1966 - 1969

2nd screen

1966 Up (41st Race)
Date Tuesday, 31 May
Weather Cool at start. Chilly wind in vicinity of Botha’s Hill. Sunny and warm after Inchanga.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 7/28
DBN 13/24
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Collegians’ Club Oval
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries 404
Starters 365
Finishers – Total 261
Men 261
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 255
% Finishers / Starters 71.5


With Jackie Mekler in retirement, it appeared to be the most open Comrades for many years. That did not detract from the pre-race excitement. There were a number of top performers capable of annexing Mekler’s crown. Manie Kuhn, based on recent performances, appeared to have more supporters than the others.

First across the Durban boundary, at Suzor’s Bend, was Fritz Madel with a short lead over Kuhn and Phil Hargreaves. Kicking at their heels was a big group with the major contenders, as well as a few unknown factors, all running together; Tommy Malone, Eric Rencken, Frikkie Steyn, Arnold Harborth, Dave Box, Ted Craig and Gerald Walsh who was making a return after 6 years away from the race.

Madel, Kuhn and Hargreaves arrived together at Westville in 59 minutes. Rencken was 4th with Malone and Steyn running together in joint 5th position. Passing through Pinetown in 1h 25m 40s the lead quartet comprised Hargreaves, Kuhn, Craig and Madel. Two hundred yards behind the leaders was another group of top performers; Rencken, Box, Steyn and Malone (1h 26m 22s).

The climb up Field’s Hill saw Madel and Craig fall back, while Rencken joined Kuhn and Hargreaves at the crest, which they reached in 1h 46m. With such a tightly compressed field, positions change rapidly and the position, as the field swept through Hillcrest, was Kuhn (2h 21m 59s), Malone (2h 22m 49s), Box (2h 22m 50s), Hargreaves (2h 22m 51s) and Madel and Craig (2h 23m 1s).

On the stretch to the halfway point, more major changes continued as a chilly wind swept across the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Kuhn ran into Drummond, clocking 3h 8m 54s, with Steyn (3h 10m 10s), Hargreaves (3h 10m 40s), Box (3h 10m 41s), Malone (3h 10m 42s) and Madel (3h 11m 57s).  

Kuhn and Steyn found the going tough up Inchanga, while Malone climbed it with ease. He overhauled Steyn along Harrison Flats and gradually closed the gap on the tiring Kuhn. Setting out after the fading race leader, Malone finally went to the front as he ran into Camperdown. Reaching Umlaas Road in 4h 51m, he was followed by Kuhn (4h 55m 30s), Steyn (5h 1m) and Madel (5h 5m).

With the heavy climbing behind him, with the exception of Polly Shortt’s, Malone demonstrated an unstoppable finishing kick. He powered his way up the massive hill and ran untroubled into the finish at the Collegians’ Club Oval, crossing the line in 6h 14m 7s. Such was his dominance over the final 12 miles, it was another 17 minutes before Kuhn, who hung on gamely, arrived, with Madel appearing a further 2 minutes adrift.


1st Tommy Malone South Africa

6h 14m 07s

2nd Manie Kuhn South Africa 6h 31m 46s
3rd Fritz Madel South Africa 6h 33m 45s
4th Charlie Chase South Africa 6h 36m 05s
5th Phil Hargreaves South Africa 6h 40m 55s
6th Frikkie Steyn South Africa 6h 44m 28s
7th Dave Box South Africa 6h 45m 12s
8th Dennis Gent South Africa 6h 48m 08s
9th Eddie Pritchard South Africa 6h 57m 09s
10th Roland Davey South Africa 6h 57m 25s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Eddie Pritchard 47) South Africa 6h 57m 09s
2nd Eddie Gore (47) South Africa 7h 18m 10s
3rd Vorster (40) South Africa 7h 39m 15s

MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Liege Boulle (57) South Africa

8h 44m 20s

2nd Archie Grant (52) South Africa 9h 34m 57s
3rd Mickey Doo (57) South Africa 9h 40m 04s
1967 Down (42nd Race)
Date Wednesday, 31 May
Weather Cloudy and mild.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 11/23
DBN 10/25
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Royal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries 600
Starters 542
Finishers – Total 417
Men 417
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 411
% Finishers / Starters 76.9


“Malone or Kuhn.”

That was what the knowledgeable marathon people were saying. Tommy Malone and Manie Kuhn were 1st and 2nd in 1966, and there were no other big names among the entries. There were, however, a number of other exceptionally talented runners, as there usually is, waiting to stake their claim. There was Dennis Morrison, the cross-country star, and Gordon Baker, the Natal marathon champion. Both were Comrades Marathon novices. It was agreed that Malone and Kuhn should be prudent and keep the pair under close scrutiny along the road.

An ideal day greeted the runners; cloudy and mild. It remained like that the entire day.

Eric Rencken led the field out of his home city as the first streaks of light flickered across the sky. Fifty yards behind, followed a large group that included Baker, Ted Craig, Malone and Gerald Walsh.

The pace-setters began to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the chasers. The first official checkpoint, Cato Ridge, was reached in 2h 5m and, going through together were Craig, Morrison, Baker, Malone, Phil Hargreaves, Tim Blankley and Rencken, with Kuhn poised to strike, at any stage, 50 yards adrift.

Across the gentle hills to Inchanga, Blankley went slightly ahead and led the tightly packed procession down into the Valley of a Thousand Hills. At the Drummond checkpoint, Blankley, Malone, Morrison, Hargreaves, Baker, Craig and Kuhn were all officially recorded with the same time of 2h 51m. Rencken, the early leader began to fade after Cato Ridge and by Drummond was out of the picture.

The hilly section to Botha’s Hill created havoc among the leaders. Morrison and Malone went to the front, opening a commanding lead. Just behind them, Baker and Kuhn also went past Blankley. Hargreaves and Craig found the pace too hot and dropped back on the approaches to Gillitts, by which time Malone had gone to the front; drawing away from the field. 

Malone checked in at Pinetown in 4h 30m with Kuhn following in 4h 32m. Then came Baker (4h 36m), Morrison (4h 41m) and Blankley (4h 42m). Although Kuhn’s easy action was impressive, Malone was also running effortlessly and roadside spectators were saying that the outcome was certain; Kuhn would never catch the leader. Over Cowie’s Hill and through Westville, Kuhn kept a watchful eye on Malone, but by Tollgate he had still not made any incursion into the time difference and still trailed by 2 minutes. It was unlikely that he could close that gap on the easy downhill into the city.

Urged on by his home crowd, Kuhn began to nibble away at Malone’s lead. With little more than a mile remaining, he was very much still in with a chance. The 3000-strong crowd at the finish were told that Malone was just 150 yards from the finish line. To a huge roar from the assembled spectators, he erupted into view; 75 yards from the line.

The next 15 seconds are likely to remain the most dramatic in Comrades Marathon history.

Before an unbelieving crowd, Kuhn turned into the home straight a mere 20 yards behind Malone. Glancing back Malone realised that Kuhn was closing fast and made sprint for the tape, only to bring on a vicious attack of cramp in his right leg, causing him to stumble and fall just 3 yards from the finish line. A gasp went up from the spectators.

Kuhn, drawing on all his remaining reserves flashed across the line as Malone made a desperate attempt to lunge for it, going down again… in vain.

The winning margin was announced as 1 second.

Baker produced a wonderful run for a novice finishing 8m 22s behind the winner.


1st Manie Kuhn South Africa

5h 54m 10s

2nd Tommy Malone South Africa 5h 54m 11s
3rd Gordon Baker South Africa 6h 02m 32s
4th Tim Blankley South Africa 6h 10m 59s
4th Frikkie Steyn South Africa 6h 21m 47s
6th Dennis Morrison South Africa 6h 25m 15s
7th J.M. Potgieter South Africa 6h 25m 17s
8th Eddie Craig South Africa 6h 29m 13s
9th Phil Hargreaves South Africa 6h 32m 23s
10th Roland Davey South Africa 6h 34m 58s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Arnold Harborth (47) South Africa

6h 44m 30s

2nd Eddie Gore (47) South Africa 6h 49m 52s
3rd Eddie Pritchard (48) South Africa 7h 03m 10s

MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Gerald Walsh (50) South Africa

6h 45m 09s

New Best Time Down

2nd Liege Boulle (58) South Africa 8h 01m 14s
3rd Mickey Doo (58) South Africa 8h 34m 17s
1968 Up (43rd Race)
Date Friday, 31 May
Weather Fine and mild, warming to hot by early afternoon.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 5/24
DBN 10/24
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Collegians’ Club Oval
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries 659
Starters 581
Finishers – Total 438
Men 438
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 432
% Finishers / Starters 75.4


It was sure to be an anticlimax after the drama of 1967, even though there were a number of outstanding performers in the field.

England’s best distance-runner had entered. Bernard Gomersall was back, hoping to add an Up victory after his sodden, rain-soaked win in 1965. He had won every major ultra-distance race in Britain in 1967. Manie Kuhn’s entry was in but, when an entry was received from Jackie Mekler, eyebrows were raised. Mekler, with 4 previous wins, was one of the ‘greats’ produced by the race. Not to be overlooked was Gordon Baker, 3rd in 1967,

Tommy Malone, the 1966 winner and 1967 runner-up, by the narrowest of margins, was nursing an injury and did not enter.

Still… with Kuhn, Gomersall, John Tarrant, Mekler and Baker… a titanic battle was expected.

The anticipation was, to some extent, dampened when it was announced that Tarrant could not participate; the result of some minor professional infringement as a teenage boxer 20 years earlier.

First to show after the start was Robin Stamper who, setting a suicidal pace, was way out in front at Mayville. Although he was running effortlessly, those that knew, shook their heads in disbelief. The big guns, Mekler, Gomersall and Baker were clearly holding themselves in check.

Stamper was well ahead as he went over Cowie’s Hill and into Pinetown, going through in 1h 22m with a lead of 6 minutes over a big group that included Mekler, Gomersall, Dennis Morrison, Eric Rencken and Baker. Gomersall was showing signs of strain on the pull up Inchanga, but he hung on.

Passing through Emberton, Stamper was still 5 minutes ahead of Mekler, Gomersall, Morrison and Baker. A few miles further, on the punishing Botha’s Hill, Stamper’s furious pace began to tell on him and he began to crack. At the top of he climb his lead over Baker, Morrison and Mekler, was down to 30 seconds. Shortly thereafter, the three went past Stamper who faded out of contention.

At Drummond, the positions were Baker and Mekler (3h 9m 10s), Morrison (3h 9m 11s), Kuhn (3h 10m 12s) and Gomersall (3h 11m 22s). On the stiff climb up Inchanga, Baker went ahead as Mekler and Morrison showed signs of weakening. On the run over the undulating section to Camperdown, Baker built up a substantial lead but he, too, was starting to take strain. Baker passed the official checkpoint at Camperdown in 4h 26m, followed by Mekler in 4h 29m. Mekler put in a surge at this point and overtook a tiring, Baker as they exited the village.

Kuhn was making up ground and also went past Baker. He was slowly hauling in Mekler, reducing the gap to 50 seconds as Polly Shortt’s loomed. On the big hill, however, Mekler was in a class of his own. He climbed the monster with ease. Kuhn attacked gamely over the final few miles but the gap was too great and he could not prevent Mekler from striding into Pietermaritzburg for a fifth victory.


1st Jackie Mekler South Africa

6h 01m 11s

2nd Manie Kuhn South Africa 6h 03m 54s
3rd Gordon Baker South Africa 6h 11m 33s
4th J.M. Potgieter South Africa 6h 24m 30s
5th Dave Box South Africa 6h 27m 17s
6th Tim Blankley South Africa 6h 31m 26s
7th Bernard Gomersall England 6h 38m 17s
8th Bill Brown South Africa 6h 38m 57s
9th Peter Anderson South Africa 6h 40m 18s
10th Dennis Morrison South Africa 6h 41m 02s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Arnold Harborth (48) South Africa

7h 05m 44s

2nd Charlie Chase (40) South Africa 7h 07m 55s
3rd Frikkie Steyn (40) South Africa 7h 23m 46s

MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st George Claassen (51) South Africa

8h 38m 35s

2nd Liege Boulle (59) South Africa 9h 01m 25s
3rd Mickey Doo (59) South Africa 9h 19m 08s
1969 Down (44th Race)
Date Saturday, 31 May
Weather Cool and mild.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 3/20
DBN 12/24
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Royal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries 795
Starters 703
Finishers – Total 587
Men 587
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 581
% Finishers / Starters 83.5


“Whoever wins will break the record.”

Never before was such a galaxy of superstars assembled on the start line of the Comrades Marathon. That a new Best Time was inevitable, consider these runners who gathered outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

Jackie Mekler – Five-time winner and defending 1968 champion.

Manie Kuhn – Winner in 1967. Consistently brilliant, running his 10th Comrades, which included 3 Runners-Up, a 3rd and a 4th place.

Dave Box – World 100-Mile record holder.

Gordon Baker – 3rd in both 1967 and 1968.

Basil Davis – Winner of the 35-mile Pieter Korkie Marathon.

Oelof Vorster – Winner of the Rhodesian Matapos 33-miler.

Roland Davey – Winner of the Bergville to Ladysmith 35-miler.

Dave Bagshaw – Reigning South African standard marathon gold medallist.

Former winners Hardy Ballington, Bill Cochhrane, Trevor Allen and Allen Boyce all predicted the Mekler would score an unprecedented 6th victory.

When the runners emerged from a cold, dark city, the group leading the ascent up Polly Shortt’s included Mekler, Bagshaw, Baker, Box, Davey, Vorster and the consistent Eric Rencken. At the Mpusheni Bridge, near the old Tumble Inn, Bagshaw led a group of Mekler, Box, Baker, Davey, and Rencken, while 300 yards back were Kuhn and Vorster.

At the first official checkpoint at Camperdown, the group of Bagshaw, Box, Mekler, Rencken, Baker, Davey and Vorster all went through together in 1h 37m, with

Kuhn a minute back, in 1h 38m.

On the relatively level section to the foot of Inchanga, Box, Mekler and Baker held a short lead, with the rest of the bunch only strides behind, but on the climb, Box forced the pace. Bagshaw went with him but Mekler, looking uncomfortable, fell back. The pace was intense and all breaks up front were covered by others within striking distance. Box and Bagshaw went through Drummond in 2h 51m, with Vorster, Baker and Mekler a few strides behind.

The difficult climb out of Drummond was the turning point in the battle for the lead. Box, feeling the effects of the fast pace, was forced to let Bagshaw move ahead at the Botha’s Hill Hotel, 25 miles from the finish.

Racing though Pinetown in 4h 24m, Bagshaw realised that he had the record within his grasp. Box arrived 6 minutes later with a painful leg, but refused to yield. Rencken was through in 3rd place in 4h 31m with Baker (4h 32m) and Mekler and Davey (4h 33m) following.

Over the hills to Durban, it was clear that Bagshaw would not be caught. Mekler and Box tried hard, but Bagshaw was running further away from them a rate of 30 seconds every mile. When he entered the finish, he had built a lead of nearly 12 minutes and, in the process, reduced the Best Time for the Down Run by an impressive five and a half minutes.


1st Dave Bagshaw South Africa

5h 45m 35s

New Best Time Down

2nd Dave Box South Africa 5h 57m 57s
3rd Jackie Mekler South Africa 6h 01m 30s
4th Eric Rencken South Africa 6h 03m 41s
5th Basil Davis South Africa 6h 03m 45s
6th Gordon Baker South Africa 6h 05m 49s
7th Manie Kuhn South Africa 6h 12m 26s
8th Roland Davey South Africa 6h 14m 06s
9th Peter Anderson South Africa 6h 22m 49s
10th Rob Gardner South Africa 6h 27m 11s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Charlie Chase (41) South Africa

6h 32m 19s

2nd Eddie Gore (49) South Africa 6h 58m 52s
3rd Arnold Harborth (49) South Africa 7h 03m 16s

MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Eddie Pritchard (50) South Africa

7h 31m 51s

2nd Crack Everton (50) South Africa 8h 25m 40s
3rd Dick May (53) South Africa 8h 28m 43s