1936 - 1939

2nd screen

1936 Up (16th Race)
Date Monday, 25 May
Weather Short shower 5 minutes before start. No more rain. Very cold wind.
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall, Smith Street / 6:00
Finish Venue Alexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries Unknown
Starters 19
Finishers – Total 13
Men 13
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 7
% Finishers / Starters 68.4


With Johnny Coleman preparing for the Berlin Olympic Marathon and Bill Cochrane in retirement following his win in 1935, Hardy Ballington was ‘declared’ the winner many weeks before the race started.

Two questions, however, needed to be answered. Would he break Harry Phillips’ Best Time for the Up Run set in 1926, and how much will he beat it by?

Prospects were not too bright when a short shower fell 5 minutes before the start. Rain-damaged roads prevented pacesetter, Harold Ward from arriving in Durban. In his absence, Arthur Reeve assumed the role, setting so fast a pace that onlookers believed he would not last as far as Drummond. Dymock Parr, Ballington and Ray Sandison never permitted him to get too far away. At Westville, Reeve was 3 minutes ahead of Ballington and Sandison, with Liege Boulle another 100 yards back.

Reeve was being chased down and when he reached Pinetown in 1h 30m 53s, Ballington and Sandison were a mere 30 seconds behind. Field’s Hill, which they took in their stride, did not slow the leaders.

Reeve still held the lead at Hillcrest in 2h 30m 30s, followed by Ballington (2h 34m 45s), Sandison (2h 37m 50s) and Boulle (2h 42m 30s). Ahead, now lay the punishing Botha’s Hill. It was on Botha’s, 2 years earlier that Ward’s race floundered, and it was here that Reeve showed the first signs of fatigue.

He still led through Drummond in 3h 23m 15s but Ballington (3h 24m 33s) had him in his sights. Then came Sandison (3h 34m 55s) and Boulle (3h 40m 40s). Inchanga, always a nightmare climb, provided the setting for the last major change. Reeve was afflicted by a painful stitch, allowing Ballington, who climbed the hill with ease, to move into the lead. With Ballington now in the driving seat the race, for all intents and purposes, was over. His only opponents were the stopwatch and Harry Phillips’ Best Time.

It was now Ballington all the way. At Cato Ridge (4h 34m) he led Reeve (4h 43m) by 9 minutes, followed by Sandison (5h 10m) and Boulle (5h 20m). He reached Camperdown in 4h 57m 5s; 25 minutes ahead of the toiling Reeve. By Umlaas Road, the lead increased to 38 minutes with Fred Wallace and Boulle just 10 minutes behind Reeve.

There was no stopping Ballington. With the stopwatch showing 6h 12m, he ran onto the lower slope of Polly Shortt’s. Half an hour later he was threading his way through the traffic along the banks of the Umsunduzi River with the finish line just minutes away.

When he stopped running, the stopwatch answered both questions; 6h 46m 14s… a new Best Time for the Up Run by 11m 32s.

It was another 64 minutes before Reeve arrived. He suffered severely with stitches and blisters over the second half, but hung on gamely to beat Boulle by 15 seconds.


1st Hardy Ballington South Africa

6m 46m 14s

New Best Time Up

2nd Arthur Reeve South Africa 7h 50m 53s
3rd Liege Boulle South Africa 7h 51m 08s
4th Fred Wallace South Africa 7h 53m 41s
5th Allen Boyce South Africa 8h 23m 51s
6th W.S. Sherriffs South Africa 8h 30m 07s
7th J.L. Pretorius South Africa 8h 30m 20s
8th D.R. Smith South Africa 8h 44m 35s
9th Ray Sandison South Africa 9h 18m 16s
10th Max Trimborn South Africa 9h 26m 00s
1937 Down (17th Race)
Date Monday, 24 May
Weather Early morning mist, clearing later. Mild to warm.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Track Ground
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries Unknown
Starters 30
Finishers – Total 19
Men 19
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 13
% Finishers / Starters 63.3


With Hardy Ballington in England taking aim at Arthur Newton’s world 50- and 100-mile records, the race seemed to have been placed on a silver platter for Johnny Coleman. A few months earlier, Coleman finished 6th in the Berlin Olympic Marathon. In a somewhat mediocre field, there were doubts as to whether Coleman would be pushed hard enough to threaten Arthur Newton’s Best Time,for the Down Run, set in 1925.

With the early morning mist still hanging heavily over the city, Arthur Reeve led the field out of Pietermaritzburg at a cracking pace, reaching Thornybush in 58m 20s. Coleman, running at a steady pace, was in 4th place.

At Umlaas Road, Coleman had moved into 2nd position, 1m 50s, behind Reeve. Through Camperdown and Cato Ridge, Coleman slowly crept closer and closer to Reeve, and by Harrison was trailing the leader by less than 20 yards. Coleman did not appear to want to make up the distance between them nor, it seemed, did Reeve want to let him take over the lead. It was cat and mouse until the climb up Inchanga, where Coleman made his move.

Coleman was timed at Drummond in 2h 57m with a still fresh-looking Reeve, next in 2h 58m. A further 8 minutes elapsed before Fred Wallace arrived, followed by Ray Sandison and Allen Boyce who looked as fresh as when he had started.

With Coleman in the top spot, the race was, for practical purposes, over but the cognoscenti were consulting their watches and estimating the chances of him breaking Newton’s Best Down Time. The opinion was that the record was well within his capabilities. He reached Hillcrest in 3h 45m 15s; nearly 5 minutes faster that Newton in 1925. At Pinetown, his time of 4h 41m 45s was mere seconds ahead of Newton’s time. It was clearly going to be touch-and-go. The vastly improved Wallace, and Boyce, arrived 20 minutes later.

With the last of the big hills, Cowie’s, looming, those following the progress of the race remembered that it was on Cowie’s that Newton ran into trouble and slowed down. From Cowie’s through to the finish, Coleman struggled against increasing fatigue but he hung on gamely and went over Tollgate on his way to the Track Ground in Durban.

When he crossed the line, the stopwatch revealed that his efforts had been rewarded. He was the new holder of the Best Time, for the Run, with a time of 6h 23m 11s. All the way from Pinetown it was acknowledged that it was going to be a close thing and it was, with just 1m 34s shaved off the previous time.

Boyce and Wallace fought out a thriller for second and third places with 1m 28s separating them at the end.   


1st Johnny Coleman * South Africa

6h 23m 11s

New Best Time Down

2nd Allen Boyce South Africa 6h 40m 19s
3rd Fred Wallace South Africa 6h 41m 47s
4th Ray Sandison South Africa 7h 34m 05s
4th D.J. Crafford South Africa 7h 49m 46s
6th P. Beisner South Africa 7h 56m 25s
7th Liege Boulle South Africa 7h 56m 31s
8th Dominic Pivalizza South Africa 8h 04m 15s
9th W.S. Sherriffs South Africa 8h 11m 42s
10th Max Trimborn South Africa 8h 22m 45s

* Johnny Coleman had represented South Africa in the Marathon at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He finished in 6th position in 2h 36m 17s. The winner’s time was 2h 29m 19s.

1938 Up (18th Race)
Date Tuesday, 24 May
Weather Cool early morning. Unseasonable heat around midday.
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 20
Finishers – Total 11
Men 11
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 5
% Finishers / Starters 55.0


A great duel between Hardy Ballington and Johnny Coleman was anticipated. Both were at the zenith of their powers. In the past year, Coleman had won the Empire Games Marathon in Sydney, and Ballington had shattered the world 50- and 100-mile records in England.

Sadly, it was not to be. Coleman decided not to run. Only the presence of Allen Boyce saved the race from being a walkover for Ballington.

Boyce, whose usual strategy was to hold back and attack from behind, took the early lead and was first through Westville in 51m 30s. Ballington followed closely and was already showing a faster time, to this point, than he did on his record-breaking run two years before. The pair went through Pinetown together, with Dymock Parr and Liege Boulle close behind. Ballington stormed up Field’s Hill as if he were on a mission.

At Gillitts, Ballington was 5 minutes ahead of his time in 1936, when he set a new Best Time for the Up Run. Boyce remained in 2nd place, with Parr, 3rd.

After Hillcrest there were doubts in everyone’s minds. Had Ballington over-extended himself with his early fast pace? He was trudging warily up Botha’s Hill, but he was soon back in his stride.

He led through Drummond in 3h 22m, with Boyce next in 3h 29m, and Parr in 3h 32m. Ballington took Inchanga in his stride, but Boyce faltered slightly and began to slow down. These two remained in the same order at Camperdown, with Ballington extending his lead with every step. On the long downhill from Umlaas Road, Ballington was smitten with stomach pains and laboured over this tempting section of road. However, he recovered before Polly Shortt’s and climbed the final major obstacle with relative ease. When he crested the big hill, he was 12 minutes inside his 1936 time and there was a possibility that he might go under 6h 30m. It would, however, require a super-human effort.

When he crossed the line in Alexandra Park in 6h 32m 26s, there was disappointment upon the realisation that he had missed the 6h 30m barrier… but he broke his own Best Time for the Up Run by a massive 13m 48s.


1st Hardy Ballington South Africa

6h 32m 26s

New Best Time Up

2nd Allen Boyce South Africa 7h 03m 05s
3rd Fred Morrison South Africa 7h 38m 57s
4th Ray Sandison South Africa 8h 02m 20s
5th D.A. Mackrory South Africa 8h 10m 02s
6th John Ballington South Africa 8h 25m 35s
7th D.R. Smith South Africa 9h 15m 15s
8th Max Trimborn South Africa 9h 20m 24s
9th Edgar Marie South Africa 9h 23m 37s
10th Liege Boulle South Africa 9h 44m 27s
1939 Down (19th Race)
Date Wednesday, 24 May
Weather Chilly and overcast. Light drizzle near Inchanga. Very cold wind late morning/early afternoon.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg CityHall / 6:00
Finish Venue Track Ground
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries Unknown
Starters 24
Finishers – Total 21
Men 21
Medals – Gold 6
Silver 15
% Finishers / Starters 87.5


There were only two men in it… Johnny Coleman and Allen Boyce.

And so, it proved to be.

Coleman, the defending Down champion and holder of the Best Time, was back after giving 1938 a miss.

Boyce, in the past two years, had become a force to be reckoned with. His stamina and pace judgment were at a peak. He was a serious threat to Coleman.

On a cold overcast day, Coleman went straight to the front, taking Boyce with him, and that is the way it remained. Boyce soon discovered that matching strides with Coleman did not suit his style. He slowly drifted off the pace and trailed Coleman by 2 minutes as they went past Umlaas Road.

As the front runners approached Inchanga, an unwilling sun gave way too a light drizzle.

Coleman’s power carried him further away from the field as the race progressed and the order at Drummond was Coleman (2h 56m 35s), Boyce (3h 5m 50s) and Bill Rufus (3h 13m). In the midst of a following group was John Ballington, the younger brother of 4-time winner, Hardy Ballington.

Coleman continued to power his way towards Durban. At Hillcrest he held a 15m 30s advantage over Boyce who was struggling to move freely in the bleak conditions. Coleman reached Kloof in 4h 19m; a minute inside his 1937 time to the same point. Suddenly, Boyce found his old rhythm and pressed the accelerator flat to the floorboard. He began to reduce the gap to Coleman. Ballington had also broken away from the following group but was never going to mount a serious threat to the two out in front.

At Pinetown, the ghost of 1937 returned to haunt Coleman. He seemed to lack the stamina for the final kick to the finish. He was doggedly walking on some of the hills as Boyce drew ever nearer as they approached Durban. This enabled Boyce to make huge inroads on the lead because he ran all the way.

Cresting Tollgate, where a large crowd welcomed him, Coleman uncovered hidden reserves and took advantage of the downhill stretch along Berea and Old Dutch Roads to the Track Ground, where he crossed the line a shade over 6h 20m, but his winning time of 6h 22m 05s still reduced his own Best Time for the Down Run.

Boyce’s gallant effort, over the final 19 miles, just failed. He finished 4½ minutes after the winner.    


1st Johnny Coleman * South Africa

6h 22m 05s

New Best Time Down

2nd Allen Boyce South Africa 6h 26m 34s
3rd John Ballington South Africa 7h 28m 01s
4th Dymock Parr South Africa 7h 58m 12s
5th J.L. Pretorius South Africa 7h 59m 52s
6th Fred Morrison South Africa 8h 09m 20s
7th Liege Boulle South Africa 8h 10m 34s
8th Willie Amron South Africa 8h 22m 59s
9th Morris Alexander South Africa 8h 26m 22s
10th Max Trimborn South Africa 8h 53m 11s

* Johnny Coleman went on to represent South Africa in the Marathon at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. He finished in 4th position in 2h 36m 06s. The winner’s time was 2h 34m 52s. He missed the 3rd position Bronze Medal by 57 seconds.