1940 - 1945

2nd screen

1940 Up (20th Race)
Date Friday, 24 May
Weather Cool and clear all day.
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Alexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries Unknown
Starters 23
Finishers – Total 10
Men 10
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 4
% Finishers / Starters 43.4


The world had already been at war for 9 months, when the field set off from Durban in bright moonlight. A number of men, who were expected to enter, had withdrawn and left to join their units at training camps in various centres around the country. This resulted in a small field of 23 answering the starter’s pistol.

Liege Boulle jumped into an early lead along West Street, but when the field ran up Huntley’s Hill, the favourite, Allen Boyce, had gone to the front setting a cracking pace. He arrived in Pinetown in 1h 27m, which was 3 minutes faster than Hardy Ballington in 1936, when he set the Best Time for the Up Run. It was clear that he was after not only a victory, but the Best Time as well. Following him through the town was Dymock Parr and Boulle.

Maintaining his pace, Boyce stretched his lead, at Gillitts, to 8 minutes over Parr, who had moved into 2nd place. Despite the terrific pace, Boyce never slowed down and led through the midway point at Drummond, with a lead of nearly 4 miles, where the order was Boyce (3h 20m 40s), Parr (3h 49m 50s), Max Trimborn (4h 2m 20s), Edgar Marie (4h 8m 30s) and Gordon Morrison (4h 16m).

Boyce went up Inchanga so strongly, it seemed that a new Best Time was well within his grasp, as he invariably improved over the second half of the race.

With the distance between himself and Parr increasing all the time, even though he found difficulty in maintaining the fast pace he set himself, he struggled on the section between Cato Ridge and Camperdown where he went passed the checkpoint in 4h 52m; 3 minutes behind Ballington’s time, 2 two years before. A new Best Time now required a supreme effort and, although he ran effortlessly up Polly Shortt’s, it was clear that it would elude him.

Nevertheless, he had finally achieved his ambition of winning the Comrades Marathon. His time of 6h 39m 23s was just 6m 57s outside the Best Time.

Parr was next to finish in 8h 29m 51s, with Morrison 3rd in 8h 55m 21s. Boyce’s margin of victory (1h 50m 28s) remains the greatest winning distance in history.    


1st Allen Boyce South Africa

6h 39m 23s

2nd Dymock Parr South Africa 8h 29m 51s
3rd Gordon Morrison South Africa 8h 55m 21s

Max Trimborn

South Africa 9h 03m 28s
5th Edgar Marie South Africa 9h 06m 07s
6th P.L. Christie South Africa 10h 12m 35s
7th Willie Amron South Africa 10h 19m 45s
8th P. Freedman South Africa 10h 38m 04s
9th H. McIntosh South Africa 10h 55m 23s
10th T.D. Stobie South Africa 10h 59m 18s
1941 - 1945 (No Comrades Held)

From the very beginning it was going to be difficult to stage the 1940 race. Yes, life seemed pretty much normal in South Africa at the time. Men were attending camps and the country was preparing itself for a war, but the harsh reality of a war with Hitler’s forces in Europe seemed another world away.

Rightly or wrongly, the organizers decided to go ahead with the race anyway. This was to be the 20th Comrades Marathon and all did seem normal in Africa after all.

Numbers of entries were small, not much different from the lean years of the thirties. How many intended entering that year will never be known, but, on the very eve of the race, Hitler invaded France and the Low Countries, and by Marathon Day the Allied armies were reeling back towards Dunkirk and the English Channel. At this moment the first South African troops were mobilized, and a number of men who intended to run the 1940 race withdrew their entries to join their military units at camps all over the country.

But the show did go on and on a bright moonlit morning in Durban, the Mayor of Durban, Councilor Rupert Ellis Brown, sent the 23 athletes on their way to Pietermaritzburg.

The race was unremarkable from a spectator's point of view, and certainly did not emulate the close finishes that made the period of the 30’s so exiting.

What was remarkable however, was Allen Boyce’s run. He was the outright winner in a time of 6 hrs. 39mins. He ran alone almost the whole way, and was only 6 mins 57 secs outside the record. The second place went to WD Parr who was almost two hours behind the winner. Parr had almost to cover a quarter of the distance of the race when Boyce breasted the tape in Alexander Park. This was just rewards to an athlete who had served his apprenticeship well. Allen Boyce may not go down as one of the Comrades Grates, but he did have the makings of a champion. With seven medals to his name, three-second placings, he was only 4-and-a-half minutes outside the “Down” record. Boyce's win in 1940 still stands in the record books to this day today as the biggest margin over a second placed athlete ever.

The curtain came down on the Comrades Marathon as the world was overtaken by the firestorm events of War. Empty and silent on race day, the Old main Road would have to wait between the years 1941 to 1945. Not much changed on the mighty and ancient hills of Natal during this time. Africa quietly bided her time and waited. In the affairs of man however, many millions had lost their lives. In five short years, the world witnessed unprecedented destruction and cruelty.