1986 - 1989

2nd screen

1986 Down (61st Race)
Date Saturday, 31 May
Weather Clear and cool at start. Mild to warm later.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 5/30
DBN 15/25
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Kingsmead Stadium
Time Limit 11 Hours
Official Distance 88.771 km

Winner’s Average Speed:

Men 16.434 km/hr (3m 39s /km)
Women 12.834 km/hr (4m 41s /km)
Entries 11451
Starters 10552
Finishers – Total 9653
Men 9221
Women 432
Medals – Gold 11
1202 1202
Bronze 8440
% Finishers / Starters 91.5

THE MENS RACE

In 1985 Bruce Fordyce joined the ranks of the true Comrades Greats… Arthur Newton, Hardy Ballington, Wally Hayward and Jackie Mekler. They had all achieved five victories. Fordyce, however, was already a step ahead of that great quartet. His five victories were successive. Could he add another and venture into an area where no former champion had gone?

Could Fordyce capture number six and set himself apart from the mega champions of the past?

Everyone who considered that they knew anything at all about ultra distance running simply assumed it would be so. Another Fordyce victory, to them, seemed a mere formality. He was in a class of his own, despite the myriad of top performers in the race. Was a Fordyce victory assured with men like Hoseah Tjale, Bob de la Motte and Danny Biggs waiting in the wings for any sign of frailty from the champion? Many, however, considered de la Motte to be the real threat.

From the start, de la Motte and Deon Holtzhausen stayed in close contact with the early pacemakers, but as these fell away, as the race progressed, the fancied pair found themselves leading through Hillcrest, with de la Motte about 200 metres ahead of Holtzhausen. Two minutes later, the trio of Biggs, Tjale and Fordyce stormed past.

Over the gentle downhill section to Kloof, de la Motte picked up the pace. He knew, full well, the danger of Fordyce’s come-from-behind kick and he needed to have a substantial margin in hand when that inevitability arrived. When Fordyce realised what was happening up front, he depressed the accelerator. The others went with him and soon Holtzhausen was reeled in and, on the long drop down Field’s Hill, Biggs was the first casualty.

Going through Pinetown, de la Motte must have felt a touch uneasy with Fordyce and Tjale running side by side a short distance behind. Fordyce looked effortless while Tjale’s laboured style gave no indication of how he was feeling.

On the pull up Cowie’s Hill, de la Motte faltered slightly and, by the crest of the hill, his lead was less than 40 metres. Once over the hill, however, de la Motte upped the pace again, but to no avail. The trailing pair was within striking range.

As Westville hove in sight, Fordyce, once again, demonstrated his formidable ability to strike at the most opportune moment. Tjale could not respond and Fordyce moved ahead onto the shoulder of the leader. For 6 kilometres, television viewers around the country were mesmerised as the two frontrunners played out a gargantuan struggle, at record-breaking speed, as they ran over the rolling hills into Durban.

It was a question of whose resolve would break first. On the climb up to 45th Cutting, it was de la Motte who could not match the pace injection of Fordyce. He was in total control as he crested the final climb of the day; the pull up to Tollgate. Rapturous crowds greeted him as he made his triumphant way down Berea Road to Kingsmead Stadium where he achieved what no other Comrades champion had done before; an unbelievable 6th successive victory and… a new Best Time for the Down Run as a final crowning glory.

On the run-in, de la Motte managed to hold off Tjale, and finished a mere 125 seconds after Fordyce. The performance of de la Motte was such that if it were not for the magnificence of Fordyce, his 5h 26m 12s would have given him the new Best time.

RESULT

1st Bruce Fordyce * South Africa

5h 24m 07s New Best Time Down

2nd Bob de la Motte South Africa 5h 26m 12s
3rd Hoseah Tjale South Africa 5h 29m 02s
4th Boysie van Staden South Africa 5h 37m 00s
5th Deon Holtzhausen South Africa 5h 40m 13s
6th Alan Robb South Africa 5h 41m 09s
7th Ian Emery South Africa 5h 42m 35s
8th Danny Biggs South Africa 5h 45m 57s
9th Steve Hollier South Africa 5h 46m 48s
10th Leon Swanepoel South Africa 5h 51m 11s

* First Sub-5:25 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Des Rowntree (40) South Africa 6h 00m 36s
2nd Trevor Metcalfe (42) South Africa 6h 02m 42s
3rd Koos Sutherland (45) South Africa 6h 03m 19s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Japie Strydom (52) South Africa

6h 48m 54s

2nd Ernie Verrall (51) South Africa 6h 59m 29s
3rd Eliyethe Jali (51) South Africa 7h 07m 01s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Uys Fick (62) South Africa

8h 18m 32s

2nd Allan Ferguson (64) South Africa 8h 21m 30s
3rd Hendrik Barnard (63) South Africa 8h 42m 59s
 

THE WOMENS RACE

The big disappointment was that former double-winner, Lindsay Weight, decided to give Comrades as miss this year. Her decision surely robbed the spectators of another thrilling duel between herself and Helen Lucre, the country’s two outstanding women ultra runners. It also installed Lucre as the sure favourite to add to her victory in 1985. There were, however, other reliable performers in the line-up.

Serial top three contender, Ralie Smit, always made things uncomfortable for the recognised big names, and Lettie Greeff often threatened early on in the race but could not produce the finishing power needed to make her meaningful danger. Both were, however, not expected to trouble Lucre when the racing end of the event materialised.

From the start, once the early juggling for positions had resolved itself, Lucre, Greeff and Smit had positioned themselves at the front of the field. Never more than a hundred metres separated them during the early stages. Lucre led through halfway at Drummond, but Smit and Greeff were never beyond striking distance.

On the climb out of the Valley of a Thousand Hills, Greeff and Smit changed positions frequently but, with Lucre picking up the pace gradually, their chance of pulling off a surprise victory evaporated.

The pace was not exceptional, probably due to the absence of Weight, but there was no stopping Lucre as she slowly drew further away from her chasers. Greeff, ultimately, could not maintain her challenge for minor honours and Smit was left to fill 2nd place.

Maintaining a steady, but unspectacular pace, Lucre entered Kingsmead Stadium, for a second win, more than 12 minutes ahead of Smit, with a tiring Greeff a further 8 minutes behind.    

RESULT

1st Helen Lucre South Africa

6h 55m 01s

2nd Ralie Smit South Africa 7h 07m 40s
3rd Lettie Greeff South Africa 7h 14m 49s
4th Lorraine van der Poel South Africa 7h 20m 51s
5th Hazel Hairs South Africa 7h 22m 46s
6th Hester Kotze South Africa 7h 23m 52s
7th Angie Longman South Africa 7h 26m 24s
8th Lynne Spence South Africa 7h 27m 50s
9th

Suzanne de Villiers *

South Africa 7h 29m 29s
9th Tilda Tearle * South Africa 7h 29m 29s

* Finished together

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Ralie Smit (41) South Africa

7h 07m 40s New Best Time Down

2nd Suzanne De Villiers (41) South Africa 7h 29m 29s
3rd Paddy Williams (45) South Africa 7h 39m 30s

MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Thelma Fouche (52) South Africa

8h 49m 05s New Best Time Down

2nd Anna Villet (59) South Africa 8h 49m 57s
3rd Twinkle Toes Goodwin (50) South Africa 8h 56m 38s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Nell du Plessis (62) South Africa

10h 39m 36

1987 Up (62nd Race)
Date Sunday, 31 May
Weather Chilly at start but very hot sunny day later.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 3/27
DBN 11/25
Start Venue/Time Corner Pine & Aliwal Streets / 6:00
Finish Venue Jan Smuts Stadium
Time Limit 11 Hours
Official Distance 87.500 km

Winner’s Average Speed:

Men 15.577 km/hr (3m 51s /km)
Women 12.845 km/hr (4m 40s /km)
Entries 10842
Starters 9783
Finishers – Total 8375
Men 7967
Women 408
Medals – Gold 11
Silver 712
Bronze 7652
% Finishers / Starters 85.6

THE MENS RACE

The winner of the 1987 race was decided months in advance; even before entries opened. Bruce Fordyce would win… again… for the seventh time. That was a foregone conclusion. The unanswered question was… who would contest the Silver and Bronze positions?

There were many who deserved to be considered for those minor roles. Based on previous performances, Bob de la Motte and Hoseah Tjale could not be ignored, and were certainly the favourites to fill those places. If Fordyce showed the slightest sign that something was amiss, either could be guaranteed to act decisively. 

Also in the mix were Danny Biggs, Deon Holtzhausen, Graeme Fraser and an aging Alan Robb.

After the TV sprinters had completed their few kilometres of glory, Riaan Oberholzer was leading the race with Holtzhausen, Tjale, Sam Tshabalala and Boysie van Staden having positioned themselves near the front of the main pack. On a balmy coastal morning, Fordyce, with de la Motte on his heels, was running cautiously a short way back.

Oberholzer was the first to drift into the checkpoint at Drummond where de la Motte, Fordyce and Tjale were still together. It appeared that the moment for someone to strike was imminent.

Strangely, Inchanga was not the catalyst that it has been on so many occasions in the past but, on the downhill towards Harrison, Tjale opened up and surged to the front. He was running so fast that he led through Cato Ridge with Fordyce, now in second position, trailing him by more than 4 minutes. When it was realised that Tjale’s lead had been reduced by half a minute at Camperdown, the cognoscenti understood that history was repeating itself and that Fordyce, always the hunter, was lining himself up for a shot at Tjale.

With twenty kilometres remaining, and with Tjale in the crosshairs, Fordyce squeezed the trigger and fired the decisive salvo. The race, at that critical moment, was effectively over. Although Tjale still held a respectable lead, he, and de la Motte, knew that with two major hills ahead, Fordyce was the supreme master over this difficult section. Fordyce didn’t panic as the action moved closer to Pietermaritzburg. Patiently, he bided his time and on Little Polly’s… he struck. Tjale responded and went with him, hanging in valiantly, but the effort drained him and at the foot of Polly Shortt’s he capitulated and… Fordyce was away… on his way to a seventh successive victory.

On the run-in over the drop to the finish, the result of Tjale’s effort in attempting to match Fordyce earlier, saw him yield the runner’s-up place to de la Motte with the finish line almost in sight.

RESULT

1st Bruce Fordyce South Africa

5h 37m 01s

2nd Bob de la Motte South Africa 5h 43m 38s
3rd Hoseah Tjale South Africa 5h 44m 42s
4th Boysie van Staden * South Africa 5h 48m 41s
4th Arthur Lemos * South Africa 5h 48m 41s
6th Graeme Fraser South Africa 5h 50m 29s
7th Alan Robb South Africa 5h 51m 17s
8th Leon Swanepoel South Africa 5h 53m 02s
9th Deon Holtzhausen South Africa 5h 53m 21s
10th Siphiwe Gqele South Africa 5h 53m 51s

*Finished together

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Arthur Lemos (41) South Africa

5h 48m 41s New Best Time Up

2nd Des Rowntree (41) South Africa 6h 00m 56s
3rd Tony Abbott (41) South Africa 6h 20m 13s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Joe Crouch (51) South Africa 7h 05m 24s
2nd Ernie Verrall (52) South Africa 7h 15m 51s
3rd John Stuart (51) South Africa 7h 30m 24s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Uys Fick (63) South Africa

8h 43m 56s

2nd Kotie van Vuuren (60) South Africa 9h 09m 42s
3rd Allan Ferguson (65) South Africa 9h 09m 44s
 

THE WOMENS RACE

In a short period of ten years, the standard of women’s ultra distance running had improved from hopelessly sub-standard to a level previously considered improbable.

‘A woman will never earn a Silver Medal in Comrades,’ was an oft-heard remark. ‘It is impossible for a woman to run 90 kays in seven and a half hours. It will never be done.’

Then in 1980, it happened. Now, in the mid-eighties, a winning time in the Women’s race of slower than seven hours also seems an impossibility. Such has been the improvement of women in Comrades. The previous year, the first 10 women finishers, all earned Silver Medals for going under 7h 30m.

‘It will never be done’ did not hold much credence anymore.

Lindsay Weight was back. That meant there would have to be some serious running by whoever intended to lead the field into Jan Smuts Stadium in Pietermartizburg. With Helen Lucre seeking a hat trick and Weight vying for a third victory, ensured that a tactical race was unlikely to materialise; the pace would be on from the start. The pair had dominated Comrades over the past four years. Both had an Up and a Down win to their name, so a titanic battle for supremacy was expected.

It didn’t disappoint.

The two outstanding women in the field went to the front, from the start, and stayed there. At times, they ran side by side. At other times, one would lead by a few metres, only to be caught and positions swapped. It continued in that vein until after Drummond, where they had passed the checkpoint at each other’s shoulder. It made for enthralling television viewing. There were moments when Ralie Smit came into the fray but she never got close enough to be considered a threat to the two flying leaders.

Gradually, Lucre’s strength began to manifest itself. She steadily took control and by the time she reached Camperdown, she had put a gap of three minutes between herself and Weight. On the big hills into the Capital City, she demonstrated her superior climbing ability and, once over the final hurdle, Polly Shortts, with victory assured, she cruised to the finish by a comfortable margin of 10 minutes.

Smit failed by just 73 seconds to break the 7-hour barrier but she proved to be the most consistent performer of the decade who had yet to secure a win. She obtained her 5th top-three placing in the past 7 years.

Depite that ‘it will never be done’ the first nine women earned Silver Medals.

RESULT

1st Helen Lucre South Africa 6h 48m 42s
2nd Lindsay Weight South Africa 6h 58m 44s
3rd Ralie Smit South Africa 7h 01m 13s
4th Beverley Malan South Africa 7h 07m 03s
5th Sally Edwards South Africa 7h 21m 50s
6th Frith van der Merwe South Africa 7h 22m 19s
7th Priscilla Carlisle South Africa 7h 22m 55s
8th Hazel Hairs South Africa 7h 25m 11s
9th Lorraine van der Poel South Africa 7h 25m 14s
10th Erika Coetzee South Africa 7h 35m 32s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Ralie Smit (42) South Africa

7h 01m 13s New Best Time Up

2nd Sarah Hackney (46) South Africa 8h 11m 09s
3rd Lolly Thomson (40) South Africa 8h 33m 43s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Edith Laros (50) South Africa

10h 15m 44

2nd Yvonne Sumner (52) South Africa 10h 16m 20
3rd Daphne Ledlie (54) South Africa 10h 17m 16

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Anna Villet (60) South Africa

10h 24m 01 New Best Time Up

2nd Nell du Plessis (63) South Africa 10h 35m 31
1988 Up (63rd Race)
Date Tuesday, 31 May
Weather Cool morning warming to hot cloudless day.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 2/21
DBN 12/24
Start Venue/Time Corner Pine & Aliwal Streets / 6:00
Finish Venue Jan Smuts Stadium
Time Limit 11 Hours
Official Distance 87.500 km

Winner’s Average Speed:

Men 16.020 km/hr (3m 45s /km)
Women 13.360 km/hr (4m 30s /km)
Entries 12302
Starters 11225
Finishers – Total 10363
Men 9818
Women 545
Medals – Gold 13
Silver 967
Bronze 9383
% Finishers / Starters 92.3

THE MENS RACE

Was there any way of stopping Bruce Fordyce?

If there was, no one had fathomed it out. With seven straight wins, Fordyce was, in everyone’s opinion, on his way to victory number eight. It appeared that even his main opponents had dejectedly accepted that view. Fordyce was, simply, unstoppable.

Early in the 80s, when at the peak of their careers, he disposed of Alan Robb, Piet Vorster and Johnny Halberstadt. During the mid-decade, Hoseah Tjale, Bob de la Motte, Graeme Fraser and Danny Biggs were found wanting in trying to unravel his mastery over the Comrades course.

Now… as his career must inevitably start drawing near to its end, the new generation appeared on the horison. Nick Bester, Shaun Micklejohn, Mark Page and Charl Mattheus were lining up to tangle with the master.

Did they possess what their predecessors could not find? The answer would be revealed within the next five-and-a-half hours.

Page, based on his speed over the standard marathon distance, was considered the most likely candidate to upstage Fordyce. Page, however, had never before raced further than 56 kilometres.   

When the field set off from Durban, it became immediately clear that race strategy and tactics had undergone a major change. Early on, Fordyce found himself surrounded by all the leading contenders. It was as if they were ganging up on him; using him to dictate the direction events were to assume. Fordyce was a marked man. Whatever he did, the rest followed. It was uncomfortable for him, being hemmed in, not being able to move freely at any stage. When he surged, they surged. When he slowed, they slowed.

Somewhere, over the isolated section after Botha’s Hill, without warning, Fordyce disappeared into the bush at roadside. When he re-appeared, he had only Colin Goosen for company.

Going through Drumond, the lead group looked apprehensive. Their expression said it all. Where was Fordyce?

Boysie van Staden, Jetman Msuthu and Philemon Mogashane led a significantly thinned group through halfway. On the pull up Inchanga, their fears were confirmed. Fordyce had left Goosen and was back in the mix. Biggs, Halberstadt, Page, Bester and Deon Holtzhausen suddenly realised they had a race on their hands. Fordyce was timed at Drummond in 2h 52m 32s; several minutes faster than his usual time to that point. It indicated that something special was looming.

Page surged at the crest of Inchanga and passed the leaders, van Staden and Msuthu just before Cato Ridge and, understanding Fordyce’s strong finishing ability, sought to extend his lead as much as possible. Fordyce also understood such tactics and stepped up his pace. At Camperdown, Page was 300 metres ahead of Fordyce. Before them lay two daunting hills, over which Fordyce was the unchallenged master. At this stage, he moved into overdrive and, with consummate ease, reduced the distance between them with every stride.

On Little Polly’s, Fordyce delivered the coup de grace. After hanging in for a short while, Page fell away. He had no answer to Fordyce’s power on the hills, particularly with the champion running freely at record-breaking speed.

Fordyce ran towards Jan Smuts Stadium substantially before 11:30. A new Best Time, and an 8th straight victory, was at his mercy.

Four-and-a-quarter hours after Fordyce breasted the tape, a former five-time winner arrived and crossed the finish line in 9h 44m 15s. Nothing too spectacular in that… until it was realised that Wally Hayward was just days short of his 80th birthday. His achievement will always rank up there as one of the grandest Comrades performances of all time. 

RESULT

1st Bruce Fordyce * South Africa

5h 27m 42s New Best Time Up

2nd Mark Page South Africa 5h 38m 28s
3rd Nick Bester South Africa 5h 39m 00s
4th Hoseah Tjale South Africa 5h 41m 16s
5th Boysie van Staden South Africa 5h 46m 30s
6th Jetman Msuthu South Africa 5h 49m 32s
7th Charl Mattheus South Africa 5h 49m 47s
8th Madumetja Mogashane South Africa 5h 50m 31s
9th Johan Ebersohn South Africa 5h 51m 40s
10th Ephraim Sekotlong South Africa 5h 51m 56s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Arthur Lemos (42) South Africa

5h 56m 49s

2nd Tony Abbott (42) South Africa 6h 03m 38s
3rd Des Rowntree (42) South Africa 6h 14m 51s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Calie Beneke (51) South Africa

6h 56m 30s

2nd Mickey Pretorius (52) South Africa 6h 58m 51s
3rd Joe Crouch (52) South Africa 7h 10m 16s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Willie Loedolff (60) South Africa

7h 39m 54s New Best Time Up

2nd Allan Ferguson (66) South Africa 8h 52m 07s
3rd Derek King (60) South Africa 8h 57m 14s
 

THE WOMENS RACE

Helen Lucre was aiming at a record 4th successive victory. No other woman had achieved that milestone. She was, of course, the defending champion and outright favourite. Also in the field was a schoolteacher who, in 1987 achieved a moderate 7h 22m 19s: a time that placed Frith van der Merwe in 6th position. It was not a spectacular debut performance, nor did it prepare the running community for what was to be unleashed over the ensuing two years.

Lucre, sadly, experienced one of those days that every runner prefers to forget. From the outset, things did not go well for her. van der Merwe was the supreme front runner and Lucre just could not stay with her initial, and ultimately, continual pace. Having gone to the front from the gun, van der Merwe remained there and simply blew the rest of the top contenders away. She led from start to finish. That was not new in the Comrades context. What was sensational was that when she entered Jan Smuts Stadium, after a stunning 6h 32m 56s, she had removed a mind-boggling 12 minutes from the previous Best Time.

Lucre and Lettie Greeff had fought a long, dour, drawn-out struggle over the entire race in which Greeff managed to secure 2nd position by a narrow margin.

RESULT

1st Frith van der Merwe South Africa

6h 32m 56s New Best Time Up

2nd Lettie Greeff South Africa 7h 04m 00s
3rd Helen Lucre South Africa 7h 07m 50s
4th Lindsay Weight South Africa 7h 08m 51s
5th Lorraine van der Poel South Africa 7h 17m 47s
6th Hazel Hairs South Africa 7h 23m 33s
7th Tilda Tearle South Africa 7h 29m 02s
8th Priscilla Carlisle South Africa 7h 30m 39s
9th Ann Margolin South Africa 7h 42m 26s
10th Mariana Minty South Africa 7h 47m 13s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Suzanne De Villiers (44) South Africa

7h 58m 50s

2nd Lolly Thomson (41) South Africa 8h 05m 19s
3rd Patsy Clemmans (43) South Africa 8h 17m 02s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Hazel Colborne (52) South Africa

9h 57m 10s

2nd Thelma Fouche (54) South Africa 10h 07m 45
3rd Yvonne Sumner (53) South Africa 10h 15m 19

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Nell du Plessis (64) South Africa

10h 35m 37

1989 Down (64th Race)
Date Wednesday, 31 May
Weather Fine and mild with scattered cloud.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

PMB 4/25
DBN 13/25
Start Venue/Time Corner Commercial Road & Longmarket Street / 6:00
Finish Venue Kingsmead Stadium
Time Limit 11 Hours
Official Distance 89.600 km

Winner’s Average Speed:

Men 16.006 km/hr (3m 45s /km)
Women 15.156 km/hr (4m 00s /km)
Entries 13573
Starters 12164
Finishers – Total 10502
Men 9832
Women 670
Medals – Gold 13
Silver 894
Bronze 9595
% Finishers / Starters 86.3

THE MENS RACE

A shock announcement early in the year left everyone speechless.

Bruce Fordyce announced that he would not be defending his Comrades crown. He had participated in a 100-kilometre race in Stellenbosch during February and felt it would be unwise to attempt Comrades so soon after a tough race a few months earlier.

Twenty of South Africa’s ultra distance runners participated in the Stellenbosch event. The fact that only three earned Gold Medals on Comrades day, adds credence to Fordyce’s decision not to run. It threw the door wide open to everyone else who had, previously, been denied by Fordyce’s decade-long superiority.

For the first time in more than a dozen years, there was no pre-race favourite. Fordyce had won the last eight. Of the previous five, Robb had won four and Vorster, the remaining one.   

The opportunity arose for the next generation to stake their claim for ultra distance’s supreme crown. But who would it be?

Sam Tshabalala was a natural choice; the result of recent performances around the country. Willie Mtolo was a ballerina-like runner, but he lacked ultra distance experience. Shaun Meiklejohn was ‘Mr. Consistancy’ and seemed ripe for bigger things.

From the off, in a chilly Pietermaritzburg, it was a cat-and-mouse game for most of the way with the lead being shared by many, over the first half of the race. The initial breakaway occurred on the drop down Field’s Hill. Meiklejohn managed to work his way clear of the thinly-spread lead group, to head the procession through Pinetown.

It proved to be a short-lived lead. Tshabalala slipped past Meikljohn on the lower slope of Cowie’s Hill. He was soon joined by Mtolo as Meikljohn tired and fell back. Jean-Marc Bellocq, a survivor from the Stellenbosch 100 was, at this late stage, moving ominously through the field.

Up front, over the rolling hills into Durban, Tsabalala and Mtolo swapped the lead frequently. It was clearly anyone’s race. Mtolo, a local man, was the crowd favourite as the two leaders dashed into the coastal city. The smooth-striding Mtolo was impeded, on numerous occasions by excited spectators. Whether this was a hindrance or not, is unknown, but on Berea Road, just two kilometres from the finish, he was reduced to walking on occasions as cramp bit into his calf muscles.

Tshabalala did not need a second invitation. He seized the initiative and built a 4-minute advantage by the time he reached Kingsmead Stadium.

o o O o o

And then a deafening roar erupted around the stadium.

One minute and fifty-seven seconds before the final, 11-hour, gun was due to be fired, the great Wally Hayward crossed the finish line. It was a phenomenal performance that brought down the curtain on a fabulous, stunning Comrades Marathon career.

He was a few days short of his 81st birthday.

He remains the only octogenarian to complete the Comrades Marathon.

RESULT

1st Sam Tshabalala South Africa

5h 35m 51s

2nd Willie Mtolo South Africa 5h 39m 59s
3rd Jean-Marc Bellocq France 5h 42m 28s
4th Nick Bester South Africa 5h 43m 05s
5th Shaun Meiklejohn South Africa 5h 44m 50s
6th Anton Hector South Africa 5h 46m 15s
7th Ephraim Sekotlong South Africa 5h 46m 53s
8th Lucas Tswai South Africa 5h 47m 03s
9th Charl Mattheus South Africa 5h 48m 58s
10th Hoseah Tjale South Africa 5h 50m 16s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Koos Sutherland (48) South Africa 6h 12m 54s
2nd Des Rowntree (43) South Africa 6h 21m 47s
3rd Terry Cairns (41) South Africa 6h 23m 09s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Benjamin Mamabolo (55) South Africa

6h 58m 45s

2nd Essie Esterhuizen (51) South Africa 7h 09m 07s
3rd Max Vey (50) South Africa 7h 17m 10s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Willie Loedolff (61) South Africa

7h 57m 39s New Best Time Down

2nd Roy Wise (60) South Africa 8h 43m 03s
3rd Hendrik Barnard (66) South Africa 8h 51m 18s
 

THE WOMENS RACE

In the build-up to Comrades, the running world was amazed by a stunning series of world-class performances produced by Frith van der Merwe. These included a new race record over the testing Two Oceans course in April, during which she established new world records at both 30 miles (3h 1m 16s) and 50 kilometres (3h 8m 39s). Informed opinion had always advocated that a hard Two Oceans signalled the death knell for a serious attempt at Comrades a few months later. In retrospect, that theory went down like a lead balloon, when the aftermath of Comrades was realised.

In a field of relatively moderate performers, van der Merwe went to the start the hottest favourite in the history of the event. An acknowledged front runner, van der Merwe went to the front from the gun and then simply destroyed the rest of the field. The time difference of more than an hour between van der Merwe and second placed, Valerie Bleazard, indicated, perhaps, that it was realised, long before the race started, that the reality, or futility, of chasing her for victory was out of reach and consequently no one, seriously, extended themselves at any stage of the race.

RESULT

1st Frith van der Merwe * South Africa

5h 54m 43s New Best Time Down

2nd Valerie Bleazard South Africa 6h 56m 08s
3rd Naidene Harrison South Africa 7h 00m 09s
4th Pat Lithgow South Africa 7h 11m 32s
5th Hazel Hairs South Africa 7h 13m 44s
6th Tilda Tearle South Africa 7h 14m 35s
7th Ralie Smit South Africa 7h 16m 50s
8th Priscilla Carlisle South Africa 7h 27m 36s
9th Gail Buhrmann South Africa 7h 29m 21s
10th Rae Bisschoff South Africa 7h 35m 05s

* First Sub-6:30 and Sub-6:00 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1st Ralie Smit (44) South Africa

7h 16m 50s

2nd Priscilla Carlisle (40) South Africa 7h 27m 36s
3rd Gail Buhrmann (45) South Africa 7h 29m 21s


MASTERS (AGE 50 - 59)

1st Val van Ginkel (51) South Africa

9h 48m 49s

2nd Hazel Colborne (53) South Africa 9h 52m 08s
3rd Thelma Fouche (55) South Africa 10h 30m 09

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1st Anna Villet (62) South Africa

9h 57m 20s New Best Time Down