1956 - 1959

2nd screen

1956 Up (31st Race)
Date Thursday, 31 May
Weather Mild at start with stifling heat around midday.
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Royal Agricultural Show Ground
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 55 M
Entries 98
Starters 88
Finishers – Total 55
Men 55
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 49
% Finishers / Starters 62.5

THE MENS RACE

The most famous person present at the start of the race was not even running. He was the great, 5-time winner, Arthur Newton. He was invited to South Africa as Guest-of-Honour for the race. He was joined on the road by Vic Clapham, the founder of the race in 1921, who remained the Race Organiser, until his retirement, in 1938.

First to emerge from the bunch as the runners exited Durban was Mercer Davies, followed by defending champion, Gerald Walsh, Carl Pace, Trevor Allen and Len Wootton. There was no change in the order at the Westville Post Office, except Davies had built up a lead of around 250 yards.

Davies piled on the pace over Cowie’s Hill, striding down into Pinetown (1h 22m 37s) more than 600 yards ahead of Walsh and Pace (1h 25m 20s), Allen (1h 26m 15s), Mannie McMaster (1h 26m 17s), Wootton (1h 26m 20s), Bill Savage (1h 30m 14s) and Nick Raubenheimer (1h 32m 32s). Former winner, Allen Boyce went through in a group some way behind.  

There was no change in the order on the long pull up Field’s Hill but on the fairly level section from Kloof to Hillcrest, the gap between the leaders widened. Davies was timed through the village in 2h 16m 45s. Walsh passed by in 2h 21m 15s with Allen and Pace (2h 23m 45s) next.

Davies maintained his pace and, although not striding as freely as he was earlier, reached Drummond in 3h 2m 20s. Walsh (3h 7m 52s) was next through. Then came Allen (3h 15m 56s), McMaster (3h 16m 7s), Pace (3h 29m 3s) and Boyce (3h 31m 17s).

Davies increased his lead up the punishing Inchanga but, with the big hill behind the leaders, the pace slackened noticeably as they went across the relatively easy section to Cato Ridge. Davies reached the village in 4h 32m 10s, but on the run over to Camperdown, he showed signs of tiring and surrendered some of his lead to Walsh who was running effortlessly at that stage.

Davies’ fatigue became more evident after Cato Ridge and Walsh caught, and passed, him on the long downhill after Umlaas Road and, as he approached the Tumble Inn Tea Room, he had already established a lead of 2 minutes. It was evident that Walsh would win, but interest now focused on the battle for second place. After his early fast pace, Davies, at that point, was a spent force, reduced to walking for long spells while Boyce, as he usually did, was making great strides in the closing stages. The race distance was increased by about a mile because the finish was switched to Royal Agricultural Show Ground, the venue of Arthur Newton’s first victory and, as Walsh strode into the famous ground, he was welcomed across the line by the great man. Walsh ran the final few miles so strongly that nearly 38 minutes elapsed before the second runner appeared. Davies fought valiantly to hang onto second position but the fast-finishing Boyce passed him in front of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

RESULT

1st Gerald Walsh South Africa

6h 33m 35s

2nd Allen Boyce South Africa 7h 12m 08s
3rd Mercer Davies South Africa 7h 14m 10s
4th Trevor Allen South Africa 7h 38m 00s
5th Nick Raubenheimer South Africa 7h 44m 06s
6th Bill Savage South Africa 7h 51m 50s
7th Allan Gillespie South Africa 7h 57m 53s
8th Gerald Davis South Africa 8h 11m 00s
9th S. Bezuidenhout South Africa 8h 13m 56s
10th Liege Boulle South Africa 8h 18m 25s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Liege Boulle (47) South Africa 8h 18m 25s
2nd Rue Rachailov (40) South Africa 8h 43m 21s
3rd Herman Delvin (42) South Africa 9h 07m 04s
1957 Down (32nd Race)
Date Friday, 31 May
Weather Cool. Overcast in places.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Kings Park
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries 87
Starters 81
Finishers – Total 62
Men 62
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 56
% Finishers / Starters 76.5

THE MENS RACE

When the field set off in the dark from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, the favourites were Gerald Walsh, seeking the first hat trick since Arthur Newton in 1925, Mercer Davies who placed 3rd the previous year, and Frans Mare who finished 2nd in 1955.

Light was breaking over the eastern hills when Walsh crested Polly Shortt’s in 32 minutes, with Davies 150 yards behind. In a group, 400 yards further back was Mannie McMaster, Len Bernon, Andy Greening, Arthur Reeve and Herman Delvin. Mare was running easily in 14th position but was already 7 minutes off the lead.

Across the valley to Camperdown, lay the punishing 4-mile climb from Tumble Inn to Umlaas Road. Walsh was first through the Camperdown checkpoint in 1h 35m. Davies was only 15 seconds behind. McMaster was still lying 3rd but had fallen more than 4 minutes behind the leader.

Walsh hung determinedly onto his slender lead, with never more than 60 yards separating himself from Davies, as the pair rattled off the miles through Cato Ridge, Harrison Flats and Inchanga, and down to halfway at Drummond. They cruised through the checkpoint together in 2h 54m 40s. McMaster (3h 2m 24s) and Mare (3h 6m 40) were the next two through.

The cat and mouse battle continued over the 7-mile section to Hillcrest. Davies twice wrested the lead and held it through Hillcrest, reaching there in 3h 42m 8s, just 2 yards in front of Walsh. Over the next 22 miles, one of the most thrilling duels in Comrades Marathon history was acted out. The lead would change frequently but the two combatants fought it out side-by-side, or shoulder-to-shoulder, with never more than a yard or two between them. They ran into Pinetown together in 4h 32m 50s, but along the Old Main Road through Pinetown, Davies began drawing away from Walsh. He widened the gap as he went over Cowie’s Hill and by Westville, his lead was 500 yards.

The ding-dong battle that had raged for 44 miles, evaporated as Davies approached Durban. Walsh could not match the pace set by Davies who climbed the hill to 45th Cutting with comparative ease, before coasting down Berea Road to the new arena in Kings Park. He finished a comfortable 13 minutes in front of Walsh, who beat Mare to the finish by a further 20 minutes.    

RESULT

1st Mercer Davies South Africa

6h 13m 55s

2nd Gerald Walsh South Africa 6h 26m 33s
3rd Frans Mare South Africa 6h 46m 15s
4th Mannie McMaster South Africa 6h 51m 00s
4th Nick Raubenheimer South Africa 6h 55m 07s
6th Dennis McInerney South Africa 6h 57m 45s
7th Brian Walsh South Africa 7h 09m 27s
8th Binks Wellbeloved South Africa 7h 21m 38s
9th Trig Wang South Africa 7h 24m 20s
10th Eddie Gore South Africa 7h 29m 30s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Gerald Walsh (40) South Africa

6h 26m 33s

2nd Herman Delvin (44) South Africa 8h 16m 20s
3rd Tossie Maynes (42) South Africa 8h 22m 33s
1958 Up (33rd Race)
Date Saturday, 31 May
Weather Oppressive heat and gusting winds most of the day.
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Collegians’ Club Oval
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries 67
Starters 60
Finishers – Total 34
Men 34
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 28
% Finishers / Starters 56.7

THE MENS RACE

With Trevor Allen and defending champion, Mercer Davies, both below peak fitness, and Gerald Walsh absent, the outright favourite was 1954 Empire Games Silver Medallist, Jackie Mekler. 

When first light streaked the sky, Davies led the runners through Mayville. He was still in the lead at 45th Cutting, with Mekler, Nick Raubenheimer and Mannie McMaster hard on his heels. As the runners entered Westville, Mekler and Raubenheimer were 10 yards ahead of Davies but on the stiff pull up Cowie’s Hill, Davies caught, and passed, the leading pair and led them through Pinetown in 1h 29m 42s. Mekler was next in 1h 29m 57s, followed by McMaster and Raubenheimer in 1h 31m 57s.

On the punishing Field’s Hill, Mekler drew level with Davies, and they ran through Kloof, at the top of the hill, together. As Davies tired, and fell away, Mekler went ahead, reaching Hillcrest in 2h 25m. Davies followed 34 seconds later. Next to pass was McMaster (2h 33m) and Raubenheimer (2h 35m).   

Over the undulating stretch to Drummond, Mekler built an unassailable lead, reaching there in 3h 12m 22s. Although he was tiring rapidly, Davies was next to arrive in 3h 20m 26s. Following the lead pair, came McMaster (3h 26m 5s), Raubenheimer (3h 30m 19s) and moving through the field to within striking distance were Frikkie Steyn (3h 32m 34s), Andy Greening (3h 38m 9s) and Dennis McInerney (3h 39m 50s).

Inchanga witnessed the end of Davies’ challenge. He was forced to walk long stretches before, ultimately, retiring. Mekler never let up, however, and when he reached Camperdown, he had a lead of 5 miles over 2nd man, McMaster who, together with Steyn, Raubenheimer and Greening were making sporadic surges for the top places.

On the run across to Umlaas Road, both Raubenheimer and McMaster looked set to fight out the Silver and Bronze Medals. It was, however, the surprise man of the day, Greening, who emerged from the chasing pack as Umlaas Road drifted behind them.

Working his way through the field from lying 10th at Pinetown and 6th at Drummond, Greening found himself in 2nd place. Mekler ran unchallenged through the suburbs of Pietermaritzburg and completed the final lap of the Collegians’ Club Oval for a maiden victory. His time was 6h 26m 26s; well ahead of Greening and Raubenheimer.

RESULT

1st Jackie Mekler South Africa

6h 26m 26s

2nd Andy Greening South Africa 7h 11m 49s
3rd Nick Raubenheimer South Africa 7h 23m 40s
4th Dennis McInerney South Africa 7h  25m 04s
5th Mannie McMaster South Africa 7h 31m 43s
6th Denis Stephenson New Zealand 7h 36m 08s
7th Fritz Madel South Africa 7h 44m 19s
8th Trevor Allen South Africa 7h 49m 08s
9th Eddie Gore South Africa 8h 07m 07s
10th Japie Strydom South Africa 8h 11m 03s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Trig Wang (40) South Africa

8h 14m 21s

2nd Liege Boulle (49) South Africa 9h 06m 49s
3rd Fraser (47) South Africa 9h 10m 57s
1959 Down (34th Race)
Date Monday, 1 June
Weather Fine. Scattered cloud in places.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue King’s Park
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries 106
Starters 103
Finishers – Total 70
Men 70
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 64
% Finishers / Starters 68.0

THE MENS RACE

With three past winners entered, the race promised to be a cracker. Any one of Jackie Mekler (1958), Trevor Allen (1952) or Gerald Walsh (1955 and 1956) were capable of taking line honours. There were also a number of consistent performers who could be relied on to make the pace uncomfortably hot at the front.

As was his custom, Walsh went straight into the lead with Trevor Haynes, Mekler, Nick Raubenheimer and Trevor Allen in close order. Haynes went to the front immediately after passing Tumble Inn and had built a reasonable lead at the Camperdown checkpoint where he clocked 1h 33m 53s. Walsh went through in 1h 35m 27s and then, at 1h 42m, was a group consisting of Mekler, Allen, Raubenheimer, Fritz Madel and Tommy Gore.

Haynes pressed on and at the top of Inchanga, was a mile ahead of Walsh. The steep climb up the hill shuffled the chasing bunch with Allen and Mekler moving ahead of the others. The leading times at halfway were Haynes (2h 50m 16s), Walsh (2h 54m 34s), Allen (3h 0m 56s), Mekler (3h 1m 23s), Madel (3h 1m 37) and Raubenheimer (3h 2m 57s). Over the 7-mile run to Hillcrest, the order remained unchanged. Haynes was first through the village in 3h 40m 54s. He held the lead until Kloof but tired rapidly on the run down Field’s Hill. Walsh was also slowing but he gradually overhauled Haynes on entering Pinetown. Haynes stopped for a rest in Pinetown allowing Allen to move into 2nd position.

Walsh clocked 4h 42m at the checkpoint with both Allen (4h 43m) and Mekler (4h 46m) in pursuit. On the climb up Cowie’s Hill, the battle for the lead developed into a classic with two old rivals, Allen and Walsh, racing each other as they had done for the past 7 years. At Westville, Walsh led by 500 yards, but he was showing signs of fatigue. Allen, however, was pushing hard and when they crossed the Durban boundary, he had reduced the deficit to 300 yards. Mekler was not out of the picture either. With 5 miles to the finish, the three former winners were separated by just 4 minutes.

Allen was closing in all the while and, finally, on the climb up to Tollgate, he went past a very tired Walsh and coasted down Berea Road to Hoy Park for a well-deserved second victory.

Wally Hayward and Trevor Allen were, without doubt, the two outstanding performers of the decade.

RESULT

1st Trevor Allen South Africa

6h 28m 11s

2nd Gerald Walsh South Africa 6h 33m 33s
3rd Jackie Mekler South Africa 6h 35m 52s
4th Fritz Madel South Africa 6h 44m 13s
5th Dennis McInerney South Africa 6h 48m 14s
6th Trevor Haynes Rhodesia 6h 49m 22s
7th Nick Raubenheimer South Africa 6h 52m 37s
8th Andy Greening South Africa 7h 05m 43s
9th Japie Strydom South Africa 7h 19m 34s
10th Len Bernon South Africa 7h 25m 33s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Gerald Walsh (42) South Africa

6h 33m 33s

2nd Green (45) South Africa 7h 32m 55s
3rd Trig Wang (41) South Africa 7h 39m 12s