saw this and he knew he had done the one thing that the Greatheart said was possible, he was the one who came home in under six. How great an achievement this was on the day will be the debate for many years, Wally did this a week after his Forty-fifth birthday when most are retiring, and looking for more sedentary pursuits.

As modest as ever Hayward, who clipped 21 min 38 sec off his own “Down” record, said afterwards : “It was my best run ever, and I’m only sorry that I had to clash with, and perhaps take a little off the edge off, the performance of Syd Luyt. It has taken someone 32 years to beat 6 hours in a race, and here Luyt comes and misses the mark by 5 minutes on his first attempt. - His performance suggests that my record will not stand for long”.

So the official time then Hayward 5 hr. 52min 30 sec. and Syd Luyt 6 hr. 5 mins 8 sec.

When asked what does he eat to sustain such performance, Hayward replied “Honey - I firmly believe in it. I put it on my porridge and on bread and on anything I can”.

Wally Hayward was not finished with the Comrades Marathon yet. When he made his New Year resolutions at midnight and the year 1954 dawned, he had two things on his mind. Can he achieve five wins and enter the immortal Hall Of Fame of the Comrades along with Newton and Ballington. Hayward new he had the ability to do that, and could he break the “Up” record, and so become the first man since Newton thirty years before to hold both the “Up” and the “Down” record.

Wally made his resolutions, and the race secretary duly received the envelope post marked Germiston. Resolutions, having been made, as far as Hayward was concerned, could not be broken.

Being the strong hill climber he is, Wally took the lead on Fields Hill and never looked back. To a tumultuous welcome in Pietermaritzburg, Wally charged home to his fifth fine victory and knocked off a full 19 minutes of Ballinton’s 16 year old record.

1954 was to be a great year for the 46-year-old athlete. He won the Founders Trophy for being the oldest competitor in the race, His win makes him the oldest winner in the race’s history. This fine win crowned a great year for him in which he had also lowered the world 50 and 100-mile records.        

When Hayward drove home to is home in Germiston with his family on that night, he had no inkling that in the prime of his illustrious running career, that he had run his last Comrades. The storm clouds of officialdom were gathering and they were as relentless as the man’s pace. Wally had innocently committed a minor infringement while running and training in London. The authorities were adamant, Hayward was declared a professional, and despite the many appeals by Hayward and by many others on his behalf, the decision stood. Hayward was to be persona-non-grata and was thus barred from running in amateur events.

But for this cruel twist of fate Hayward would have, no doubt, achieved even greater deeds in this race. As it was he ran the race five times over a space of 24 years and won each time, the only unbeaten multiple winner.

Looking back it would seem that Hayward, in spite of the fine feats of Newton or Ballington, was indeed the greatest Comrades Marathon runner of them all.

Wally Hayward was an inspiration to the race, and in 1955, the year after his departure, the organisers saw the numbers of entrants increase twofold. In recent times, this phenomena, a personality who was exceptional in his performance as an athlete has also been the catalyst for the race’s well being and growth. As much as the Comrades Marathon is above any one individual, it had to be recognised that in some exceptional cases, as in Wally Hayward’s, the race owed the individual a debt of thanks.

With Hayward out of distance running, the mantel of favourite in 1955, fell on the shoulders of Trevor Allen. Allen had won the race in 1952, had recently finished in third position in the South African Marathon Championships and he was in peak condition. Allen would have some stiff competition in the form of Gerald Walsh and Mercer Davies and the lanky Frans Mare a 21-year-old mining assayer from Germiston.

Bill Savage, now greying at the age of 45 and the winner of the 1932 and 1945 race, took an early lead. This he gamely held onto until Cato Ridge, when Gerald Walsh closed in and eased himself into first position. By the time he reached the top of Inchanga, the order was Walsh in the lead, followed by Allen then Davies and a struggling Savage in fourth position.

At Drummond, the order was unchanged. Mare was lying seventh running along with a distinctive long loping stride. By the time the leaders reached Pinetown, Walsh had seven minutes on Allen. Mare was beginning to move up and had made up three positions in the last three kilometres.

In the end there was no catching a flying Walsh. After holding the lead for 58 kilometres the 37 year old clerk from Durban breasted the tape at the Track Ground an easy winner in 6 hours 6 mins. At the end of the race, a fresh looking Walsh paid tribute to his 'second', Allen Boyce, winner of the 1940 race.  'He coached me all the way, and he told me when to make the break'. Boyce gave him his drinks along the way, the famous 'corpse reviver' used by Arthur Newton. It was a concoction of lemonade with a pinch each of sugar and salt.

The youthful Mare finished second, while Allen put in a plucky final burst to catch Dodds just outside the Track Ground and beat him home by 1min 02 sec.

In 1956 it was a spectator that drew most of the attention, not a runner. It was none other than Arthur “Greatheart” Newton himself. He had been invited by the Comrades Marathon Club of South Africa. The race that year was named after him. It was also fitting that Vic Clapham, the founder of the race in 1921 was to accompany him on the road.  Clapham, who had not seen a Comrades since 1938, had recently retired and returned to Pietermaritzburg.

It was almost from the gun that Mercer Davies wished to stamp his authority on the 1956 'Up' race. He set out at a blistering pace and by the time he reached Pinetown he was 5 min 59 sec ahead of the leader at that point in 1954 when Hayward beat the 'Up' record. The pace was fast on that day, perhaps too hot, and could prove to be Davies' undoing. Undaughnted, Mercer Davies forged ahead, determined to put as much day light between himself and his rivals. He strode over Fields Hill and headed for Drummond at break neck speed.

Drummond, the half way mark was reached in 3hr02min 20 sec. Davies was 9 mins 21 sec faster than the previous record to this point, the pundits took note. Gerald Walsh was 5 mins behind and also passed Drummond in record time.

The pace slowed noticeably after the monstrous Inchanga Bank, and the impressive lead built up by Davies was slowly but surely being whittled down by a persistent Walsh. The day was turning oppressively hot. Slowly but surely Walsh closed in on his rival and by the time the leader reached Umlaas Road, the highest point of the race, Walsh had a tired Davies in his sights.

On the long downhill from Umlaas Road to Tumble Inn, Walsh caught the tall Johannesburg runner and went into the lead. A fatigued Davies stopped and asked for a brandy to ease a stomach cramp.

Walsh had judged his race nicely. He entered the Maritzburg Showgrounds nearly 40 minutes ahead of the runner-up to record his second win in succession. But for the stifling heat, Walsh could have come close to Hayward's record. Said Walsh after the race, 'When Davies was eight minutes ahead of me I thought I had no chance of winning the race unless he cracked. He did crack, but far more dramatically than I expected.

The man in question, Davies, was soon overhauled by Boyce. He was reduced to walking frequently, and in the end had to content himself with third place. Boyce, who had been in 40th position in the early stages of the race, and 29 minutes behind Davies at Drummond, finished as freshly as ever finished as runner-up for the fourth time.

Arthur Newton, who mingled with friends old and new at the Showgrounds, commented after the race: "Conditions were too hot for a record. Davies went too fast in the early stages of the race. If he had started slower, he would have done much better"

Some of the races in the 1950’s produced close and exciting tussles. In 1952 Wally Hayward was out of the race representing South Africa at the Helsinki Games. Standing in the crowd at the start was a 38-year-old insurance agent from Maritzburg, Don Spencer. In the previous year, Spencer had finished 22nd out of 25 in a relatively pedestrian time of 10h09m04. Little did any of the competitors or the crowd suspect that this man would provide more than a little entertainment.

Also under the start banner in Durban that July morning of the Queen’s Birthday was Trevor Allen, a 34-year-old traffic policeman from Durban.

From the start this was to be a closely contested race, and by the time the leader, Rufus, reached 45th Cutting, only 70 metres separated the first eight runners. By the time the runners reached Huntly’s Hill, Spencer took the lead. Foolhardy? the pundits thought so. Allen was lying in 12th position at this point and Allen Boyce, the 1940 winner was labouring in 19th position nearly 5 minutes behind Spencer.

Cowies came and went, Spencer increased the lead. Fields Hill, and with bouncing gait Don Spencer sped on. Smugly now the pundits were laying bets where the “big blow” would take place. Would it come at Botha’s? No, Don Spencer was going well and Trevor Allen had now closed in and was lying 2nd.

Still running freely, Spencer ran through Drummond 16 minutes slower than the record for the leg. On his previous performance, this should have been the end of the man. At that point only four minutes separated the first four men. An exciting race was certainly on the cards. The wild card was the man out in front, Don Spencer.

The notorious Inchanga Bank loomed, Spencer was in fine fettle, and Allen decided to close in. By the time Harrison Flats was reached, Allen was beginning to show his pedigree, and it looked like Don Spencer would pay for his earlier excesses. Allen, by far the best trained, closed in on his quarry, and by the time the runners reached Camperdown, only 32 seconds separated first and second. It happened on a steep, but un-named hill between Camperdown and Umlaas road, Allen finally took the lead from the man who lead the way for the last 40 miles. Spencer looked beaten, but somewhere he dug deep, fell in step and on the downhill stretch to Umlaas Road, Don took the lead again. Stride for stride, step for step, this could be any one’s race. Allen took the lead again. Meanwhile the third placed Gerald Walsh, was beginning to look good. With less than 12 miles to go, this could be anybody’s race.

It was Polly Shorts, as it always is, that sorted out the runners. Allen pulled away, and by the time he got to the top, he was a full 3 minutes ahead of his rival. Powerfully he strode on to complete the last four miles, and to beat Don Spencer by 6 minutes. Second placed Spencer was still completing his circuit of Alexander Park when Gerald Walsh trotted on the track to take third place.

Spencer, who covered 1600 miles in training, ran the full distance from Durban to Martizburg four times in the final month in preparation for the race. After travelling to Durban by coach, he changed into his running togs in the Central Railway Station, posted his clothes back to himself in Maritzburg, and began running for home more than 50 miles away. A wily runner, he had the soles of his canvass shoes built up to offset the camber of the road.

Commenting on the race, Spencer said “There was a lot of uphill and nobody can hold Allen on that. I just had to beat Gerald (Walsh) because the third prize was a cuckoo clock featuring the Harry Lime theme. Imagine hearing the combination of that theme and cuckoos, twice every hour for the rest of your life!”

A number of years later, in 1957, one of the players of the ‘52 drama, Gerald Walsh, now with living room wall adorned with cockoo clock, provided another exciting race when he battled it out with 32-year-old Mercer Davies.

Walsh had much to gain, he was hoping to score a hat trick of wins, the first since Newton’s day. In 1955 he won his first Comrades in 6hr. 06mins and again in 1956 he ran home in 6hr 33mins. Clearly he was the favourite for the “Down” run. However Mecer Davies, a marathon runner who represented South Africa at the Melbourne Olympic Games was an entrant. The 32 year-old had served his Comrades apprenticeship, and he felt his time had come, and a score to settle.

Almost from the gun Walsh went out in front with very clear intentions on a hat-trick win. Davies stayed in close attendance. Light was breaking over the hills when Walsh crested Polly Shorts at 6h32a.m. with Davies 150 yards behind. At Camperdown, Walsh, still running at a fast pace was 15 seconds ahead of the tall Springbok. The leaders at this point were over a minute faster than Hayward in 1953.

Stride for stride the two ran, many times together along Harrison Flats and on to Inchanga. The punishing Bank, always a searching test held no terrors for these two to-day and by the time they ran into Drummond, only 10 seconds separated the two of them, with Walsh out in front by little more than a hair breadth.

At Botha’s Davies made a move to get in front, and by the time they got to Hillcrest only five seconds separated Davies and Walsh. This time with Davies in front. From Hillcrest, with 22 miles to go, one of the most exciting duels in the long history of the Comrades was intensified as Davies and Walsh fought it out, stride for stride and shoulder to shoulder. Occasionally the lead would change, but never for long, each watching the other, each testing each other’s strength, each praying for the other to falter, just a little.

It happened along the long, shaded stretch in Pinetown, that Davies pulled away. By the time the climb up Cowies was reached, he had a commanding lead. Walsh simply could not hold the swiftly moving Springbok. Any hope of a Masterson-Smith, Burree dual quickly faded. Walsh was robbed of his hat trick, but the crowd warmed to Davies, whom they felt had served his apprenticeship and deserved to win.

In 1958 Walsh was a non-starter, Davies, now the defending champion, was not in peak condition. The firm favourite for the Up was Jackie Mekler. Now 26, the printer's representative from Johannesburg had the pedigree. He wore the Springbok blazer and had represented South Africa on a number of occasions. He concentrated his running effort on the standard marathon, and in 1954 was second in the Vancouver Empire Games.

In the earlier stages of the race, it seemed that Mercer Davies was up to the task and by the time the runners reached Cowies Hill, the leader-board showed Davies ahead of Mekler. On the punishing turns of Fields Hill, Mekler drew level with Davies and soon thereafter drew slightly ahead.

Clearly, Davies was not up to it, and soon the cracks in his campaign began to show. Davies, dripping with sweat, was forced to a walk at times, and on the testing sections after Drummond, he finally withdrew. Meanwhile, a rampant Mekler was piling on the pressure and by the time he reached Camperdown, he was eight kilometres ahead of his nearest rival.

Out in front Mekler ran unchallenged to the finish. He was an easy winner in 6-hr 26 min. This was the second fastest winning time for the up run. He said afterwards; 'Today's win realised an ambition for me, The Comrades Marathon is the one race in the country that I have always wanted to win" Mekler was cast in the mould of a great, tough, self effacing yet with a steely competitive edge. He served an apprenticeship well under Wally Hayward. He was ready to make his indelible mark on the race.

The last race of the 50's held exciting possibilities, three past winners lined up and each had ambitions on the coveted title. Trevor Allen, the 42-year-old traffic policeman from Durban was fully recovered from injury, Gerald Walsh was fit and was eager for a third win, as was Jacky Mekler, the new defender of the title. For the first time in its history, the race hosted over 100 athletes.

It was Walsh who took an early lead, but he was soon overhauled by a 29-year-old novice from Rhodesia, Trevor Heynes. Heynes seemed determined, and was the first to run through a halfway checkpoint in almost record time. Bravely the novice held onto the position until he reached Pinetown. His Comrades ambitions, all but spent, Walsh closed and took the lead. A little further back, Allen now running strongly gave notice of his intentions and closed in on Walsh, Mekler followed closely.

The 1959 race was beginning to take shape, Walsh and Allen, the old rivals battling it out for supremacy on the back end of Cowies Hill. Walsh passed through Westville with an 800-metre lead on Allen. With only eight kilometres to go, Allen began to close the gap, and Mekler moved into contention. Only four minutes separated the three past winners as they crossed the Durban boundary.

The gradual incline at TollGate proved a searing teat for Walsh, he was found wanting, and Allen moved into the lead. Allen moved quickly to stamp his authority on the race and by the time he reached the finish line at Kings Park, he was over five minutes in the lead.

Third placed Mekler said that he was not satisfied with his run, "I could not fight off the determined running of Allen and Walsh".

Of all the stories that come out of the ‘50’s era, the prize for “Vasbyt” must go to 69-year-old Edgar Marie. He refused to give up and came home in that Arthur Newton Comrades in the time of 13 hours. Running in the dark up Polly’s Marie stumbled along by torchlight, as one of the St. Johns Ambulance attendants and one of Edgar’s own seconds took it in terns to hold a torch while he made his lonely way to the stadium. The crowd who had stayed for an evening braai gave him generous applause as he made the final circuit, and crossed the line. “Sorry I’m late”, declared Mare at the end, “but I did all my training in the Free State, where it is flat. Your hills held me back a bit today”.

By the end of the decade the race was beginning to show a lot of promise. For the first time since its inception, the race hosted more than 100 runners in 1959. Was this because of better media cover, was it because of a charismatic runner such as Hayward, was running coming of age, who could really tell. A race over 54 miles on such punishing terrain. With a field such as this, who knows, this may well be the greatest ultra distance in the world.

There is a sad post script to the closing of the 50's decade. After suffering a stroke at his Ruislip home, near London, Greatheart Arthur Newton died on 7th September 1959. He was 76 years of age. During his running career, which started when he was 39, he ran over 200 000 kilometres, more than five times around the earth. Over and above his prowess as a superathlete and pioneer in the ultra distance field, he will always be remembered for his great sense of sportsmanship, his gentle, retiring nature, and the self-sacrificial manner in which he went out of his way to assist other runners, including those attempting to better his own records.