“I was a student at the then University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in the early 1960’s, and was always in awe of the few hundred runners who took on the annual Comrades challenge. After graduating a friend persuaded me to try it, and so in 1968 I was in a group of about 500 runners who set off early in the morning from Durban. Of course it was very different then, with personal seconding and limited spectators along the way, but I finished in under 10½ hours.
I didn’t run again for 36 years, but when TV came along our family was always up early to see the start and the progress through the day.
So it was my son Lyal ran his first Comrades in 1998 and daughter Beth followed in 2000. Of course I also had to run again, and I followed them in 2004; in 2010 they slowed down to my pace and we ran the whole race together. Beth now has her green number, while Lyal (living overseas) has seven medals and comes out every few years to add to the tally.
My wife Strelza supported us through all this, and I think every Comrades runner knows that one cannot be successful without this kind of support in the background.
But with this history I had to run again in 2018, 50 years after my first run. I persuaded Strelza to do her support bit for a last time, and did my training with the objective of finishing under 12 hours.
And so on 10 June I was in Pietermaritzburg with all the other thousands – always an incredible vibe!
It took me the regulation 8 minutes to get to the start from my G seeding, and my intention was to keep a steady pace throughout, walking up the hills. Essentially everything went according to plan, but when I reached Maytime I was some 15 minutes slow. However, I like running downhill – gravity is a great help – and so I was very grateful it was a Down Run this year.
I caught up on my time, and I finished with just over 8 minutes to spare. It’s a great finish at the Moses Mabhida Stadium – in the evening sky you can see it from kilometres away!”
This month’s winner of the Arnica Ice hamper is Eckart Schumann.