HISTORY

1921-1925

DateTuesday, 24 May
WeatherFine and mild to warm.
Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 7:10
Finish VenueDurban City Hall
Time Limit12 Hours
Official Distance89.929 km (54miles 1120yards)
Winner’s Average Speed10.012 km/hr (6m 0s /km)
Entries47
Starters34
Finishers – Total16
Men16
Medals – Silver16
% Finishers / Starters47.1


In a single line across Commercial Road, outside the City Hall, stood thirty-four official, and four unofficial, scantily clad men. They were waiting for someone to fire a pistol and send them on a pioneering journey, on foot, to the coast in faraway Durban; an unimaginable 54 miles away.

Shortly after 7 o’clock, a gunshot roared across the city and the greatest sporting extravaganza in the world was under way.

It was not a great extravaganza then, of course… but it has metamorphosed into such over the years.

No one knew what would happen to those pioneering souls, during the course of that day, as they shuffled down the hill and out of sight. The first leader, crossing the bridge over the Umsinduzi River was Butcher Purcell, followed by Harry Phillips and Bill Rowan.

Leaving the city, a dusty sand road meandered over the hills and through the valleys all the way to Durban. Purcell, Phillips and Rowan were still together at Cato Ridge but, by the foot of Inchanga, Purcell had fallen two minutes behind. As the two leaders left Drummond, Rowan went into the lead, where he remained.

Through Gillitts and Pinetown, followed by a convoy of bicycles, motorcycles and cars, Rowan increased the distance between himself and Phillips, who was plagued by a persistent knee injury.

Covered in brown, suffocating dust, but undeterred by it, Rowan finally strode down West Street, at the head of the convoy, to the finish line outside the City Hall. His time was 8h 59m. It remains, to this day, the slowest winning time.

Despite the troublesome knee, Phillips soldiered on, arriving at the City Hall in 9h 40m.

To commemorate his epic performance, the coveted Bill Rowan Medal was introduced in the Millennium year, 2000. It is awarded to those runners who fail to achieve a prestigious, sub 7h 30m, Silver Medal, but who finish inside 9 hours.

RESULT

1stBill RowanSouth Africa8h 59m 00s Established Best Time Down
2ndHarry Phillips *South Africa9h 40m 00s
3rdJohn AnnanSouth Africa10h 10m 00s
4thR.S. SkinnerSouth Africa10h 27m 00s
5thButcher PurcellSouth Africa10h 37m 00s
6thRussell MainSouth Africa10h 44m 00s
7thAlbert MarieSouth Africa11h 04m 00s
8thLlyn MitcalfeSouth Africa11h 06m 00s
9thL.M. Moran **South Africa11h 13m 00s
9thA.A. Imray **South Africa11h 13m 00s

 

* Harry Phillips subsequently represented South Africa in the Marathon at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris where he finished in 19th position in 3h 07m 13s.

** Finished together.

1922 Up (2nd Race)

DateWednesday, 24 May
WeatherMild to warm winter sunshine. No wind.
Start Venue/TimeTollgate, Berea Road / 6:07
Finish VenueRoyal Agricultural Show Ground
Time Limit12 Hours
Approx. Distance55 M
Entries114
Starters89
Finishers – Total26
Men26
Medals – Silver26
% Finishers / Starters29.2


Inaugural winner, Bill Rowan, travelled from the Belgian Congo to defend his title.

A cheering, 2000-strong crowd sent the runners, and a convoy of helpers on bicycles, motorcycles and in cars, on their way to the Capital. E. Williams set out at a reckless pace and at the Rugby Hotel, in Pinetown, he was followed by Butcher Purcell, Harry Phillips, Cary-Smith, Imray and Rowan. Lingering near the tail of the field, at this stage, was the 39-year-old Arthur Newton.

Williams dropped out on Botha’s Hill and Purcell inherited the lead, which he still held at Drummond; passing through in 3h 33m. Phillips was next through, followed by Imray, Rowan and Newton. Both Phillips and Rowan stopped for a massage at this point. Newton passed Imray on Inchanga and, at the top of the giant hill, set off after Purcell; 20 minutes ahead.

When Purcell reached Harrison Flats, after 4h 37m, Newton had reduced the lead to 7 minutes. He caught Purcell at Camperdown and from there on, his lead grew with every minute on the long descent through Thornybush. Newton took Polly Shortt’s in his stride and, with the final, major obstacle behind him, set off for the finish, 7 kilometers away. He entered the Agricultural Show Ground a clear winner. Harry Phillips overcame his recurring knee problem to finish second and managed to hold onto a 4-minute lead over Rowan.

RESULT

1stArthur NewtonSouth Africa8h 40m 00s Established Best Time Down
2ndHarry PhillipsSouth Africa9h 09m 00s
3rdBill RowanBelgian Congo9h 13m 00s
4thJohn AnnanSouth Africa10h 11m 00s
5thP. FoucheSouth Africa10h 18m 00s
6thO.J. LazenbySouth Africa10h 48m 00s
7thG.W. TaylorSouth Africa10h 53m 00s
8thBill PaynSouth Africa10h 56m 00s
9thCharlie Cullingworth *South Africa11h 02m 00s
9thR.A. St George *South Africa11h 02m 00s

* Finished together

1923 Down (3rd Race)

DateThursday, 24 May
WeatherVery cold at the start, becoming warm and humid near Durban.
Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:02
Finish VenueLords Ground
Time Limit12 Hours
Approx. Distance56 M
EntriesUnknown
Starters 68
Finishers – Total30
Men30
Medals – Silver30
% Finishers / Starters44.1


Eyebrows were raised at the sight of a woman standing among the sixty-eight hopefuls on the start line outside the Pietermarittzburg City Hall. Frances Hayward ran unofficially and set in motion a dream that would take another fifty-two years to be realised.

The advent of the Comrades Marathon had a ripple effect on distance-running, with a noticeable increase in the number of entries in other events in Natal.

On a freezing morning, the journey to Durban began. Wratten was the early leader at the Victoria Bridge. He was followed by Phillips, Wolvaardt, Newton and Purcell. After having alternated positions frequently, Wolvaardt was twenty seconds ahead of Wratten at Thornybush, with Phillips and Newton going through within a minute.

At Umlaas Road, the order was Wratten, Phillips, Wolvaardt and Newton. With the lead changing regularly, Wolvaardt was back in front at Camperdown with Newton and Phillips trailing him. Newton went to the front along Harrison Flats and stayed there. He reached Drummond in 3h 2m. Wolvaardt (3h 13m) was next through but he retired shortly afterwards. Wratten was third in 3h 19m.

Once in the lead, Newton drew further and further ahead as he ran, victorious, through Gillitts, Pinetown and Westville before breaking the tape in a new Best Time of 6h 57m 07s.

Frances Hayward finished unofficially in 29th position after 11h 35m on the road.

RESULT

1stArthur NewtonSouth Africa6h 56m 07s New Best Time Down
2ndLukas NelSouth Africa7h 48m 24s
3rdButcher PurcellBelgian Congo8h 17m 03s
4thW.N. WrattenSouth Africa8h 23m 02s
5thH.H. TomlinsonSouth Africa8h 28m 21s
6thJohn AnnanSouth Africa8h 49m 17s
7thPercy ShacklefordSouth Africa9h 02m 29s
8thA.A. ImraySouth Africa9h 30m 02s
9thAlbert MarieSouth Africa9h 30m 37s
10thL.G. Cary-SmithSouth Africa9h 33m 42s

* First Sub-7:00 Down Run

1924 Up (4th Race)

DateSaturday, 24 May
Weather15°C at start with strong chilly wind.
Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 6:00
Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
Time Limit12 Hours
Approx. Distance54 M
Entries38
Starters 31
Finishers – Total16
Men16
Medals – Silver16
% Finishers / Starters51.6


With Arthur Newton back, and aiming for a hat trick, the Best Time for the Up Run was sure to fall.

A strong, cold, nasty wind blew in the faces of the runners as they set off. It was to prove troublesome for most of the morning. The road was tarred only as far as Mayville, whereafter, over the next fifty miles of sand, the dust kicked up by accompanying motor vehicles, and distributed widely by the wind, became a major, uncomfortable nuisance.

With no serious opposition, Newton immediately found himself in third place after 2 miles, at Tollgate, and by Pinetown he had moved up to second behind Nel.

Nel could not maintain the pace he set up the punishing Field’s Hill where Newton went past. Newton was vastly better trained than any of the others in the field. He reached the midway point at Drummond in 3h 27m. A struggling Nel was next through in 3h 45m. Then came Percy Shackleford (4h 3m) and Charlie Strassburg (4h 5m).

Newton forged further ahead with every stride. Nel hung on gamely but retired at Umlaas Road. Polly Shortt’s held no terrors for Newton. He sailed up and, with an insurmountable lead, ran into the finish in Alexandra Park with a new Best Time and a lead of almost 69 minutes over second man, Shackleford. Strassburg was another 35 minutes adrift.

In view of his performances in just 2 years, Newton must be credited with elevating the standard of distance-running that would continue unabated into the future.

RESULT

1stArthur Newton *South Africa

6h 58m 22s New Best Time Up

2ndPercy ShacklefordSouth Africa8h 13m 00s
3rdCharles StrassburgSouth Africa8h 48m 23s
4thJohn AnnanSouth Africa9h 01m 25s
5thC.R. LongSouth Africa9h 16m 13s
6thE.F. WilliamsSouth Africa9h 21m 03s
7thCharlie CullingworthSouth Africa9h 35m 05s
8thArchie Cary-SmithSouth Africa9h 40m 10s
9thR.T. LongSouth Africa9h 41m 35s
10thH.S. SowdenSouth Africa9h 45m 49s

* First Sub-7:00 Up Run

 

1925 Down (5th Race)

DateMonday, 25 May
WeatherCold at start, warming to a mild sunny day.
Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish VenueDurban City Hall
Time Limit12 Hours
Approx. Distance89.518 km (54miles 670yards)
Winner’s Average Speed13.961 km/hr (4m 18s /km)
Entries41
Starters 39
Finishers – Total23
Men23
Medals – Silver23
% Finishers / Starters59.00


The press, in the build-up to the race, advised runners “Do not drink water on a run; avoid it if possible” as well as “never drink a lot at a time; it will only make you tired and lazy”.

Jogging for health was unknown in 1925. The result was that, with a continuing trend towards smaller fields, those who entered Comrades were the forerunners of a dedicated group that would continue into the future; those who ran solely for the honour of earning a coveted Comrades medal.

Pietermaritzburg runner, Harry Phillips, led the field through suburban Scottsville and out of the city. Arthur Newton was handily placed in third position. On the long pull up to Umlaas Road, Phillips drew well ahead, reaching the village in 1h 16m with Newton four minutes in arrears. Next through was Wratten (1h 21m) and Potgieter (1h 27m). Percy Shackleford was hidden in a group far behind the leader.

The three top places remained unchanged at Cato Ridge, which Phillips reached in 1h 53m, while increasing his lead, over Newton, to 5 minutes.

Phillips charged into Drummond in a new Best Time of 2h 51m 45s to halfway but he was experiencing discomfort with a recurring knee injury. He stopped for a brief massage and was on his way before Newton arrived in 2h 55m. The pair were far ahead and it was another 22 minutes before third-placed, Shackleford arrived in 3h 17m.

A mile beyond Drummond, Phillips was forced to stop for treatment to the troublesome knee, allowing Newton to slip into the lead. Without changing his stride, Newton drew further ahead and passed through Hillcrest 12 minutes before Phillips, with Shackleford a further 22 minutes back. Newton was clocked at Pinetown in 4h 42m, an impressive 34 minutes before Phillips who was reduced to stopping every 5 minutes for attention to his knee.

Passing Tollgate in 6h 06m, Newton was on the verge of establishing a sensational new Best Time. He duly arrived at the Durban City Hall in 6h 24m 45s.

Phillips hung on doggedly to finish 12 minutes ahead of Shackleford.

Newton had now won four Comrades in succession; a feat that would remain unequalled for 59 years until Bruce Fordyce equalled the feat in 1984.

RESULT

1stArthur Newton *South Africa

6h 24m 45s New Best Time Down

2ndHarry PhillipsSouth Africa7h 05m 30s
3rdPercy ShacklefordSouth Africa7h 17m 22s
4thH.C. BriggsSouth Africa8h 04m 10s
5thWinston SuttonSouth Africa8h 14m 45s
6thFelix HenriksenSouth Africa8h 15m 00s
7thC.E. VahlSouth Africa8h 35m 00s
8th

Charles Strassburg **

South Africa8h 56m 15s
8thR. Hully **South Africa8h 56m 15s
10thArchie Cary-SmithSouth Africa9h 04m 00s

*   First Sub-6:30 Down Run

** Finished together

1926-1929

 
 Date Monday, 24 May
 Weather Cold at start, warming to oppressively hot late morning to early afternoon.
 Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish Venue Alexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit 12 Hours
 Approx. Distance 54 M
 Entries Unknown
 Starters 24
 Finishers – Total 14
 Men 14
 Silver 14
 % Finishers / Starters  58.3


THE MENS RACE

Prospects for the race were somewhat gloomy. The entry list shrunk to the smallest yet.

Within the last 12 months, Arthur Newton had left South Africa and settled in Rhodesia. His entry, however, arrived at the last minute. Harry Phillips was reputedly in top condition, but Newton remained the firm favourite.

As was his custom, Phillips went straight into the lead, which he steadily increased across the hills through Pinetown and Hillcrest, reaching Drummond in 3h 14m. Newton had worked his way into second position at this stage, passing through in 3h 24m 30s. The three Sutton brothers were all showing prominently with Ronnie lying third in 3h 41m 30s.

Newton was still the crowd’s favourite, despite being 10 minutes in arrears at halfway. Over Inchanga, across Harrison and towards Cato Ridge, Phillips hung on tenaciously, while Newton started making a slight dent in Phillips’ lead. But it was too late. Phillips, smiling to the spectators as he strode along the road adjacent to Umsunduzi River, crossed the finish line marginally less than 5 minutes before Newton. Ronnie Sutton held on to third place but it was another 67 minutes before he appeared. After realising his ambition of winning, Phillips announced his retirement. He never ran the Comrades Marathon again.

RESULT

1stHarry Phillips *South Africa

6h 57m 46s

New Best Time Up

2ndArthur NewtonRhodesia7h 02m 00s
3rdRonnie SuttonSouth Africa8h 09m 00s
4thFelix HenriksenSouth Africa8h 13m 05s
5thWinston SuttonSouth Africa8h 17m 00s
6thR.N. WrattenSouth Africa8h 24m 30s
7thH.S. SowdenSouth Africa9h 08m 20s
8thT.L. WarwickSouth Africa9h 52m 00s
9thFrank MunnerySouth Africa10h 07m 30s
10thW.G. CoulsonSouth Africa10h 25m 08s


* Harry Phillips had represented South Africa in the Marathon at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris where he finished in 19th position in 3h 07m 13s.

1927 Down (7th Race)

DateTuesday, 24 May
 Weather Mild to warm by late morning.
 Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish Venue Track Ground
 Time Limit 12 Hours
 Approx. Distance 56 M
 Entries 43
 Starters 41
 Finishers – Total 21
 Men 21
 Silver 21
 % Finishers / Starters 51.2


THE MENS RACE

With Harry Phillips having retired, Arthur Newton was the odds-on favourite to register a fifth win. It would not be easy, however, because the three Sutton brothers, Ronnie, Winston and Frank, who had performed with exception the previous year, were in the line of runners strung loosely across Commercial Road outside the City Hall.

When the 41 starters set out in the pre-dawn light, Newton, perhaps with reducing his Best Time for the Down Run, set two years earlier, in mind, uncharacteristically went into an early lead. He was shadowed by the South African Marathon champion, Willie Steytler.  Newton reached Camperdown in 1h 03m with Steytler just 30 seconds behind. The pair had built a massive lead of 40 minutes before the three Suttons clocked in.

Over the fast section to Cato Ridge, Newton lost his normal effortless action. He seemed to be in trouble and fell away badly as Steytler swept passed him after exiting Cato Ridge. Going through Harrison, he enjoyed a lead of more than a mile over Newton.

Spectators at Drummond were surprised to see Steytler leading through halfway in 2h 58m, with a lead of more than 6 minutes over Newton. A mere 40 seconds later, Ronnie Sutton arrived. Winston and Frank Sutton were next through in 3h 15m 45s.

On the railway bridge, immediately after Drummond, Ronnie Sutton took second position from a struggling, Newton and before long, he was the new leader when he overtook Steytler, who retired at the top of Botha’s Hill, suffering from a painful toe joint. Newton, meanwhile was recovering from the bad patch that had plagued him for 8 miles, and was starting to make inroads into Sutton’s lead. While Newton was coming back, Sutton was having problems with his calf muscles, stopping for regular massages. His lead at Hillcrest was down to 2 minutes. By Gillitts, Newton was back in the lead and running untroubled. Ronnie Sutton fell away rapidly and when Newton entered Pinetown in 5h 08m 30s, he had a lead of 10 minutes over Frank Sutton who, having overtaken Ronnie, was left to chase Newton home.

The chase was futile, however, because Newton, in full stride, was never going to be caught. He increased his lead from Pinetown and entered the Track Ground 35 minutes ahead of Frank Sutton who had a further 37-minute advantage over his brother, Winston.

The day was a remarkable 2nd, 3rd and 4th place success for the Sutton family when an exhausted Ronnie finished in 8h 13m 32s.

After his 5th victory, Arthur Newton disappeared from the Comrades scene. He remains one of the Greats produced by the race.


RESULT

1stArthur NewtonRhodesia

6h 40m 56s

2ndFrank SuttonSouth Africa7h 15m 55s
3rdWinston SuttonSouth Africa7h 52m 06s
4thRonnie SuttonSouth Africa8h 13m 32s
4thNigel WalkerSouth Africa8h 30m 18s
6thS.C. ErwinSouth Africa8h 45m 05s
7thFrank HayesSouth Africa8h 45m 26s
8thF. C. WatkinsSouth Africa9h 18m 00s
9thW.J MarlowSouth Africa9h 58m 53s
10thW.G. CoulsonSouth Africa10h 00m 00s

1928 Up (8th Race)

 Date Thursday, 24 May
 Weather Cold early morning. Sweltering heat from late morning to mid afternoon.
 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 38
 Starters 34
 Finishers – Total 13
 Men 13
 Silver 13
 % Finishers / Starters 38.2

THE MENS RACE

The improvement in performances in recent years led to a reduction of the time limit, from 12 to 11 hours, for earning a finisher’s medal.

With the departure of Arthur Newton, and the retirement of Harry Phillips, the race was clearly an open affair. The Sutton family, on the strength of their outstanding result in 1927, were expected to put in a strong challenge when the race got under way on a cold morning.

Fred Cole led the runners out of Durban at a brisk pace. He was still leading at Hillcrest (2h 35m) with Ronnie Sutton trailing 2 minutes behind, and Charlie Strassburg another 5 minutes adrift. The pace dropped significantly on Botha’s Hill where Sutton took the lead for a brief while. Cole was back in front soon after, and led through Drummond in 3h 41m 25s, which remains the slowest leading time to Drummond in the history of the race. The Suttons, Frank (3h 47m) and Winston (3h 49m), were next through.

The early morning chill had turned into sweltering heat. Feeling the effect, Cole and Ronnie fell back and Frank went into the lead, which he never surrendered. He led by 4 minutes at Camperdown (5h 34m) and gradually increased it as he approached Pietermaritzburg. Felix Henriksen, from Bulawayo, was next through in 5h 41m.

The Suttons were exhausted at this stage but they both managed to hang on and Frank beat Ronnie by 8 minutes when he finished in 7h 49m 07s) to complete a remarkable family one-two finish as a follow-up to their 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in 1927.

RESULT

1stFrank Sutton *South Africa

7h 49m 07s

2ndRonnie SuttonSouth Africa7h 57m 17s
3rdFelix HenriksenRhodesia8h 09m 12s
4thFrank MunnerySouth Africa8h 39m 46s
5thL.G. Cary-SmithSouth Africa9h 03m 13s
6thFrank HayesSouth Africa9h 16m 00s
7thH. TriegaardtSouth Africa9h 58m 10s
8thArchie Cary-SmithSouth Africa10h 25m 18s
9thNorman Nightscales **South Africa10h 37m 23s
10thRubin ShapiroSouth Africa10h 41m 16s

* Drowned when the troopship the Nova Scotia was torpedoed and sunk off the Natal coast near Durban near the end of World War II.

** Killed in action, in 1941, during an ill-fated Royal Navy convoy to Russia.

1929 Down (9th Race)

1929 Down (9th Race)
 DateFriday, 24 May
 WeatherWarm with cool breeze later.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg CityHall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters29
 Finishers – Total19
 Men19
 Silver19
 % Finishers / Starters65.5


THE MENS RACE

After their success in 1927 and 1928, the Sutton brothers disappeared from the Comrades scene, leaving the race without a recognised favourite.

Four miles out of the city, the runners left the tar and strode onto the dusty road to Durban. On the undulating section to Umlaas Road, Archie Cary-Smith went to the front, reaching the village in 1h 32m. He was followed by Rubin Shapiro, Willie Steytler, Skilly du Bois, Frank Munnery and Albert Marie who passed through together in 1h 35m.

Cary-Smith led the race through Camperdown and Cato Ridge, which he reached in 2h 7m. du Bois was next to arrive (2h 13m) with Marie following in 2h 15m. Cary-Smith, running untroubled, passed through Drummond in 3h 19m 45s. Marie had moved up into 2nd place (3h 26m) with the unknown novice, Darrell Dale, surprisingly passing through the checkpoint in 3h 29m.

On the roller-coaster climb to Botha’s Hill, Dale went ahead of Marie who was sorely troubled with cramp. Dale set off after Cary-Smith and cut into his lead rapidly. The unchanging gait of Cary-Smith took a turn for the worse when fatigue caught up with him as he approached Hillcrest; having led for almost 30 miles. Dale overtook him as they entered Gillitts and led by 15 seconds going past the old railway station. He quickly built a substantial lead and by Kloof, from where the road was tarred all the way to Durban, the fading Cary-Smith trailed him by 13 minutes.

With the distance between himself and the rest of the field stretching with each stride, Dale reached Pinetown in 5h 51m. Cary-Smith’s race was over as following runners went past him at regular intervals. First, it was Fred Wallace and then Marie. Dale was starting to take strain as he approached Durban and was reduced to a short walk down Berea Road. He held on, however, and breasted the tape in 7h 52m 01s. It remains the second slowest winning time in the history of the race.     

RESULT

1stDarrell DaleSouth Africa

7h 52m 01s

2ndFred WallaceSouth Africa8h 10m 17s
3rdAlbert MarieSouth Africa8h 17m 31s
4thSkilly du BoisSouth Africa8h 19m 26s
5thWillie SteytlerSouth Africa8h 39m 51s
6thArchie Cary-SmithSouth Africa8h 53m 12s
7thJack SavageSouth Africa8h 53m 55s
8thNigel WalkerSouth Africa8h 54m 59s
9thBill SavageSouth Africa9h 00m 30s
10thFrank MunnerySouth Africa9h 40m 49s

1930 Up (10th Race)

 DateSaturday, 24 May
 WeatherMild with fresh breeze.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters55
 Finishers – Total29
 Men29
 Medals-Silver29
 % Finishers / Starters52.7

 
THE MENS RACE

The runners were sent away at 6 a.m. in bright moonlight. Frank Hayes led the charge up Berea Road and headed the field over Tollgate. Close on his heels was the Johannesburg novice, Wally Hayward, who was, in turn, followed by Frank Munnery. These three had drawn well away from the rest, but Hayward went into the lead shortly thereafter. He kept pushing hard and reaching Pinetown in 1h 27m, had a lead of over 5 minutes from Munnery. Next through was Albert Marie (1h 35m 55s) and the Savage brothers, Jack and Bill in 1h 37m 30s. Hayes had already retired.

Weather conditions were favourable, with a pleasant chill in the air, which Hayward took full advantage of, increasing the distance between himself and the following pack all the time. He passed through Hillcrest in 2h 27m; 11 minutes ahead of Munnery and 17 minutes ahead of Jack Savage.

Botha’s Hill held no fears for Hayward and he dropped easily down to Drummond, arriving at the midpoint in 3h 20m. In second place, with half the journey behind them, was Munnery (3h 36m 05s). Then followed the Savage brothers, Jack (3h 42m 20s) and Bill (3h 47m 25s), Bill Cochrane (3h 48m 30s) with Fred Wallace and Phil Masterton-Smith running together (3h 51m 5s).

Hayward climbed Inchanga without any trouble, but the big hill wrought changes behind him. Once all the leading contenders had negotiated the hill, Hayward held a lead of two miles over Munnery, while Masterton-Smith had moved ahead of Wallace.

Hayward was still leading at Harrison but the first telltale signs were beginning to show. He struggled bravely until Cato Ridge where cramp forced him to stop for a massage. Although he was forced to walk on all the hills, he hung on doggedly while Masterton-Smith was picking up places as he passed those ahead of him. Hayward still led at Camperdown in 5h 13m 25s, followed by Munnery (5h 24m), Jack Savage (5h 27m) and Masterton-Smith (5h 30m).

By Umlaas Road, Savage had moved into second place, 14 minutes behind Hayward, with the flying Masterton-Smith another minute adrift. On the long downhill section, with Munnery and Savage tiring, Masterton-Smith moved into second position. With Hayward walking on the hills, the distance back to the chaser dwindled rapidly as Masterton-Smith took the hills with ease.

It developed into an enthralling battle as the end approached. The gap, however, was just too great. Hayward crossed the finish line a mere 37 seconds ahead of the gallant Masterton-Smith.   

RESULT

1stWally HaywardSouth Africa

7h 27m 26s

2ndPhil Masterton-SmithSouth Africa7h 28m 03s
3rdFrank MunnerySouth Africa7h 39m 30s
4th

Jack Savage

South Africa7h 44m 31s
5thFred WallaceSouth Africa7h 55m 24s
6thPiet van RooyenSouth Africa8h 15m 02s
7thBill CochraneSouth Africa8h 20m 21s
8thAlbert MarieSouth Africa8h 20m 50s
9thRubin ShapiroSouth Africa8h 27m 14s
10thBill SavageSouth Africa8h 29m 42s

1931 Down (11th Race)

 DateMonday, 25 May
 WeatherCool early morning. Warm sunny afternoon.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters65
 Finishers – Total30
 Men30
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver24
 % Finishers / Starters46.2


THE MENS RACE

There was a strange miscellany of ‘competitors’ alongside the 65 official entrants outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. There was a skater, who took a bad fall en route and retired, three walkers and Durban schoolteacher, Geraldine Watson.

The days of dust and stones were, thankfully, over. Prior to race-day the tarring of the main road, all the way to Durban, was completed.

Although there was no previous winner among the starters, there were many consistent campaigners, any of whom who were capable of taking line honours later in the day. The early pace was made by George Steere and veteran, Albert Marie, who reached Umlaas Road together in 1h 26m. Not too far from the leaders were Fred Wallace, Archie Cary-Smith and Noel Burree.

The leaders maintained their position as they raced through Cato Ridge. The 1931 runner-up, Phil Masterton-Smith, seemed unworried about his position. He was lying in 22nd place with a third of the journey completed. Bill Savage had moved into 3rd place.

Marie fell away soon after Cato Ridge and Steere began to feel the adverse effects of his early fast pace. He was still in the lead at Drummond (3h 12m) with Savage a mere 30 seconds behind him. Marie was next in 3h 15m and Wessel Strydom in 3h 16m 20s.

Changes came rapidly after the halfway mark. By Botha’s Hill, Strydom had assumed the lead with a 2-minute advantage over Savage. Piet van Rooyen, Masterton-Smith and Burree were running together a short distance back. On the climb up to Hilcrest, van Rooyen was leading. He was running so easily, it appeared that he could maintain his shuffling gait all the way to Durban; but it was not to be.

Masterton-Smith was making a determined effort and moved into 3rd place near Kloof. Burree was in trouble and looked as if he would not reach the finish. Masterton-Smith finally took the lead on the long descent of Field’s Hill. At the Pinetown crossroads, van Rooyen was still second, Strydom third and, limping slightly in 4th place, was Burree; some 10 minutes off the lead. At this stage, Masterton-Smith looked a certain winner.

However, Burree despite the limp, was not finished. Before he commenced the climb up Cowie’s Hill, he had overtaken both van Rooyen and Strydom and, by Westville, he had made 3 minutes on the leader.

As Masterton-Smith crested Tollgate, a huge crowd greeted him but… barely 40 yards behind was Burree; having gained 10 minutes in the 10 miles from Pinetown. Excitement was at fever pitch as the pair played out a desperate battle to the finish. Burree took the lead on the Alice Street bridge, 700 yards from the finish, and seemed a sure winner. Masterton-Smith was back in front – by just 10 yards – as they turned into the Track Ground for the final lap. Burree cut the distance to 3 yards as they entered the home straight. In a desperate sprint to the line, Masterton-Smith held on to win by 2 yards.

Geraldine Watson became the first woman to complete the Up Run, albeit unofficially, in just over 11 hours.

RESULT

1stPhil Masterton-Smith *South Africa

7h 16m 30s

2ndNoel BurreeSouth Africa7h 16m 32s
3rdWessel StrydomSouth Africa7h 32m 20s
4th

Piet van Rooyen

South Africa8h 01m 50s
5thFred WallaceSouth Africa8h 04m 10s
6thA.E. TaylorSouth Africa8h 23m 02s
7thTed PieterseSouth Africa8h 31m 40s
8thE.F. SchutzeSouth Africa8h 37m 47s
9thNigel WalkerSouth Africa8h 48m 38s
10thKeith DubberSouth Africa8h 52m 05s

* Killed by a mortar bomb explosion, on 5 June 1942, while serving with the Natal Carbineers, in the Western Desert Campaign, during World War II.

1932 Up (12th Race)

 DateTuesday, 24 May
 WeatherMild at start. Very hot later.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters65
 Finishers – Total24
 Men24
 Silver18
 % Finishers / Starters36.9

THE MENS RACE

“Anyone can win it.”

Without a clear-cut favourite, that was the general consensus. There were, however, a number of seasoned campaigners who could be relied upon to test each other to the limit. The defending champion, Phil Masterton-Smith was in the field. So was Bill Cochrane, Jack, Percy and Bill Savage, Fred Wallace, Noel Burree, Wessel Strydom and Albert Marie. Also on the start line, were a few newcomers; Hardy Ballington, Allen Boyce and Lionel Knight.

The field began to string out immediately after the start. Jimmy Scoulelis and Harold Ward led the charge up Berea Road but, once over Tollgate, Ward drew away and was well clear by the time he reached Westville. In a large group following him were Scoulelis, Marie, the three Savage brothers, Ballington, Strydom, Wallace and Boyce. At Pinetown, Ward was 3 minutes ahead of the chasers who passed through at regular intervals over the next 14 minutes. Masterton-Smith was nowhere to be seen.

As expected, Field’s Hill further spread the field. Although he led over the top, Ward had lost his smooth, easy action. He was followed by Wren and Sandison.

Ward slowed to a walk up Botha’s Hill. Jack Savage was moving through the field and caught both Marie and Ward near the Botha’s Hill railway station. Ballington had worked his way into 5th position.

The leading six through Drummond were Jack Savage (3h 34m), Bill Savage (3h 41m 40s), Ballington (3h 43m 30s), Knight (3h 48m 15s), Masterton-Smith (3h 49m 15s) and Cochrane (3h 49m 15s).

Once again, Inchanga, proved a major catalyst in rearranging the top positions. Bill Savage dropped back; seemingly out of contention and Masterton-Smith slipped past Knight. Going over the crest, Masterton-Smith and Cochrane appeared to be in the best trim and looked likely to fight it out for line honours.

At Camperdown the leading positions were Jack Savage (5h 21m), Masterton-Smith (5h 28m), Ballington (5h 29m), Knight (5h 36m), Cochrane (5h 37m) and Bill Savage (5h 38m). After exiting the village, Jack Savage showed signs of fatigue and Masterton-Smith went to the front and looked a sure winner. Soon after, however, it became apparent that he had misjudged his race and pushed too hard, too far out. With Jack Savage now walking on all the hills, it seemed that Ballington would go on to win.

At this stage, Bill Savage was making a fine recovery and was cutting through the field. He passed Ballington, Cochrane and Knight before drawing level with Masterton-Smith at the foot of Polly Shortt’s. Bill Savage powered his way up the big hill. Masterton-Smith could not respond and was also overtaken by Knight, Cochrane and Ballington.

Followed by a procession of cars and motorcycles, Bill Savage strode victoriously into Alexandra Park, beating the novice, Lionel Knight, by 9 minutes.

Once again, Geraldine Watson finished, in 11h 56m, to become the first woman to complete back-to-back Down and Up Runs.

RESULT

1stBill SavageSouth Africa

7h 41m 58s

2ndLionel KnightSouth Africa7h 50m 54s
3rdBill CochraneSouth Africa7h 57m 46s
4th

Hardy Ballington

South Africa8h 01m 14s
5thJack SavageSouth Africa8h 12m 45s
6thPhil Masterton-SmithSouth Africa8h 35m 09s
7thD. TerblancheSouth Africa8h 50m 43s
8th

Albert Marie  *

South Africa8h 51m 10s
8thFred Wallace *South Africa8h 51m 10s
10thIvor LukeSouth Africa8h 56m 21s

* Finished together

1933 Down (13th Race)

 DateWednesday, 24 May
 WeatherRain from 7:30 to 10 a.m. with very cold north-west wind. At halfway, cold drizzle became torrential storm.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters85
 Finishers – Total57
 Men57
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver51
 % Finishers / Starters67.1


THE MENS RACE

Unpleasant weather threatened when the field of 85 set off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Rain clouds were gathering ominously over the northern horizon.

Harold Ward was, once again, the early pacemaker, reaching Umlaas Road in 1h 26m, with a lead of 8 minutes over Piet Strydom.

Rain started falling at 7:30 a.m. and was accompanied by a bitterly cold wind coming from the north-west. Ward went through Cato Ridge in 2h 5m with a lead of 2 miles over the following group. On the relatively easy stretch to the foot of Inchanga, Jimmy Sandison broke away from the group, moving into 2nd position behind Ward.

At Drummond, the cold, sleet and drizzle gave way to a torrential storm that drenched the runners. The position at the halfway mark was Ward (3h 13m), Sandison (3h 18m 50s), Bill Cochrane and Hardy Ballington (3h 22m 30s), Charlie Strassburg (3h 23m), Lionel Knight (3h 23m 10s) and defending champion, Bill Savage (3h 24m 30s).

Ward stopped for 5 minutes at Drummond and Sandison passed him when he resumed running. From this point, Ward dropped out of the picture. Cochrane went ahead of Ballington at Drummond, only to be caught, and re-passed, at the Botha’s Hill Tea Room. Ballington then set off in pursuit of Sandison, passing him at the Botha’s Hill railway station.

The rain let up around 10 a.m. as the field reached Hillcrest.

With Sandison fading, Ballington had established a lead of 7 minutes by Hillcrest. The 20-year-old leader was on the outskirts of Pinetown in under 5 hours. The timekeepers calculated that if he maintained his pace, he would beat the 7-hour barrier and become the first man to do so since Arthur Newton in 1927. Revelling in the cold, overcast conditions, Ballington led through Pinetown in 5h 12m. Then followed Cochrane (5h 24m), Knight (5h 28m) and, a suffering, Sandison (5h 31m). 

Passing through Westville, Cochrane made a desperate, but unsuccessful, effort to catch Ballington. A huge crowd greeted Ballington as he went over the top of Tollgate and set off down Old Dutch Road en route to the Track Ground where he stopped the clock in 6h 50m 37s.

RESULT

1stHardy BallingtonSouth Africa

6h 50m 37s

2ndBill CochraneSouth Africa7h 11m 21s
3rdLionel KnightSouth Africa7h 16m 00s
4th

Bunny Quigley

Rhodesia7h 32m 30s
5thJimmy SandisonSouth Africa7h 36m 28s
6thFred WallaceSouth Africa7h 43m 38s
7thIvor LukeSouth Africa7h 51m 18s
8thAlbert MarieSouth Africa7h 54m 34s
9thBill SavageSouth Africa7h 54m 54s
10thPhil Masterton-SmithSouth Africa

8h 00m 10s

1934 Up (14th Race)

 DateThursday, 24 May
 WeatherVery cold. Intermittent showers all day.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters40
 Finishers – Total24
 Men24
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver18
 % Finishers / Starters60.0


THE MENS RACE

As in 1933, rain was again threatening when the field of 40 threaded its way out of Durban. Perennial pacemaker, Harold Ward, assumed the early lead and reached Westville in 52 minutes; 8 minutes faster than when he led the race to that point in 1932. He was already 5 minutes ahead of Lionel Knight and Jimmy Sandison. A cold wind blew up at this time and short, sharp showers, which were to be troublesome for the rest of the day, were the cause of cramp for many runners.

As Ward made his way to Pinetown, positions were changing behind him. When he was clocked at the Compton Street intersection in 1h 32m, Ward was followed by Ivor Luke, Jimmy Scoulelis, Knight and Sandison. The fancied pairing of Hardy Ballington and Bill Cochrane was a fair way back.

Luke caught Ward at Gillitts. The pair reached Hillcrest together in 2h 39m. Sandison trailed them by another 5 minutes. Ballington, Cochrane and Noel Burree were clocked at 2h 51m. Always the catalyst, Botha’s Hill brought dramatic changes among the leaders. Ward slackened and both Luke and Sandison went ahead of him. Knight struggled with cramp but hung in. Sandison inherited the lead when Luke stopped for a massage at the top of the hill. Ballington and Cochrane, still running together, were steadily working their way through the top runners.

Sandison reached Drummond in 3h 36m 20s followed by Luke (3h 39m), Bill Rufus (3h 42m 30s) and Cochrane and Ballington (3h 42m 35s).

Ballington struck trouble while climbing Inchanga, leaving Cochrane to go after the leaders. At Cato Ridge, Cochrane had cut Sandison’s lead to just 2 minutes. A short distance beyond Cato Ridge, Sandison slumped down for another massage and, as he resumed running, Cochrane charged past; looking every bit a winner.

Meanwhile, Ballington had come through his bad patch and was relentlessly cutting the distance between himself and Cochrane. He finally caught Cochrane, who was feeling a few twinges of cramp, at Umlaas Road. Ballington, now moving with a free, untroubled gait, sailed up Polly Shortt’s, putting paid to Cochrane’s chances.

Victory was never in doubt as Ballington strode into the city and was awarded a rousing welcome as he breasted the tape in Alexandra Park to record a second successive victory, missing Arthur Newton’s Best Time for the Up Run by 12 minutes.  

RESULT

1stHardy BallingtonSouth Africa

7h 09m 03s

2ndBill CochraneSouth Africa7h 24m 41s
3rdIvor LukeSouth Africa7h 44m 39s
4th

Fred Wallace

South Africa7h 57m 13s
5thJimmy SandisonSouth Africa7h 59m 57s
6thO.S. MattersonSouth Africa8h 26m 50s
7thLionel KnightSouth Africa8h 29m 51s
8thLiege BoulleSouth Africa8h 32m 47s
9thNoel BurreeSouth Africa8h 46m 20s
10thVernon JonesSouth Africa8h 49m 53s

1935 Down (15th Race)

 DateFriday, 24 May
 WeatherCold at start. Mild to warm later.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters48
 Finishers – Total34
 Men34
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver28
 % Finishers / Starters70.8


THE MENS RACE

The big question in everybody’s mind was “would Hardy Ballington record the first hat-trick since Arthur Newton in 1924?”

An unknown factor was the entry of Johnny Coleman of Durban who was expected to perform well in the up-coming Olympic Marathon, in Berlin, the following year. With three outstanding talents, Ballington, Bill Cochrane and Coleman, pushing each other, Newton’s Best Time, for the Down Run, of 6h 24m 45s was deemed to be in jeopardy. It was going to be a thriller… and it was.

Harold Ward, as usual, went into an immediate lead, setting a cracking pace which blew away many of the inexperienced runners. The experienced runners normally let him go, but not on this occasion. There was too much at stake.

With a quarter of the journey completed, Ward led at Umlaas Road in 1h 28m. Less than 2 minutes adrift, followed a group which contained all the big names; Jimmy Sandison, Ballington, Sarel Pretorius, Ivor Luke, Coleman and Cochrane.

When Ward was timed at Cato Ridge at 2h 7m, the field was very congested behind him. Luke went by in 2nd position, less that a minute behind. He was followed by Ballington, Cochrane and Pretorius (2h 8m 15s), Coleman (2h 8m 20s) and Sandison (2h 8m 30s). Just 15 minutes separated the first 21 runners through Cato Ridge.

Three miles further on, a group consisting of Ballington, Cochrane, Pretorius and Coleman swept past both Ward and Luke to take a shared lead. At this point, taking advantage of a good spell, Cochrane sprang a surprise, and went to the front, and entered Drummond in 3h 4m 15s. Two minutes later came Ballington and Coleman running side by side.

Cochrane’s pace never slackened as he raced on towards Durban and led the field through Hillcrest in 3h 52m 15s. Coleman was next through in 3h 58m, followed by Ballington in 3h 59m. Cochrane pushed on untroubled and went through Kloof in 4h 32m. Coleman (4h 38m) and Ballington (4h 39m) followed him.

Cochrane dropped effortlessly down Field’s Hill and passed through Pinetown with an advantage of 13 minutes over Coleman and Ballington. A hot wind greeted the runners as they took on Cowie’s Hill. Cochrane appeared to have an unassailable lead but was he to pay for his earlier fast pace? The observant spectator would notice that his easy action was floundering as he headed for Westville. In the closing miles, it was Ballington who provided all the excitement as he cut, remorsefully, into Cochrane’s lead, closing to just 800 yards behind the leader. But had he also taken too much out of himself in his dash to catch Cochrane?

At Mayville, he began to wilt and must have given up hope of a third successive win as Cochrane drew away again. Down Old Dutch Road, Cochrane headed a flotilla of cars and cycles, but with Ballington still less than 2 minutes adrift, the result was not assured. He held on and achieved his ambition. At the end of a thrilling duel, Ballington arrived just 1m 51s later. 

RESULT

1stBill CochraneSouth Africa

6h 30m 05s

2ndHardy BallingtonSouth Africa6h 31m 56s
3rdJohnny ColemanSouth Africa6h 55m 20s
4th

Arthur Reeve

South Africa7h 36m 20s
5thSarel PretoriusSouth Africa7h 39m 27s
6thIvor LukeSouth Africa7h 46m 19s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa7h 49m 29s
8thJimmy SandisonSouth Africa8h 11m 55s
9thAllen BoyceSouth Africa8h 13m 15s
10thMax TrimbornSouth Africa8h 21m 13s

1936 Up (16th Race)

 DateMonday, 25 May
 WeatherShort shower 5 minutes before start. No more rain. Very cold wind.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, Smith Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters19
 Finishers – Total13
 Men13
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver7
 % Finishers / Starters68.4


THE MENS RACE

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.


RESULT

1stHardy BallingtonSouth Africa

6m 46m 14s

New Best Time Up

2ndArthur ReeveSouth Africa7h 50m 53s
3rdLiege BoulleSouth Africa7h 51m 08s
4thFred WallaceSouth Africa7h 53m 41s
5thAllen BoyceSouth Africa8h 23m 51s
6thW.S. SherriffsSouth Africa8h 30m 07s
7thJ.L. PretoriusSouth Africa8h 30m 20s
8thD.R. SmithSouth Africa8h 44m 35s
9thRay SandisonSouth Africa9h 18m 16s
10thMax TrimbornSouth Africa9h 26m 00s

1937 Down (17th Race)

 DateMonday, 24 May
 WeatherEarly morning mist, clearing later. Mild to warm.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters30
 Finishers – Total19
 Men19
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver13
 % Finishers / Starters63.3


THE MENS RACE

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.

RESULT

1stJohnny Coleman *South Africa

6h 23m 11s

New Best Time Down

2ndAllen BoyceSouth Africa6h 40m 19s
3rdFred WallaceSouth Africa6h 41m 47s
4thRay SandisonSouth Africa7h 34m 05s
4thD.J. CraffordSouth Africa7h 49m 46s
6thP. BeisnerSouth Africa7h 56m 25s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa7h 56m 31s
8thDominic PivalizzaSouth Africa8h 04m 15s
9thW.S. SherriffsSouth Africa8h 11m 42s
10thMax TrimbornSouth Africa8h 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)

DateTuesday, 24 May
WeatherCool early morning. Unseasonable heat around midday.
Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
Time Limit11 Hours
Approx. Distance54 M
EntriesUnknown
Starters20
Finishers – Total11
Men11
Medals – Gold6
Silver5
% Finishers / Starters55.0

THE MENS RACE

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.

RESULT

1stHardy BallingtonSouth Africa

6h 32m 26s

New Best Time Up

2ndAllen BoyceSouth Africa7h 03m 05s
3rdFred MorrisonSouth Africa7h 38m 57s
4thRay SandisonSouth Africa8h 02m 20s
5thD.A. MackrorySouth Africa8h 10m 02s
6thJohn BallingtonSouth Africa8h 25m 35s
7thD.R. SmithSouth Africa9h 15m 15s
8thMax TrimbornSouth Africa9h 20m 24s
9thEdgar MarieSouth Africa9h 23m 37s
10thLiege BoulleSouth Africa9h 44m 27s

1939 Down (19th Race)

 DateWednesday, 24 May
 WeatherChilly and overcast. Light drizzle near Inchanga. Very cold wind late morning/early afternoon.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg CityHall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters24
 Finishers – Total21
 Men21
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver15
 % Finishers / Starters87.5


THE MENS RACE

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.    

RESULT

1stJohnny Coleman *South Africa

6h 22m 05s

New Best Time Down

2ndAllen BoyceSouth Africa6h 26m 34s
3rdJohn BallingtonSouth Africa7h 28m 01s
4thDymock ParrSouth Africa7h 58m 12s
5thJ.L. PretoriusSouth Africa7h 59m 52s
6thFred MorrisonSouth Africa8h 09m 20s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa8h 10m 34s
8thWillie AmronSouth Africa8h 22m 59s
9thMorris AlexanderSouth Africa8h 26m 22s
10thMax TrimbornSouth Africa8h 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.

1940 Up (20th Race)

 DateFriday, 24 May
 WeatherCool and clear all day.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters23
 Finishers – Total10
 Men10
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver4
 % Finishers / Starters43.4


THE MENS RACE

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.    

RESULT

1stAllen BoyceSouth Africa

6h 39m 23s

2ndDymock ParrSouth Africa8h 29m 51s
3rdGordon MorrisonSouth Africa8h 55m 21s
4th

Max Trimborn

South Africa9h 03m 28s
5thEdgar MarieSouth Africa9h 06m 07s
6thP.L. ChristieSouth Africa10h 12m 35s
7thWillie AmronSouth Africa10h 19m 45s
8thP. FreedmanSouth Africa10h 38m 04s
9thH. McIntoshSouth Africa10h 55m 23s
10thT.D. StobieSouth Africa10h 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.

1946 Up (21st Race)

 DateFriday, 24 May
 WeatherChilly at the start, warming to mild with a hot headwind in the vicinity of Umlaas Road.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries22
 Starters8
 Finishers – Total8
 Men6
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver2
  Finishers / Starters36.4


THE MENS RACE

When the guns finally fell silent in 1945, two former winners had made the supreme sacrifice. Phil Masterton-Smith fell in the Western Desert in 1941 and Frank Sutton drowned when his troopship was torpedoed off the coast, near Durban, in 1944.

Two previous winners, however, entered. A clash of giants was expected with Hardy Ballington and Bill Cochrane set to tee-off for another Titanic struggle. However, it was not to be. Ballington injured an ankle a week before race day when he was forced off the road by a car while out training. Among the entrants were a number off pre-war stalwarts. Dymock Parr (2nd in 1940), Keith Dubber, Bill Rufus and Liege Boulle all decided to give the race another try.

Rufus led the field up Berea Road with Cochrane and Parr not too far behind. He was clocked at Westville in 52m 50s, exactly 5 minutes ahead of Parr. Cochrane was another minute back. Over the hilly section to Pinetown, Rufus increased his lead, going through in 1h 31m 33s. Parr and Cochrane, running together, arrived in 1h 38m 50s, with Boulle clocking 1h 44m. Although Field’s Hill slowed Rufus slightly, he was still in the lead at Gillitts in 2h 14m 20s. Cochrane (2h 19m 52s) had gone ahead of Parr (2h 21m 10s) into 3rd position.

On the testing stretch between Hillcrest and Drummond, Rufus began to feel the effects of his early efforts and was overtaken by Cochrane as they ran into the halfway point, where the position was Cochane (3h 30m 28s), Rufus (3h 30m 35s) and Parr (3h 33m 44s). When both Rufus and Parr stopped for a massage at Drummond, Cochrane ran into a substantial lead as he climbed the tough Inchanga bank with comparative ease.

Cochrane reached Cato Ridge in 4h 40m. Parr was next in 5h 8m. Rufus was tiring and had dropped back into 4th position. Cochrane struck a bad patch after Cato Ridge and struggled as he strode towards Umlaas Road, allowing Parr to gain a few minutes. Nevertheless, he recovered and pulled away again over the hills to the top of Polly Shortt’s where he was a sure winner. A huge ovation greeted him as he entered Alexandra Park, crossing the line in 7h 2m 40s.

For Parr, it as a replay of 1940. He once again finished 2nd, a long way behind the winner. In 1940, it was 1h 50m. On this occasion, it was 58m. Rufus recovered on the run in from Umlaas Road to finish 3rd.

RESULT

1stBill CochraneSouth Africa

7h 02m 40s

2ndDymock ParrSouth Africa8h 00m 27s
3rdBill RufusSouth Africa8h 27m 06s
4thP.L. ChristieSouth Africa8h 54m 35s
5thReg AllisonSouth Africa8h 55m 33s
6thMorris AlexanderSouth Africa9h 01m 30s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa10h 04m 04s
8thEdgar MarieSouth Africa10h 59m 58s

1947 Down (22nd Race)

 DateSaturday, 24 May
 WeatherChilly at the start. Warming later, but never oppressive.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters47
 Finishers – Total23
 Men23
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver17
 % Finishers / Starters48.9


THE MENS RACE

Having recovered from the ankle injury that caused him to withdraw from the 1946 race, and with no one in his class, Hardy Ballington was the outright favourite. There were, however, a few improving runners entered, such as Reg Allison and Eddie Hofmeyr, but they were not expected to prevent Ballington from achieving a fifth victory.

In perfect running weather – chilly morning air with bright, mild sunshine – Liege Boulle lead the field out of Pietermaritzburg with Ballington striding along, not too far behind, in 2nd place.

At Umlaas Road, Ballington had gone to the front, leading a group in which Boulle, Allison, Bill Rufus, and Dymock Parr featured prominently. When the leaders passed through Cato Ridge, Allison had moved into 2nd position about 700 yards behind Ballington. On the pull up Inchanga, Ballington increased his lead over Allison and dropped down into Drummond in 3h 4m 7s, almost three-quarters of a mile ahead. Allison was next through 3h 9m. Then came a group containing Rufus, Parr and Hofmeyr.

This was Ballington’s best time to Drummond and, as he always picked up the pace over the second half, the pundits predicted that a new Best Time was possible. Soon after, it was noticed that he was not running as easily as earlier but, nevertheless, his lead over Allison, at Kloof, was more than 2 miles and by the time he entered Pinetown he had extended the gap to 20 minutes. The bad patch, however, had eliminated any chance of a new Best Time. After cresting Tollgate, his progression to the Track Ground was uneventful and, after achieving his fifth win, his announced his retirement from long-distance running.

RESULT

1stHardy BallingtonSouth Africa

6h 41m 05s

2ndReg AllisonSouth Africa7h 23m 30s
3rdEddie HofmeyrSouth Africa7h 42m 17s
4thLucas NelSouth Africa7h 57m 52s
4thGerald MoloneySouth Africa7h 59m 07s
6thCarl PaceSouth Africa8h 02m 41s
7thDymock ParrSouth Africa8h 06m 04s
8thFred MorrisonSouth Africa8h 17m 52s
9thC.C.J. JoubertSouth Africa8h 46m 40s
10thMorris AlexanderSouth Africa8h 56m 02s

1948 Up (23rd Race)

 DateMonday, 24 May
 WeatherMild at start to hot at midday with very little cooling breeze.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters45
 Finishers – Total24
 Men24
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver18
 % Finishers / Starters53.3


THE MENS RACE

An open race was predicted with any one of the major contenders in with a reasonable chance of leading the field into Pietermaritzburg at around 12:30 that afternoon. Reg Allison, whose 2nd place finish in 1947 gave him the edge, although Transvaal runners, George Burdett, Alan Ferguson and Gerry Moloney could spring a surprise.

A cloudless sky greeted the runners as they lined up outside the Durban City Hall.

Setting a sprightly pace, Len Wootton led the way up Berea Road to Tollgate as they strung out. He commenced the climb up Cowie’s Hill with a 2-minute lead over Bill Savage, who won the 1932 Up Race. Another 4 minutes later, Allison and Bill Rufus, running together, passed by. The steep gradient of the hill caused the field to spread even more thinly.

Setting a cracking pace, Wootton checked in at Pinetown in 1h 29m 5s. Next to pass the checkpoint was Savage and Allison separated by a few strides. Wootton increased his lead on Field’s Hill but on the rollercoaster section to Hillcrest, he paid the penalty for his early pace. Savage passed him shortly before entering the village.

Savage reached the top of Botha’s Hill in 2h 50m. Allison, having passed Wootton on the big hill, was 2nd over the top in 2h 57m. While walking up the hill, Wootton was also overtaken by Morris Alexander. Burdett, Moloney and Ferguson were within striking distance, should any of those ahead stumble.

Drawing further away, Savage lead through Drummond in 3h 29m 6s. Allison was next through in 3h 39m 35s, but he was going through a bad spell at the time. Moloney and Burdett arrived together, followed by Alexander, Wootton, Ferguson, Bill Rufus and Dymock Parr.

The gruelling Inchanga Hill executed its usual grim toll. Allison lost 2nd position to Moloney and Burdett. In blistering heat, Allison was on the verge of retiring and lay down in the shade for nearly 30 minutes when Allen Boyce cajoled him into rejoining the fray.

On the long stretch to Camperdown, the searing heat, with no cooling breeze, did not affect Savage who built up a commanding lead. He arrived in the village after 5h 7m on the road, with Burdett and Moloney passing through together in 5h 25m. Allison, back in the race, was making a miraculous recovery, going by in 4th position.

Ahead lay the testing run-in to the Capital city, with the notorious Polly Shortt’s looming. Savage took the hill in his stride and ran into Pietermaritzburg a surprise winner after an absence of 16 years from the Comrades Marathon.

The final dash into the city, for the silver medal, was a thrilling affair. Allison recovered splendidly over the final 15 miles. Lying 32 minutes behind Savage, and 14 minutes behind Burdett and Moloney, at Camperdown, Allison tore over the testing stretch. He overtook Moloney on Polly Shortt’s and Burdett in the city, less than a mile from the finish. Burdett was in such a dire situation that he lost 5 minutes to Allison in the last mile. Totally exhausted, he staggered and swayed alarmingly in the final straight, he was almost caught by his teammate, Moloney; holding on to 3rd position by a mere 39 seconds.        

RESULT

1stBill SavageSouth Africa

7h 13m 52s

2ndReg AllisonSouth Africa7h 35m 55s
3rdGeorge BurdettSouth Africa7h 42m 06s
4thGerald MoloneySouth Africa7h 42m 45s
5thDymock ParrSouth Africa8h 18m 05s
6thAllan FergusonSouth Africa8h 20m 37s
7thLen WoottonSouth Africa8h 27m 47s
8thLucas NelSouth Africa8h 42m 12s
9thBill RufusSouth Africa8h 52m 40s
10thP.L. ChristieSouth Africa8h 59m 30s

1949 Down (24th Race)

 DateWednesday, 24 May
 WeatherFine and mild with scattered clouds.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 EntriesUnknown
 Starters54
 Finishers – Total32
 Men32
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver26
 % Finishers / Starters59.3


THE MENS RACE

As it was in 1948, the 1949 race also promised to be fairly open, although Reg Allison, the runner-up in 1947 and 1948, had the scales tipped slightly in his favour. There was also defending champion, Bill Savage and John Ballington, making a comeback after an absence of 10 years. Also down to short odds were the consistent Allan Ferguson and Gerry Moloney.

Leading the field out of Pietermaritzburg was Alan Bodill with Savage on his heels, but going over the top of Polly Shortt’s, just 4 miles into the race, Allison and Ballington had assumed the lead with a pace that promised a fast time.

Ballington was first through Thornybush, followed by Allison, Savage, Len Wootton and Bodill. Ballington and Allison went through Camperdown together in 1h 39m 57s with Savage and Ferguson following in quick succession. Over the rolling hills to Inchanga, Allison drew ahead and ran into Drummond where the order was Allison (3h 0m 28s), Ballington (3h 5m 21s), Savage (3h 13h) and Ferguson (3h 15m).

The pace proved to hot for the veteran, Savage, and he soon retired. Over the hilly stretch to Hillcrest, Allison increased his lead to 10 minutes over Ballington. Ferguson was third. Near the bottom of Field’s Hill, Ferguson went past Ballington into 2nd position, but he trailed the flying Allison by 3 miles. Averaging 9 miles an hour, a new Best Time was well within Allison’s reach.

Then disaster struck. Blisters were slowing him down and he lost valuable minutes when he stopped to have them dressed. With a substantial lead, however, he was soon on his way as he ran unchallenged to the Track ground. Those few critical minutes having the blisters treated certainly hampered his attempt at a new Best Time. He failed by a mere 76 seconds.

The courageous Ballington recovered after Pinetown, overtaking Ferguson on Cowie’s Hill and put 10 minutes between them over the final 10 miles.

RESULT

1stReg AllisonSouth Africa

6h 23m 21s

2ndJohn BallingtonSouth Africa6h 52m 54s
3rdAllan FergusonSouth Africa7h 02m 52s
4thMorris AlexanderSouth Africa7h 18m 06s
5thGerald MoloneySouth Africa7h 22m 19s
6thFritz von HellSouth Africa7h 31m 12s
7thDymock ParrSouth Africa7h 56m 34s
8thW. CunliffeSouth Africa7h 57m 01s
9thLiege BoulleSouth Africa8h 03m 54s
10thEddie HofmeyrSouth Africa8h 14m 26s

1950 Up (25th Race) Silver Jubilee Year

 DateWednesday, 24 May
 WeatherCool at start. Strong headwind at Drummond and Inchanga.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries33
 Starters29
 Finishers – Total20
 Men20
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver14
 % Finishers / Starters69.0

 

THE MENS RACE

The first three, of the four, races after the War were won by pre-War winners so, when 1930 winner, Wally Hayward submitted his entry, eyebrows were, naturally, raised in anticipation. He was a distinct threat to Reg Allison, but Allison’s near-record win in 1949, and Hayward’s absence from long-distance running for 20 years, made Allison a slight favourite.

As first light was breaking over the Indian Ocean, a disappointingly small field of 29 were sent away from the Durban Post Office. Allison and Len Wootton went to the front and led the string of runners up to Tollgate. The pair led through Mayville in 24 minutes with Hayward a minute behind. Then came Bill Rufus, John Ballington, Liege Boulle, Morris Alexander and Trevor Allen bunched close behind.

Allison and Wootton reached 45th Cutting, 5 miles into the race, in 32m 52s, with Hayward next in 34m 18s. He was followed by Rufus (35m 32s) and Boulle (35m 42s). Then came Alexander, Allen and Ballington, separated by a few seconds.

Allison and Wootton pressed on over Cowie’s Hill and into Pinetown, passing the Town Hall in 1h 28m 37s. Hayward had closed the gap to 300 yards, reaching the checkpoint in 1h 29m 51s. Ballington was 4th in 1h 36m 4s. The long pull up Field’ Hill told on Wootton, and near the top he was caught by Hayward who had also reduced Allison’s lead to 50 yards.

Hayward was running splendidly and caught Allison at the 20-mile mark and, passing through Hillcrest in 2h 29m 6s, held a lead of 300 yards. Running strongly, Hayward led by just under a mile at the Drummond checkpoint, clocking 3h 17m 8s, with Allison next in 3h 23m 15s. Following him, came Wootton (3h 36m 45s), Allen (3h 43m 40s) and Ballington (3h 44m 4s).

Over the next section to Camperdown, where he was timed at 4h 49m 16s, Hayward built a substantial lead over Allison, who reached there in 5h 10m 16s. Allen passed Wootton a mile before the village.

There was much excitement when the timekeepers realised that Hayward was 34 seconds ahead of Ballington’s time in 1938 when he set a new Best Time, but the euphoria soon wore off when it was noticed that the extreme heat and strong headwind caused Hayward to lose the fluidity in his stride. He dropped to a walk on sections of Polly Shortt’s, but was in no danger of being overtaken. He worked his way wearily to the finish in Alexandra Park to record his second victory; 20 years after his first in 1930.

Allison had dropped a long way behind Hayward, finishing 13 minutes adrift. After a great battle with Wootton, on the run-in from the top of Polly Shortts, Allen finished in 3rd position.

RESULT

1stWally HaywardSouth Africa

6h 46m 25s

2ndReg AllisonSouth Africa6h 59m 35s
3rdTrevor AllenSouth Africa7h 32m 37s
4th

Len Wootton

South Africa7h 38m 47s
5thMorris AlexanderSouth Africa7h 44m 36s
6thJohn BallingtonSouth Africa7h 47m 48s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa7h 59m 14s
8thBrian DankwertsSouth Africa8h 20m 40s
9thW.K. VorsterSouth Africa8h 21m 00s
10thDon SpencerSouth Africa8h 27m 53s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stWally Hayward (40)South Africa

6h 46m 25s

New Best Time Up

2ndLiege Boulle (41)South Africa7h 59m 14s
3rdW. K. Vorster (43)South Africa8h 21m 00s

1951 Down (26th Race)

 DateThursday, 24 May
 WeatherChilly at start with mist in valleys, warming to mild later.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries40
 Starters38
 Finishers – Total25
 Men25
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver19
 % Finishers / Starters65.8


THE MENS RACE

The moment Wally Hayward’s entry arrived, the existing Best Time for the Down Run was in jeopardy.

Under a star-lit pre-dawn sky, the field was sent away. Former double-winner, Bill Savage immediately strode to the front. At the top of Polly Shortt’s, he had a lead of 300 yards over Reg Allison, Hayward and Len Wootton running together. In the short run to the Tumble Inn, Allison had gone to the front and, running strongly, he built a lead of more than half a mile by the time he reached Umlaas Road in 1h 20m. Following the leader was Hayward (1h 23m), Savage (1h 25m), Wootton (1h 27m) Trevor Allen and Morris Alexander (1h 29m), John Ballington (1h 30m) and Liege Boulle (1h 31m).

Allison maintained his lead through Camperdown and Cato Ridge (1h 54m). Hayward, going through a bad patch trailed him by 5 minutes with Savage, Alexander and Allen a further 7 minutes adrift. A few yards further on, Savage retired and slumped on the rear seat oh his attendant’s car.

A new Best Time of 2h 49m 23s for the Pietermaritzburg to Drummond leg, led observers to believe that that Johnny Coleman’s Best Time for the Down Run was under serious threat as Allison stormed through the halfway point. Hayward had recovered from the bad patch and was running strongly. Either of these two could better it. Allen was in 3rd place, passing Drummond.

Climbing up towards Alveston, Alison began to falter, ostensibly for his earlier scorching pace. He finally succumbed on the railway bridge at Botha’s Hill and from this moment, the race was over, as Hayward ran further and further away from his pursuers. On the short run to Hillcrest, his lead was 4m 6s and by Pinetown, which he passed in 4h 34m 53s, it had grown to more than 26 minutes. Roadside opinion agreed that a Best Time was definitely on, provided Hayward maintained his amazing speed.

Never letting up on his drive over Cowie’s Hill, through Westville and into Durban, Hayward crossed the finish line at the Track Ground in 6h 14m 8s; shaving 7m 57s off the previous mark. Many unbelieving eyebrows were raised when Hayward said, afterwards, that he believed it would not be long before the race was run in under 6 hours.

Allison recovered as he neared Durban but, such was the superb effort of the winner, he trailed in 24 minutes later. When Allen arrived a further 31 minutes back, the finishing order of the top three was exactly the same as in 1951.

RESULT

1stWally Hayward *South Africa

6h 14m 08

New Best Time Down

2ndReg AllisonSouth Africa6h 38m 40s
3rdTrevor AllenSouth Africa7h 00m 15s
4thJohn BallingtonSouth Africa7h 16m 53s
5thArthur HamptonSouth Africa7h 20m 13s
6thLiege BoulleSouth Africa7h 33m 39s
7thFred MorrisonSouth Africa7h 38m 44s
8thMorris AlexanderSouth Africa7h 52m 06s
9thAllan FergusonSouth Africa8h 01m 24s
10thJ.H.P. AyresSouth Africa8h 20m 57s

* First Sub-6:15 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stWally Hayward (41)South Africa

6h 14m 08s

New Best Time Down

2ndLiege Boulle (42)South Africa7h 33m 39s

1952 Up (27th Race)

 DateMonday, 14 July
 WeatherVery cold at start. Cold localised drizzle at Drummond.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries34
 Starters32
 Finishers – Total23
 Men23
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver17
 % Finishers / Starters71.9


THE MENS RACE

With Hayward concentrating on the Helsinki Olympic marathon and Allison in retirement, there was no clear-cut favourite.

The date of the race was changed to 14 July, the Queen’s Birthday. The mid-winter date would, subsequently, prove to be unpopular.

First light saw the leaders, Don Spencer, Ed Luckin and Bill Rufus passing through Mayville, 25 minutes into the race. The consistent Trevor Allen went by in 9th position. At 45th Cutting, Rufus had gone ahead, but only 50 yards separated the first 6 runners.

As the leaders approached Cowie’s Hill, Spencer had a 500-yard gap over a large chasing pack. He was still setting the pace at Pinetown (1h 36m) with Martin, Luckin and Hampton passing by in 1h 39m. On the comparatively level stretch from Kloof to Hillcrest, where he went through the checkpoint in 2h 39m, Spencer had increased his lead over Martin (2h 44m) to 5 minutes. About 100 yards adrift, came Allen followed by Gerald Walsh and Hampton (2h 44m 30s) and Allan Ferguson (2h 46m).

Spencer arrived at Drummond in 3h 30m 42s with Walsh (3h 33m 58s) and Hampton (3h 34m 20s) next through.

Spencer climbed Inchanga with ease. Allen moved up and went over the top in company with Walsh and Hampton, but then he pulled away and set off in pursuit of the leader. Spencer was stricken with cramp in the vicinity of Harrison Flats, and Allen reduced the distance between them at an alarming rate. At Cato Ridge, Spencer was a mere 300 yards in front. Spencer hung on grimly and going into Camperdown his lead was down to 32 seconds. Finally, on the sharp hill before Umlaas Road, Allen went to the front. Still, Spencer refused to quit. He remained close to Allen as they approached Pietermaritzburg. Walsh, in the meantime, was crowding on the pace.

As he crossed the bridge near the Tumble Inn, Allen held a narrow 100-yard advantage over Spencer, but Allen was noted for his ability on the hills.

Over the final 4 miles, Allen went further ahead, while the tiring Spencer just managed to hold off a determined late challenge by Walsh.

RESULT

1stTrevor AllenSouth Africa

7h 00m 02s

2ndDon SpencerSouth Africa7h 06m 17s
3rdGerald WalshSouth Africa7h 07m 23s
4thAllan FergusonSouth Africa7h 13m 15s
5thJohn WoodsSouth Africa7h 35m 38s
6thAllen BoyceSouth Africa7h 37m 18s
7thJackie MeklerSouth Africa7h 45m 03s
8thFred MorrisonSouth Africa8h 07m 32s
9thAllan GillespieSouth Africa8h 13m 13s
10thMajor FarrantSouth Africa8h 38m 41s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stFred Morrison (40)South Africa

8h 07m 32s

1953 Down (28th Race)

 DateMonday, 13 July
 WeatherVery cold at start warming to mild later.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg / 6:30
 Finish VenueHoy Park
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries40
 Starters34
 Finishers – Total26
 Men26
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver20
 % Finishers / Starters76.5


THE MENS RACE

As far back as 1925, Arthur Newton predicted that the 6-hour barrier could be beaten on the Down Run.

After he won the 1951 Down Run, Wally Hayward said he believed that the Down Run could be run in under 6 hours.

The 1953 field comprised a galaxy of super stars. Hayward was at his peak. South African Marathon Champion, Syd Luyt, who finished 6th in the 1948 London Olympic Marathon, was among the starters. Former winners, Trevor Allen and Allen Boyce could be relied upon to make things uncomfortable for anyone aiming at top honours. Much was expected as the field set out into the early morning gloom.

Hayward had gone to the front, setting a blistering pace, by the time the field had left the city. He reached the crest of Polly Shortts in 34m with Boyce just 30 yards back. Allen was a further 100 yards behind. Luyt went over the top in 37 minutes and Jackie Mekler followed in 39 minutes.

Hayward crossed the Mpusheni River in 54m 25s, followed by Boyce and Allen (55m 35s). Mekler went by in 1h 1m 25s. Hayward was pulling away from his pursuers and at the first official checkpoint, at Camperdown, he was clocked at 1h 36m 55s. Behind him, a thrilling duel for second position was developing. Boyce was second through the checkpoint in 1h 40 25s, closely followed by Allen 1h 40m 35s, Mercer Davies (1h 40m 54s), Luyt (1h 41m 25s). Mekler came past in 1h 46m.

Cato Ridge witnessed a shuffling of the leading positions with Luyt moving into 2nd with Allen going past Boyce to take 3rd place.  

A big crowd welcomed Hayward at Drummond in 2h 53m 2s. The next arrivals at the halfway mark were Luyt (2h 57m 40s), Allen (3h 1m 7s) and Boyce (3h 4m 13s). Interest was now focused on Luyt’s chances of hauling in Hayward, but Hayward soon destroyed that thought by increasing the distance between himself and Luyt to 5 minutes, by the time he arrived in Hillcrest.

The race now belonged to Hayward. He charged through the Pinetown crossroads in 4h 27m 35s; a full 7 minutes faster than his time in 1951. Luyt came through 7m 3s later, with Allen checking in at 4h 49m 49s.

When Hayward went past the Westville Post Office in 5h 2m, a new Best Time was no longer a distinct possibility; it was, in the absence of a major disaster, almost certain. Never before had a runner been on the Durban boundary so early. Hayward strode triumphantly into the city and ran across the finish line at Hoy Park to continuing rounds of tumultuous applause when his time was announced as 5h 52m 30s.

Luyt produced a stunning performance for a novice, claiming 2nd place in 6h 5m 8s, while Allen, ever consistent, came in 3rd for the third year in succession.

RESULT

1stWally Hayward *   **South Africa

5h 52m 30s

New Best Time Down

2ndSyd Luyt *South Africa6h 05m 08s
3rdTrevor AllenSouth Africa6h 28m 15s
4thAllen BoyceSouth Africa6h 45m 11s
5thJackie MeklerSouth Africa6h 52m 59s
6thFrans MareSouth Africa7h 04m 57s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa7h 25m 37s
8thMercer DaviesSouth Africa7h 36m 25s
9thMajor FarrantSouth Africa7h 53m 55s
10thLaurie BarnesSouth Africa7h 55m 24s

* Syd Luyt had represented South Africa in the Marathon at the 1948 Summer   Olympics in London. He finished in 6th position in 2h 38m 11s.

* Wally Hayward and Luyt went on to represent South Africa in the Marathon at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Hayward finished in 10th position (2h 31m 50) and Luyt finished in 11th position (2h 32m 41s).  

** First Sub-6:00 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stWally Hayward (43)South Africa

5h 52m 30s

New Best Time Down

2ndLiege Boulle (44)South Africa7h 25m 37s

1954 Up (29th Race)

 DateSaturday, 12 June
 WeatherCloudless and cool at start, warming to very hot early afternoon.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries51
 Starters48
 Finishers – Total34
 Men34
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver28
 % Finishers / Starters70.8


THE MENS RACE

Would Wally Hayward score a 5th victory and so equal the feats of Arthur Newton and Hardy Ballington? That was the question on everybody’s lips. Ballington intimated that Hayward would finish in a time between 6h 10m and 6h 15m. When the field of  48 was sent on its way, the answer would be revealed within the next six-and-a-half hours.

When the first rays of sunlight appeared over the eastern horison, Gerald Walsh, Mercer Davies, Hayward, Len Wootton and Trevor Allen were together in a compact group that ran under the illuminated Tollgate Bridge. Davies went to the front soon after Tollgate and, reaching 45th Cutting in 33m 28s, he had established a lead of 150 yards over the rest.

He continued running strongly and increased his lead to 300 yards at Westville, but was complaining of a sore foot. He struggled on painfully until, finally, at the foot of Cowie’s Hill, Wootton went past him, as did Walsh, Allen and Hayward running in a group, just 30 yards behind Wootton.

Dropping down Cowie’s into Pinetown, Walsh went past the checkpoint in 1h 28m 38s, 15 yards ahead of Hayward and Allen. On the long slog up Field’s Hill, Walsh surrendered his slender lead as both Hayward and Allen went past. Allen refused to allow Hayward to get too far ahead and when they reached Gillitts, he was only 50 yards behind the leader, with Walsh another 250 yards further adrift.

Over the relatively level section to Hillcrest, Hayward began to assert himself, passing through the village in 2h 25m 40s. Allen (2h 26m 2s) was 2nd and Walsh 3rd in 2h 27m 43s. The 7-mile stretch to the midpoint at Drummond included the punishing Botha’s Hill, and over this testing piece of road, the gaps between the leaders opened. Hayward enjoyed a lead of 600 yards at Drummond, passing the checkpoint in 3h 11m 41s with Allen following him in 3h 13m 37s and Walsh in 3h 18m 25s.

The tortuous Inchanga held no terrors for Hayward and from the crest onwards, he simply ran away from his opponents. At Harrison Flats, he was 7 minutes ahead of Allen, who was a further 8 minutes in front of the labouring Walsh. Devouring the miles through Cato Ridge, Hayward sped past the checkpoint at Camperdown in 4h 32m 4s; nearly 18 minutes inside Hardy Ballington’s time to that point in 1938 when he set the existing Best Time for the Up Run. Allen went by in 4h 47m 18s, followed by a very weary Walsh in 4h 58m 32s.

Despite the rising temperature, Hayward sailed, untroubled, over the hilly stretch to Polly Shortt’s. When he reached the summit, he was 20 minutes ahead of Ballington’s time. An ecstatically enthusiastic crowd welcomed him on his arrival in Alexandra Park. Ballington’s Best Time of 6h 32m 26s, established 16 years earlier, was obliterated.

Allen and Walsh could not match the winner’s pace over the final quarter of the race. They finished a long way behind, but still finished in under 7 hours; the first occasion on which the first three home had beaten that barrier on an Up Run.

RESULT

1stWally Hayward *South Africa

6h 12m 55s

New Best Time Up

2ndTrevor AllenSouth Africa6h 45m 14s
3rdGerald WalshSouth Africa6h 58m 38s
4thFrans MareSouth Africa7h 05m 21s
5thJ.J. SmitSouth Africa7h 46m 12s
6thHarold StrachanSouth Africa7h 48m 44s
7thLiege BoulleSouth Africa8h 02m 32s
8thJackie GoldieSouth Africa8h 06m 14s
9thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa8h 07m 00s
10thGerald DavisSouth Africa8h 15m 50s

* First Sub-6:30 and Sub 6:15 Up Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stWally Hayward (44)South Africa

6h 12m 55s

New Best Time Up

2ndLiege Boulle (45)South Africa8h 02m 32s

1955 Down (30th Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 WeatherCold early morning warming to mild later.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueTrack Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries98
 Starters92
 Finishers – Total64
 Men64
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver58
 % Finishers / Starters69.6


THE MENS RACE

With Hayward not running, the perennially consistent, Trevor Allen, was installed as the short-priced favourite in bookmakers terms. Since 1950, he had never finished lower than 3rd position. It was his big chance to repeat his 1952 victory, although tough opposition could be expected from seasoned campaigners like Gerald Walsh, Frans Mare and Mercer Davies. A surprise entry was the 1932 and 1948 winner, Bill Savage, making a comeback.

When the field crossed the city boundary, a trio of Walsh, Savage and Davies held a 300-yard advantage over a big group led by Allen. Savage surged as they ran to the foot of Polly Shortt’s and by the top of the hill, he was 100 yards ahead of Walsh, Davies and Allen who were running in a small group with other unfancied performers.

Through the valleys to Camperdown, Savage set a steady pace and was timed at 1h 39m 16s. Just past Cato Ridge, Walsh went into the lead as Savage began to weaken. Allen moved into 3rd position with Davies on his shoulder. Mare was also making a move as he left Cato Ridge, but was still a considerable distance adrift of the frontrunners.

Walsh drifted down Inchanga, into Drummond, where the order was Walsh (2h 59m 25s), Allen (3h 2m 50s), Davies (3h 2m 55s). Then followed Savage, David Dodds and Mare. Walsh showed no signs of weakness on the roller coaster section to Hillcrest where he was timed at 3h 46m 3s, with Allen next in 3h 49m 56s. Davies was hanging on to 3rd place, with Dodds and Mare close behind him.

Walsh had lengthened his lead by Pinetown and, although appearing weary, held a 7-minute advantage over Allen. When he reached Westville, it was clear that Walsh had the race firmly under control, but behind him, major changes were taking place. Davies lost his 3rd place to Dodds, who closed to within a quarter-of-a-mile of Allen. Behind them, Mare, with his long, loping stride was gaining on all ahead of him. Just before 45th Cutting, Dodds overtook a very, weary Allen who appeared to have nothing left as Mare also went past at 45th Cutting.

The scurrying Mare caught Dodds 400 yards further down the hill to claim 2nd place, right on the doorway to Durban, but there was no possibility of hauling in Walsh. Whose time of 6h 6m 32s was the 3rd fastest ever.  Allen, however, was not to be out done. From appearing completely distraught, less than a mile back, he recovered to overtake Dodds and retain his wonderful record of finishing in the top three once again; for the past 6 years in succession.

RESULT

1stGerald WalshSouth Africa

6h 06m 32s

2ndFrans MareSouth Africa6h 18m 34s
3rdTrevor AllenSouth Africa6h 24m 13s
4thDavid DoddsRhodesia6h 25m 15s
5thDave SansomSouth Africa6h 55m 30s
6thMercer DaviesSouth Africa7h 04m 28s
7thJ.J. SmitSouth Africa7h 06m 05s
8thMannie McMasterSouth Africa7h 08m 52s
9thLen BernonSouth Africa7h 15m 29s
9thAllan GillespieSouth Africa7h 20m 14s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLiege Boulle (46)South Africa

7h 26m 47s

2ndFred Morrison (43)South Africa7h 43m 02s
3rdHerman Delvin (42)South Africa9h 22m 28s

1956 Up (31st Race)

 DateThursday, 31 May
 WeatherMild at start with stifling heat around midday.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueRoyal Agricultural Show Ground
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance55 M
 Entries98
 Starters88
 Finishers – Total55
 Men55
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver49
 % Finishers / Starters62.5


THE MENS RACE

The most famous person present at the start of the race was not even running. He was the great, 5-time winner, Arthur Newton. He was invited to South Africa as Guest-of-Honour for the race. He was joined on the road by Vic Clapham, the founder of the race in 1921, who remained the Race Organiser, until his retirement, in 1938.

First to emerge from the bunch as the runners exited Durban was Mercer Davies, followed by defending champion, Gerald Walsh, Carl Pace, Trevor Allen and Len Wootton. There was no change in the order at the Westville Post Office, except Davies had built up a lead of around 250 yards.

Davies piled on the pace over Cowie’s Hill, striding down into Pinetown (1h 22m 37s) more than 600 yards ahead of Walsh and Pace (1h 25m 20s), Allen (1h 26m 15s), Mannie McMaster (1h 26m 17s), Wootton (1h 26m 20s), Bill Savage (1h 30m 14s) and Nick Raubenheimer (1h 32m 32s). Former winner, Allen Boyce went through in a group some way behind.  

There was no change in the order on the long pull up Field’s Hill but on the fairly level section from Kloof to Hillcrest, the gap between the leaders widened. Davies was timed through the village in 2h 16m 45s. Walsh passed by in 2h 21m 15s with Allen and Pace (2h 23m 45s) next.

Davies maintained his pace and, although not striding as freely as he was earlier, reached Drummond in 3h 2m 20s. Walsh (3h 7m 52s) was next through. Then came Allen (3h 15m 56s), McMaster (3h 16m 7s), Pace (3h 29m 3s) and Boyce (3h 31m 17s).

Davies increased his lead up the punishing Inchanga but, with the big hill behind the leaders, the pace slackened noticeably as they went across the relatively easy section to Cato Ridge. Davies reached the village in 4h 32m 10s, but on the run over to Camperdown, he showed signs of tiring and surrendered some of his lead to Walsh who was running effortlessly at that stage.

Davies’ fatigue became more evident after Cato Ridge and Walsh caught, and passed, him on the long downhill after Umlaas Road and, as he approached the Tumble Inn Tea Room, he had already established a lead of 2 minutes. It was evident that Walsh would win, but interest now focused on the battle for second place. After his early fast pace, Davies, at that point, was a spent force, reduced to walking for long spells while Boyce, as he usually did, was making great strides in the closing stages. The race distance was increased by about a mile because the finish was switched to Royal Agricultural Show Ground, the venue of Arthur Newton’s first victory and, as Walsh strode into the famous ground, he was welcomed across the line by the great man. Walsh ran the final few miles so strongly that nearly 38 minutes elapsed before the second runner appeared. Davies fought valiantly to hang onto second position but the fast-finishing Boyce passed him in front of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

RESULT

1stGerald WalshSouth Africa

6h 33m 35s

2ndAllen BoyceSouth Africa7h 12m 08s
3rdMercer DaviesSouth Africa7h 14m 10s
4thTrevor AllenSouth Africa7h 38m 00s
5thNick RaubenheimerSouth Africa7h 44m 06s
6thBill SavageSouth Africa7h 51m 50s
7thAllan GillespieSouth Africa7h 57m 53s
8thGerald DavisSouth Africa8h 11m 00s
9thS. BezuidenhoutSouth Africa8h 13m 56s
10thLiege BoulleSouth Africa8h 18m 25s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLiege Boulle (47)South Africa8h 18m 25s
2ndRue Rachailov (40)South Africa8h 43m 21s
3rdHerman Delvin (42)South Africa9h 07m 04s

1957 Down (32nd Race)

 DateFriday, 31 May
 WeatherCool. Overcast in places.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKings Park
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries87
 Starters81
 Finishers – Total62
 Men62
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver56
 % Finishers / Starters76.5


THE MENS RACE

When the field set off in the dark from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, the favourites were Gerald Walsh, seeking the first hat trick since Arthur Newton in 1925, Mercer Davies who placed 3rd the previous year, and Frans Mare who finished 2nd in 1955.

Light was breaking over the eastern hills when Walsh crested Polly Shortt’s in 32 minutes, with Davies 150 yards behind. In a group, 400 yards further back was Mannie McMaster, Len Bernon, Andy Greening, Arthur Reeve and Herman Delvin. Mare was running easily in 14th position but was already 7 minutes off the lead.

Across the valley to Camperdown, lay the punishing 4-mile climb from Tumble Inn to Umlaas Road. Walsh was first through the Camperdown checkpoint in 1h 35m. Davies was only 15 seconds behind. McMaster was still lying 3rd but had fallen more than 4 minutes behind the leader.

Walsh hung determinedly onto his slender lead, with never more than 60 yards separating himself from Davies, as the pair rattled off the miles through Cato Ridge, Harrison Flats and Inchanga, and down to halfway at Drummond. They cruised through the checkpoint together in 2h 54m 40s. McMaster (3h 2m 24s) and Mare (3h 6m 40) were the next two through.

The cat and mouse battle continued over the 7-mile section to Hillcrest. Davies twice wrested the lead and held it through Hillcrest, reaching there in 3h 42m 8s, just 2 yards in front of Walsh. Over the next 22 miles, one of the most thrilling duels in Comrades Marathon history was acted out. The lead would change frequently but the two combatants fought it out side-by-side, or shoulder-to-shoulder, with never more than a yard or two between them. They ran into Pinetown together in 4h 32m 50s, but along the Old Main Road through Pinetown, Davies began drawing away from Walsh. He widened the gap as he went over Cowie’s Hill and by Westville, his lead was 500 yards.

The ding-dong battle that had raged for 44 miles, evaporated as Davies approached Durban. Walsh could not match the pace set by Davies who climbed the hill to 45th Cutting with comparative ease, before coasting down Berea Road to the new arena in Kings Park. He finished a comfortable 13 minutes in front of Walsh, who beat Mare to the finish by a further 20 minutes.    

RESULT

1stMercer DaviesSouth Africa

6h 13m 55s

2ndGerald WalshSouth Africa6h 26m 33s
3rdFrans MareSouth Africa6h 46m 15s
4thMannie McMasterSouth Africa6h 51m 00s
4thNick RaubenheimerSouth Africa6h 55m 07s
6thDennis McInerneySouth Africa6h 57m 45s
7thBrian WalshSouth Africa7h 09m 27s
8thBinks WellbelovedSouth Africa7h 21m 38s
9thTrig WangSouth Africa7h 24m 20s
10thEddie GoreSouth Africa7h 29m 30s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGerald Walsh (40)South Africa

6h 26m 33s

2ndHerman Delvin (44)South Africa8h 16m 20s
3rdTossie Maynes (42)South Africa8h 22m 33s

1958 Up (33rd Race)

 DateSaturday, 31 May
 WeatherOppressive heat and gusting winds most of the day.
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries67
 Starters60
 Finishers – Total34
 Men34
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver28
 % Finishers / Starters56.7


THE MENS RACE

With Trevor Allen and defending champion, Mercer Davies, both below peak fitness, and Gerald Walsh absent, the outright favourite was 1954 Empire Games Silver Medallist, Jackie Mekler. 

When first light streaked the sky, Davies led the runners through Mayville. He was still in the lead at 45th Cutting, with Mekler, Nick Raubenheimer and Mannie McMaster hard on his heels. As the runners entered Westville, Mekler and Raubenheimer were 10 yards ahead of Davies but on the stiff pull up Cowie’s Hill, Davies caught, and passed, the leading pair and led them through Pinetown in 1h 29m 42s. Mekler was next in 1h 29m 57s, followed by McMaster and Raubenheimer in 1h 31m 57s.

On the punishing Field’s Hill, Mekler drew level with Davies, and they ran through Kloof, at the top of the hill, together. As Davies tired, and fell away, Mekler went ahead, reaching Hillcrest in 2h 25m. Davies followed 34 seconds later. Next to pass was McMaster (2h 33m) and Raubenheimer (2h 35m).   

Over the undulating stretch to Drummond, Mekler built an unassailable lead, reaching there in 3h 12m 22s. Although he was tiring rapidly, Davies was next to arrive in 3h 20m 26s. Following the lead pair, came McMaster (3h 26m 5s), Raubenheimer (3h 30m 19s) and moving through the field to within striking distance were Frikkie Steyn (3h 32m 34s), Andy Greening (3h 38m 9s) and Dennis McInerney (3h 39m 50s).

Inchanga witnessed the end of Davies’ challenge. He was forced to walk long stretches before, ultimately, retiring. Mekler never let up, however, and when he reached Camperdown, he had a lead of 5 miles over 2nd man, McMaster who, together with Steyn, Raubenheimer and Greening were making sporadic surges for the top places.

On the run across to Umlaas Road, both Raubenheimer and McMaster looked set to fight out the Silver and Bronze Medals. It was, however, the surprise man of the day, Greening, who emerged from the chasing pack as Umlaas Road drifted behind them.

Working his way through the field from lying 10th at Pinetown and 6th at Drummond, Greening found himself in 2nd place. Mekler ran unchallenged through the suburbs of Pietermaritzburg and completed the final lap of the Collegians’ Club Oval for a maiden victory. His time was 6h 26m 26s; well ahead of Greening and Raubenheimer.

RESULT

1stJackie MeklerSouth Africa

6h 26m 26s

2ndAndy GreeningSouth Africa7h 11m 49s
3rdNick RaubenheimerSouth Africa7h 23m 40s
4thDennis McInerneySouth Africa7h  25m 04s
5thMannie McMasterSouth Africa7h 31m 43s
6thDenis StephensonNew Zealand7h 36m 08s
7thFritz MadelSouth Africa7h 44m 19s
8thTrevor AllenSouth Africa7h 49m 08s
9thEddie GoreSouth Africa8h 07m 07s
10thJapie StrydomSouth Africa8h 11m 03s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stTrig Wang (40)South Africa

8h 14m 21s

2ndLiege Boulle (49)South Africa9h 06m 49s
3rdFraser (47)South Africa9h 10m 57s

1959 Down (34th Race)

 DateMonday, 1 June
 WeatherFine. Scattered cloud in places.
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKing’s Park
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries106
 Starters103
 Finishers – Total70
 Men70
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver64
 % Finishers / Starters68.0


THE MENS RACE

With three past winners entered, the race promised to be a cracker. Any one of Jackie Mekler (1958), Trevor Allen (1952) or Gerald Walsh (1955 and 1956) were capable of taking line honours. There were also a number of consistent performers who could be relied on to make the pace uncomfortably hot at the front.

As was his custom, Walsh went straight into the lead with Trevor Haynes, Mekler, Nick Raubenheimer and Trevor Allen in close order. Haynes went to the front immediately after passing Tumble Inn and had built a reasonable lead at the Camperdown checkpoint where he clocked 1h 33m 53s. Walsh went through in 1h 35m 27s and then, at 1h 42m, was a group consisting of Mekler, Allen, Raubenheimer, Fritz Madel and Tommy Gore.

Haynes pressed on and at the top of Inchanga, was a mile ahead of Walsh. The steep climb up the hill shuffled the chasing bunch with Allen and Mekler moving ahead of the others. The leading times at halfway were Haynes (2h 50m 16s), Walsh (2h 54m 34s), Allen (3h 0m 56s), Mekler (3h 1m 23s), Madel (3h 1m 37) and Raubenheimer (3h 2m 57s). Over the 7-mile run to Hillcrest, the order remained unchanged. Haynes was first through the village in 3h 40m 54s. He held the lead until Kloof but tired rapidly on the run down Field’s Hill. Walsh was also slowing but he gradually overhauled Haynes on entering Pinetown. Haynes stopped for a rest in Pinetown allowing Allen to move into 2nd position.

Walsh clocked 4h 42m at the checkpoint with both Allen (4h 43m) and Mekler (4h 46m) in pursuit. On the climb up Cowie’s Hill, the battle for the lead developed into a classic with two old rivals, Allen and Walsh, racing each other as they had done for the past 7 years. At Westville, Walsh led by 500 yards, but he was showing signs of fatigue. Allen, however, was pushing hard and when they crossed the Durban boundary, he had reduced the deficit to 300 yards. Mekler was not out of the picture either. With 5 miles to the finish, the three former winners were separated by just 4 minutes.

Allen was closing in all the while and, finally, on the climb up to Tollgate, he went past a very tired Walsh and coasted down Berea Road to Hoy Park for a well-deserved second victory.

Wally Hayward and Trevor Allen were, without doubt, the two outstanding performers of the decade.

RESULT

1stTrevor AllenSouth Africa

6h 28m 11s

2ndGerald WalshSouth Africa6h 33m 33s
3rdJackie MeklerSouth Africa6h 35m 52s
4thFritz MadelSouth Africa6h 44m 13s
5thDennis McInerneySouth Africa6h 48m 14s
6thTrevor HaynesRhodesia6h 49m 22s
7thNick RaubenheimerSouth Africa6h 52m 37s
8thAndy GreeningSouth Africa7h 05m 43s
9thJapie StrydomSouth Africa7h 19m 34s
10thLen BernonSouth Africa7h 25m 33s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGerald Walsh (42)South Africa

6h 33m 33s

2ndGreen (45)South Africa7h 32m 55s
3rdTrig Wang (41)South Africa7h 39m 12s

1960 Up (35th Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 WeatherFine and mild.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB7/20
 DBN11/21
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries106
 Starters104
 Finishers – Total80
 Men80
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver74
 % Finishers / Starters76.9


THE MENS RACE

Seven years earlier, Wally Hayward ran down to Durban in less than 6 hours.

Was it possible that someone could emulate that feat running up to Pietermaritzburg?

The Best Time of 6h 12m 55s, for the Up Run, was set by the great Hayward, himself, when he was victorious in 1954. Was anyone capable of removing 13 minutes from that mark?

When the record field of 104 runners set off along the dark streets of Durban, the next 6 hours would provide the answer.

Unsure of his fitness, Gerald Walsh adopted his standard tactic. He went to the front and led the procession over Tollgate with Jackie Mekler, Lucas Nel and Nick Raubenheimer on his heels.

Brilliant sunshine welcomed the runners in Westville, by which time Mekler had overtaken Walsh. Mekler took Cowie’s Hill without any trouble and led the race through Pinetown in 1h 25m 17s. (At this stage, he was 3m 25s ahead of Hayward’s time in 1954.) Walsh lay 300 yards adrift of the leader, in 1h 27m 6s, with Nel 3rd through in 1h 29m 10s.

Walsh never let Mekler get away up Field’s Hill; hanging on grimly. Behind them, George Claassen passed the fading Nel to move into 3rd position. Never allowing the pace to drop, Mekler reached Hillcrest in 2h 20m 45s (4m 55s faster than Hayward in 1954). He surely had his eye on reducing the Best Time and, possibly, going under 6 hours. Following him through Hillcrest was Walsh (2h 25m 35s), Claassen (2h 26m 39s) and Allen and Bill Rufus together (2h 28m 2s).  

When the flying Mekler passed through Drummond in 3h 4m 1s, he was he was 7m 40s faster than when Hayward established the fastest Up Run time in 1954. Ten minutes passed before Walsh arrived in 3h 13m 24s. Then came Claassen (3h 14m 15s), Allen and Rufus (3h 17m 1s) and Raubenheimer (3h 17m 3s).

There were changes in the position as the lead runners approached Cato Ridge. Rufus, suffering repeated attacks of cramp, fell back and out of contention, while Claassen went ahead of Walsh. Mekler was away on his apparent record-breaking run, clocking in at Camperdown in 4h 25m 30s, but his advantage over Hayward’s record run had dropped to 6m 34s. Walsh had regained 2nd place and went through Camperdown in 4h 42m 59s wth Claassen next in 4h 44m 21s.

While Mekler continually increased the distance between himself and the rest of the field, Classen was tiring rapidly, enabling Walsh to open a considerable gap over him.

Mekler took Polly Shortt’s without faltering and, as he set off down the hill into Pietermaritzburg, it was evident that what was once thought impossible – a sub 6-hour Up Run – was about to become a reality. He entered the Collegians’ Club grounds to a thunderous ovation.

His time… an unbelievable… 5h 56m 32s.

RESULT

1stJackie Mekler *South Africa

5h 56m 32s

New Best Time Up

2ndGerald WalshSouth Africa6h 31m 07s
3rdGeorge ClaassenSouth Africa6h 37m 07s
4th

Trevor Allen **

South Africa6h 42m 30s
4thNick Raubenheimer **South Africa6h 42m 30s
6thJ A WallisSouth Africa6h 50m 12s
7thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa7h 01m 42s
8thAndy GreeningSouth Africa7h 07m 44s
9thL PraansmaSouth Africa7h 09m 55s
10thMike OttoSouth Africa7h 13m 05s

* First Sub-6:00 Up Run

** Finished together

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGerald Walsh (43)South Africa6h 31m 07s
2ndGeorge Claassen (43)South Africa6h 37m 07s
3rdTrig Wang (42)South Africa8m 10m 47s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (51)South Africa

8h 05m 35s

New Best Time Up

1961 Down (36th Race)

DateWednesday, 31 May
WeatherWarm and humid.

Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
PMB8/26
DBN13/25
Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish VenueBeach Pavilion
Time Limit11 Hours
Approx. Distance56 M
Entries164
Starters148
Finishers – Total98
Men98
Medals – Gold6
Silver92
% Finishers / Starters66.2


THE MENS RACE

After his magnificent sub 6-hour Up Run in 1960, Jackie Mekler was the overwhelming favourite. The withdrawal of Gerald Walsh, through illness, the night before, robbed the race of the only runner who had a reasonable chance of competing against Mekler.

First to show in the dash down Commercial Road was Fritz Madel. In close order came Frikkie Steyn, Mekler, George Claassen and Keith Pearce. By Umlaas Road, Mekler had gone to the front and led Pearce by 150 yards. Reaching Cato Ridge in 1h 54m, Mekler was just 125 yards ahead of Pearce. Trailing through, 4 minutes later were Claassen, Steyn and Madel in a bunch.  

Pearce gradually closed in on Mekler, passing him on Inchanga, and led through Drummond, by a solitary yard, in 2h 47m. Next through, in a group in 2h 52m, was Claassen, Steyn and Madel. Trevor Allen passed by in 6th place in 2h 55m.

On the climb out of Drummond, it became apparent that Mekler was showing signs of discomfort and just beyond Botha’s Hill, he withdrew. It was a recurrence of an Achilles problem from the London to Brighton a few months before. The inexperienced Pearce found himself in the lead going through Hillcrest 3m 37s inside Hayward’s 1953 time, when he became the first man to break 6 hours on the Down Run. The trio of Claassen, Steyn and Allen were next to arrive in the village. Reaching Pinetown in 4h 26m, Pearce was still a minute inside Hayward’s time. Running together, Claassen and Steyn passed by in 4h 35m, with Allen, next, in 4h 42m.

The furious record-breaking pace that Pearce maintained started to tell on him. That, together with the heavy coastal atmosphere, ultimately caught up with him. He collapsed from exhaustion and cramp near the Durban boundary. The race now developed into a thrilling battle between Claassen and Steyn. They went past 45th Cutting side by side in 5h 32m. Allen, now effectively out of it, passed by in 5h 44m.

Classen made the decisive move at the Westridge Park Tennis Stadium. A nail-biting dash ensued down Berea Road but Steyn just could not find the extra bit of speed to reel in the leader who ran to the finish at the Beach Pavilion with lead of 1m 58s.

RESULT

1stGeorge ClaassenSouth Africa

6h 07m 07s

2ndFrikkie SteynSouth Africa6h 09m 05s
3rdTrevor AllenSouth Africa6h 22m 49s
4thFritz MadelSouth Africa6h 36m 10s
5thNick RaubenheimerSouth Africa6h 36m 12s
6thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa6h 40m 14s
7thClive CrawleySouth Africa6h 48m 40s
8thBasil HarrisonSouth Africa6h 50m 02s
9thManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 55m 20s
10thDennis McInerneySouth Africa7h 08m 42s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGeorge Claassen (44)South Africa6h 07m 07s
2ndBasil Harrison (40)South Africa6h 50m 02s
2ndEddie Gore (41)South Africa7h 31m 37s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (52)South Africa

7h 45m 41s

New Best Time Down

1962 Up (37th Race)

 DateWednesday, 30 May
 WeatherCool and mild.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/24
 DBN10/23
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:03
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries165
 Starters156
 Finishers – Total109
 Men109
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver103
 % Finishers / Starters69.9


THE MENS RACE

New ground was broken when a team of four, representing the Road Runners Club of England arrived. John Smith, Tom Buckingham, Don Turner and Ron Linstead were regarded as the four best ultra men in England. They would be competing against a team comprising Jackie Mekler, George Claassen, Peter Clough, Frikkie Steyn and Fritz Madel representing the Marathon Runners Club of South Africa.

Mekler, Steyn and Madel were bunched together with Buckingham as they went through Westville. Mekler broke away as they left the village and, reaching Pinetown in 1h 20m 35s, he had opened a lead of 2 minutes over Madel. Less than a minute in arrears came Steyn and Buckingham. Smith (1h 24m) was next to appear, followed by Linstead, and then a group that included Nick Raubenheimer, Clough and Turner.

A relaxed-looking Mekler clocked in at Hillcrest in 2h 12m 31s, a full 6 minutes ahead of Buckingham who led Smith by 7 seconds. Steyn was next through, 46 seconds further back. Still full of running, Mekler reached the halfway mark at Drummond in a new Best Time (2h 56m 57s) to that point. Buckingham and Smith came through together (3h 3m) with Steyn (3h 7m), Madel (3h 9m) and Linstead (3h 9m 10s) following.

Mekler pushed hard up Inchanga but, once over the top, on the long stretch to Camperdown, it became apparent that he had set too punishing a pace and he began to tire. Smith left Buckingham in this vicinity and began eating into Mekler’s lead. In earlier days, the leader was deemed to be doing well if Camperdown was reached in 5 hours. It was understandable that Mekler should be tiring. He passed the checkpoint in 4h 12m; 13 minutes faster than his time of 2 years earlier when he became the first man to beat 6 hours on the Up Run. Smith was closing in, however, going past 2 minutes later in 4h 14m. All four English runners had made remarkable progress on the run from the top of Inhanga. Following Smith, came the rest of the English team, Buckingham (4h 19m), Linstead (4h 21m) and Turner (4h 26m). Steyn (4h 28m) and Madel (4h 31m) were the next South Africans.

By the approaches to Umlaas Road, Smith had reduced the deficit to 200 yards. A mile after Umlaas Road, the most dramatic moment of the race occurred. After leading for 42 miles, Mekler was passed by the flying Smith.

Smith quickly stretched the gap back to Mekler and the question being asked was, how would he cope with Polly’s? With a lead of 5 minutes when he arrived at the foot, Smith negotiated the monstrous hill with ease.

Would he beat 6 hours? That was the question now being asked.

From the top of Polly Shortt’s, it was plain sailing and Smith entered the Collegians’ Club to finish in 5h 57m 5s; failing by 33 seconds to establish a new Best Time. Mekler arrived in 6h 4m 4s to be followed by the rest of the visitors. Don Turner finished 3rd (6h 7m 8s), Buckingam, 4th (6h 8m 26s) and Linstead 5th (6h 10m 39s).

RESULT

1stJohn SmithEngland

5h 57m 05s

2ndJackie MeklerSouth Africa6h 04m 04s
3rdDon TurnerEngland6h 07m 08s
4thTom BuckinghamEngland6h 08m 26s
5thRon LinsteadEngland6h 10m 39s
6thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa6h 30m 42s
7thFritz MadelSouth Africa6h 33m 13s
8thFrikkie SteynSouth Africa6h 43m 44s
9thMercer DaviesSouth Africa6h 47m 19s
10thGeoff WattSouth Africa6h 49m 02s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stEddie Gore (42)South Africa

7h 29m 55s

2ndBasil Harrison (41)South Africa7h 48m 10s
3rdAllan Gillespie (41)South Africa7h 57m 17s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (53)South Africa

8h 30m 04s

1963 Down (38th Race)

 DateFriday, 31 May
 WeatherMild at start to hot at midday.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/27
 DBN5/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueRoyal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries228
 Starters224
 Finishers – Total149
 Men149
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver143
 % Finishers / Starters66.5


THE MENS RACE

Jackie Mekler was regarded as the one to watch but, with a group of proven performers up against him, he would have to run well to win. Men like Frikkie Steyn, Manie Kuhn, Mercer Davies and Fritz Madel were all potential winners.

Steyn immediately took the early initiative and stormed into the lead, reaching the  Tumble Inn Tea Room in 50 minutes. Following him was Mekler, some 50 seconds behind. Then, in close order, were Pieter de Villiers, Davies, Kuhn and Madel. All the big names were already in the key positions. On the long grind up to Umlaas Road, both Mekler and the strongly running de Villiers, went past the tiring Steyn.

Mekler came through Camperdown in 1h 29m 47s with de Villers (1h 32m 7s), Steyn (1h 32m 42s) and Davies (1h 33m 10s) next. Davies passed Steyn on the outskirts of Cato Ridge to move into 3rd position. Going through the village, Mekler held a 2-minute lead over de Villiers, who was a further minute ahead of Davies. Then came Kuhn and Madel.

Untroubled on the steep pull up Inchanga, Mekler entered Drummond in a wonderful 2h 45m 25s; a new Best Time for the first half of the race. Davies passed de Villiers on Inchanga and was the next arrival at the halfway stage in 2h 49m 10s, with de Villiers (2h 49m 58s), Madel and Kuhn (2h 54m 25s) and a fading Steyn (2h 55m 21s) following.

With Drummond behind him, de Villiers, the surprise man in the field, turned on the pace and passed Davies on the hilly stretch to Hillcrest. He was also gaining on Mekler, who was showing signs of going through a bad patch. At Kloof, he trailed Mekler by 50 seconds and, on the big descent of Field’s Hill, he closed in dramatically and, as the pair ran onto the undulating Pinetown flats, de Villiers was only 30 yards behind. Mekler, realising the danger, drew away slightly, passing the checkpoint in 4h 28m 50s, with de Villiers following in 4h 29m 10s. Davies (4h 35m 18s), Madel (4h 39m 57s) and Kuhn (4h 43m) completed the minor positions.

Despite his sensational time over the fist half of the race to Drummond, Mekler had now fallen 1m 15s behind Wally Hayward’s time in the record-breaking 1953 race. After Pinetown, Mekler found new sources of energy and gradually drew away from a, now tiring, de Villiers and started regaining vital seconds on the record. At Tollgate, it still hung in the balance, but by forcing tired muscles to respond down Berea and Old Dutch Roads, Mekler ran across the finish line at the RDLI Drill Hall on the Greyville Racecourse in a new Best Time time of 5h 51m 20s. He now held the Best Times for both the Up and Down Runs, to share a feat with Hayward in 1954 and Arthur Newton in 1925.  

RESULT

1stJackie MeklerSouth Africa

5h 51m 20s

New Best Time Down

2ndPieter de VilliersSouth Africa5h 58m 45s
3rdFritz MadelSouth Africa6h 08m 05s
4thManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 18m 26s
5thTim BlankleySouth Africa6h 23m 17s
6thMercer DaviesSouth Africa6h 23m 59s
7thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa6h 26m 32s
8thHenry GreylingSouth Africa6h 39m 15s
9thEddie CraigSouth Africa6h 43m 29s
10thMarty HeunisSouth Africa6h 55m 04s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stEddie Gore (43)South Africa

7h 03m 56s

2ndAllan Gillespie (42)South Africa7h 26m 26s
3rdEddie Pritchard (44)South Africa7h 42m 36s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (54)South Africa

7h 58m 15s

2ndErrol Shanley (51)South Africa9h 10m 23s
3rdMickey Doo (54)South Africa9h 51m 32s

1964 Up (39th Race)

 DateMonday, 1 June
 WeatherCool to warm with scattered cloud.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB4/21
 DBN10/23
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries288
 Starters272
 Finishers – Total205
 Men205
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver199
 % Finishers / Starters75.4


THE MENS RACE

As would be expected, with three wins, and both the Up and Down Best Times in 1960 and 1963, Jackie Mekler was the firm favourite. The Old Guard, however, were all there to spring a surprise if he faltered. Mercer Davies, Charlie Chase, Frikkie Steyn, Fritz Madel, Manie Kuhn, Andy Greening and Nick Raubenheimer…

On a chilly morning, unknown Marty Heunis, led the field up Berea Road to Tollgate with Mekler, Greening, Kuhn and Madel close behind. Mekler took the lead at 45th Cutting and led the lengthening field over Cowie’s Hill and into Pinetown in 1h 30m, from Kuhn (1h 31m), Frank Pearce (1h 33m), Madel (1h 34m), Greening (1h 35m) and Chase (1h 36m).

On the long climb up Field’s Hill to Kloof, Mekler extended his lead over Kuhn to 3 minutes. Mekler maintained his steady pace and still led a compact field at Emberton, passing the village in 2h 10 m, with Kuhn (2h 13m), Pearce (2h 14m), Madel (2h 16m), Chase and Greening (2h 17m) and Davies (2h 18) in close attendance.

On the hard slog up Botha’s Hill, Kuhn closed the gap slightly, but Mekler was still out in front as he ran through the midpoint at Drummond where the order was Mekler (3h 8m 40s), Kuhn (3h 10m 27s), Davies (3h 16m 35s), Pearce and Madel together (3h 18m), Chase (3h 19m) and Raubenheimer (3h 22m).

Mekler appeared to be full of running over Inchanga, through Harrison, Cato Ridge and Camperdown which he reached in 4h 24m. Kuhn was running a fine race and was timed at 4h 27m. Chase arrived a further 13 minutes later. There was no stopping Mekler, however, and at the foot of Polly Shortt’s, he had increased the gap between himself and Kuhn to 6 minutes.

He strode strongly up the tortuous hill and ran unhindered to the Collegians’ Club. He missed the Best Time by 13m 22s, but his performance rewarded him with a 4th victory.

Kuhn had remained in 2nd position since the outskirts of Durban while Chase worked his way through the field for a well deserved Bronze Medal.

RESULT

1stJackie MeklerSouth Africa

6h 09m 54s

2ndManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 19m 37s
3rdCharlie ChaseSouth Africa6h 36m 19s
4thFritz MadelSwitzerland6h 46m 22s
5thFrank PearceSouth Africa6h 49m 31s
6thNick RaubenheimerSouth Africa6h 50m 57s
7thAndy GreeningSouth Africa6h 55m 17s
8thP.T. ShrimptonSouth Africa7h 06m 25s
9thHenry GreylingSouth Africa7h 07m 40s
10thJ.A. DeanSouth Africa7h 11m 30s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stNick Raubenheimer (41)South Africa

6h 50m 57s

2ndEddie Pritchard (45)South Africa7h 34m 34s
3rdAllan Gillespie (43)South Africa7h 50m 50s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (55)South Africa

8h 47m 31s

2ndErrol Shanley (52)South Africa8h 49m 25s
3rdMickey Doo (55)South Africa10h 13m 25s

1965 Down (40th Race)

 DateMonday, 31 May
 WeatherVery cold with heavy, continuous rain all day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/10
 DBN12/14
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueRoyal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries433
 Starters387
 Finishers – Total284
 Men284
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver278
 % Finishers / Starters73.4


THE MENS RACE

The worst nightmare imaginable greeted the organisers and runners when they woke from their slumbers on Monday, 31 May.

The heavens had opened and it was bucketing down in torrents… and it remained so for the entire day… until the last straggler had dragged his saturated body across the finish line in Durban. In addition, a bitterly cold wind blew over the exposed hilltops between Inchanga and Kloof, making conditions on the road highly unpleasant for the runners.

One runner, perhaps, may not have felt too uncomfortable in the conditions. He was Bernard Gomersall, who was flown out by the Road Runners Club of England to attempt emulating the winning feat of John Smith in 1962.

Manie Kuhn set a cracking pace from the gun and led Tim Blankley and Ted Craig by 2 minutes as he went over the top of Polly Shortt’s. Kuhn was moving effortlessly and after the long pull up to Umlaas Road, which he reached in 1h 20m, he had extended his lead over Blankley and Craig who were still lying 2nd and 3rd respectively. Davies had moved closer, with Gomersall and Mekler on his heels.

Running conditions, with a cold wind, and rain falling incessantly, were far from ideal. Kuhn still led the pack at Camperdown where he checked in with 1h 41m on the clock. Next through in 1h 42m were Blankley and Craig. They were followed by the quartet, Mekler, Madel, Davies and Gomersall in 1h 43m.

At Cato Ridge, Kuhn was still looking extremely relaxed with a 3-minute lead over the group of Mekler, Gomersall and Davies. Craig, Blankley and Madel had dropped back as the leaders maintained a cracking pace.

There was no let-up as Kuhn and his pursuers disappeared into the rain and mist enshrouded Inchanga Bank.

Kuhn was the first to reappear on the Drummond side passing though halfway in 2h 48m 15s. Davies had made great strides through the mist and arrived in 2h 50m 47s with Gomersall just 5 seconds behind. Mekler, experiencing a bad time from Inchanga all the way to Botha’s Hill, had drifted back, coming past in 4th place in 2h 52m 4s.

The race was now on. Davies, with Gomersall at his shoulder, began inching away at Kuhn’s lead. They finally passed him just before Gillitts. Gomersall surged and went to the front as the entered Kloof. He moved further away on the drop down Field’s Hill and was clocked at Pinetown in 4h 23m 15s. Davies was next (4h 26m 57s) with Kuhn, 3rd in 4h 27m 25s. A grim, drawn Mekler passed by in 4h 32m 20s.

Gomersall, revelling in the ‘English’ conditions, was looking so good, that it appeared unlikely that anyone would catch him and from this point, he was the only man in the race. Changes were, however, taking place in the pouring rain behind him. Kuhn went past a tiring Davies on Cowie’s Hill. From the top of the hill, Mekler looked across the valleys towards Durban. He summoned new reserves and set off after the leader. He soon overtook Davies and, after a tough, much longer haul, reeled in Kuhn, but is was evident that Gomersall was away and would never be threatened.

The only unanswered question now, was would Gomersall lower Mekler’s Best Time  for the Down Run? All the way in from Tollgate, the record was always on, but only marginally so, and when Gomersall ran into the RDLI Ground, there were as many eyes on stopwatches as there were on him.

After a wonderful performance, in atrocious conditions, he made it by just 11 seconds.

Mekler, once again, came in under 6 hours.

RESULT

1stBernard GomersallEngland

5h 51m 09s

New Best Time Down

2ndJackie MeklerSouth Africa5h 56m 19s
3rdManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 04m 24s
4thMercer DaviesSouth Africa6h 08m 44s
5thClive CrawleySouth Africa6h 16m 16s
6thEddie CraigSouth Africa6h 18m 31s
7thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa6h 19m 24s
8thFritz MadelSouth Africa6h 33m 35s
9thHenry Greyling *South Africa6h 40m 43s
9thRay Molver *South Africa6h 40m 43s

* Finished together

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stEddie Pritchard (46)South Africa

6h 44m 08s

2ndEddie Gore (45)South Africa7h 01m 03s
3rdErnest Venter (43)South Africa7h 01m 23s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (56)South Africa

7h 47m 20s

2ndMickey Doo (56)South Africa8h 39m 11s
3rdErrol Shanley (53)South Africa8h 48m 22s

1966 Up (41st Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 eatherCool at start. Chilly wind in vicinity of Botha’s Hill. Sunny and warm after Inchanga.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB7/28
 DBN13/24
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries404
 Starters365
 Finishers – Total261
 Men261
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver255
 % Finishers / Starters71.5


THE MENS RACE

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.

RESULT

1stTommy MaloneSouth Africa

6h 14m 07s

2ndManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 31m 46s
3rdFritz MadelSouth Africa6h 33m 45s
4thCharlie ChaseSouth Africa6h 36m 05s
5thPhil HargreavesSouth Africa6h 40m 55s
6thFrikkie SteynSouth Africa6h 44m 28s
7thDave BoxSouth Africa6h 45m 12s
8thDennis GentSouth Africa6h 48m 08s
9thEddie PritchardSouth Africa6h 57m 09s
10thRoland DaveySouth Africa6h 57m 25s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stEddie Pritchard 47)South Africa6h 57m 09s
2ndEddie Gore (47)South Africa7h 18m 10s
3rdVorster (40)South Africa7h 39m 15s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLiege Boulle (57)South Africa

8h 44m 20s

2ndArchie Grant (52)South Africa9h 34m 57s
3rdMickey Doo (57)South Africa9h 40m 04s

1967 Down (42nd Race)

 DateWednesday, 31 May
 WeatherCloudy and mild.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB11/23
 DBN10/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueRoyal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries600
 Starters542
 Finishers – Total417
 Men417
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver411
 % Finishers / Starters76.9


THE MENS RACE

“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.

RESULT

1stManie KuhnSouth Africa

5h 54m 10s

2ndTommy MaloneSouth Africa5h 54m 11s
3rdGordon BakerSouth Africa6h 02m 32s
4thTim BlankleySouth Africa6h 10m 59s
4thFrikkie SteynSouth Africa6h 21m 47s
6thDennis MorrisonSouth Africa6h 25m 15s
7thJ.M. PotgieterSouth Africa6h 25m 17s
8thEddie CraigSouth Africa6h 29m 13s
9thPhil HargreavesSouth Africa6h 32m 23s
10thRoland DaveySouth Africa6h 34m 58s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stArnold Harborth (47)South Africa

6h 44m 30s

2ndEddie Gore (47)South Africa6h 49m 52s
3rdEddie Pritchard (48)South Africa7h 03m 10s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stGerald Walsh (50)South Africa

6h 45m 09s

New Best Time Down

2ndLiege Boulle (58)South Africa8h 01m 14s
3rdMickey Doo (58)South Africa8h 34m 17s

1968 Up (43rd Race)

 DateFriday, 31 May
 WeatherFine and mild, warming to hot by early afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/24
 DBN10/24
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries659
 Starters581
 Finishers – Total438
 Men438
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver432
 % Finishers / Starters75.4


THE MENS RACE

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.

RESULT

1stJackie MeklerSouth Africa

6h 01m 11s

2ndManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 03m 54s
3rdGordon BakerSouth Africa6h 11m 33s
4thJ.M. PotgieterSouth Africa6h 24m 30s
5thDave BoxSouth Africa6h 27m 17s
6thTim BlankleySouth Africa6h 31m 26s
7thBernard GomersallEngland6h 38m 17s
8thBill BrownSouth Africa6h 38m 57s
9thPeter AndersonSouth Africa6h 40m 18s
10thDennis MorrisonSouth Africa6h 41m 02s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stArnold Harborth (48)South Africa

7h 05m 44s

2ndCharlie Chase (40)South Africa7h 07m 55s
3rdFrikkie Steyn (40)South Africa7h 23m 46s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stGeorge Claassen (51)South Africa

8h 38m 35s

2ndLiege Boulle (59)South Africa9h 01m 25s
3rdMickey Doo (59)South Africa9h 19m 08s

1969 Down (44th Race)

 DateSaturday, 31 May
 WeatherCool and mild.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/20
 DBN12/24
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueRoyal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance56 M
 Entries795
 Starters703
 Finishers – Total587
 Men587
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver581
 % Finishers / Starters83.5


THE MENS RACE

“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.

RESULT

1stDave BagshawSouth Africa

5h 45m 35s

New Best Time Down

2ndDave BoxSouth Africa5h 57m 57s
3rdJackie MeklerSouth Africa6h 01m 30s
4thEric RenckenSouth Africa6h 03m 41s
5thBasil DavisSouth Africa6h 03m 45s
6thGordon BakerSouth Africa6h 05m 49s
7thManie KuhnSouth Africa6h 12m 26s
8thRoland DaveySouth Africa6h 14m 06s
9thPeter AndersonSouth Africa6h 22m 49s
10thRob GardnerSouth Africa6h 27m 11s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCharlie Chase (41)South Africa

6h 32m 19s

2ndEddie Gore (49)South Africa6h 58m 52s
3rdArnold Harborth (49)South Africa7h 03m 16s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stEddie Pritchard (50)South Africa

7h 31m 51s

2ndCrack Everton (50)South Africa8h 25m 40s
3rdDick May (53)South Africa8h 28m 43s

1970 Up (45th Race)

 DateSaturday, 30 May
 WeatherOvercast at start. Cool to mild all day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/19
 DBN16/20
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance87.548 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 4.940 km/hr (4m 1s /km)

 Entries865
 Starters759
 Finishers – Total640
 Men640
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver634
 % Finishers / Starters84.3


THE MENS RACE

The 3 Bs were back… and that promised an exciting race.

Bagshaw, Box and Baker.

Add to that, former winners, George Claassen (1961) and Manie Kuhn (1967), as well as the ever consistent Eric Rencken. Others to take note of were Bill Brown and Dave Levick. The clever money, though, was on Bagshaw.

Gordon Baker and Dave Bagshaw set off along West Street at a blistering pace. Their intentions were clear; the Up Record. At 45th Cutting, Bagshaw and Baker had pulled well away from the rest, and by Westville they held a 29-second lead over Rencken, Dave Box and Brown.

Bagshaw was dictating the race with a suicidal pace. Baker stuck with him valiantly. They reached the checkpoint at the top of Field’s Hill in 1h 33m, with Rencken next in 1h 36m. At Botha’s Hill, the two flying leaders clocked 2h 57m. Rencken was still in 3rd place but he had fallen 7 minutes behind.

The pair were hardly past Drummond when Bagshaw surged again and went ahead as Baker failed to respond. Rencken also weakened, and Box went past him, on the tortuous pull up Inchanga. Over the undulating stretch to Camperdown, Bagshaw took total command, reaching the checkpoint in 4h 7m. Baker held on to 2nd place but had lost 5 minutes to Bagshaw since Drummond. Box was moving strongly over this section and passed Baker just beyond Camperdown. Bagshaw went through a bad patch after Umlaas Road, but by the time he crossed the Mpusheni Bridge he had run through it and, realising he had a chance of breaking the record, sailed up Polly Shortt’s.

On the tough pull up Polly’s, Rencken recovered and went past Baker. Bagshaw, however, was away and with fatigue, from the grueling pace he had set himself, mirrored on his face, he entered the Collegians’ Club Oval, crossing the finish line with a new Best Time of 5h 51m 27s.

In an amazing two years, after only two Comrades Marathons, Bagshaw was the possessor of the Best Time for both the Up and the Down Run.

RESULT

1stDave BagshawSouth Africa

5h 51m 27s

New Best Time Up

2ndDave BoxSouth Africa5h 58m 07s
3rdEric RenckenSouth Africa6h 10m 11s
4thGordon BakerSouth Africa6h 12m 01s
5thTim BlankleySouth Africa6h 15m 30s
6thRoland DaveySouth Africa6h 21m 44s
7thRob GardnerSouth Africa6h 27m 29s
8thDave LevickSouth Africa6h 34m 12s
9thPiet van der LeeuwSouth Africa6h 34m 59s
10thDewald SteynSouth Africa6h 37m 07s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCharlie Chase (42)South Africa6h 38m 31s
2ndTony Tingle (41)South Africa6h 46m 22s
3rdDennis Gent (40)South Africa7h 14m 08s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stArnold Harborth (50)South Africa

6h 55m 08s

New Best Time Up

2ndEddie Pritchard (51)South Africa7h 23m 58s
3rdEddie Gore (50)South Africa7h 26m 54s

1971 Down (46th Race)

 DateMonday, 31 May
 WeatherMild and overcast at start. Light drizzle at Umlaas Road. Cold wind with rain and mist from Harrison Flats to Kloof. Patches of sunshine thereafter with no further rain.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/13
 DBN14/19
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueRoyal Durban Light Infantry Drill Hall, Greyville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance92.000 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 15.905 km/hr (3m 46s /km)

 Entries1239
 Starters1061
 Finishers – Total931
 Men931
 Medals – Gold6
 Silver925
 % Finishers / Starters87.7


THE MENS RACE

Not since the days of Arthur Newton and Wally Hayward at their peak, was the outcome of the race as certain as it was. Dave Bagshaw, established new Up and Down Best Times, in the past 2 years. The only uncertainty was ‘who will come second?’

A substantial detour, due to roadworks, in the Umlaas Road, Camperdown and Cato Ridge areas, resulted in the overall distance of the race being extended to around 92 kilometres.

Bagshaw, Gordon Baker, Ron Kotze, Robin Stamper and Eric Rencken were bunched together, in a big group, as the field surged across the outskirts of the city.  At the first official checkpoint, at Campedown, reached in 1h 41m, the order was Bagshaw, Rencken, Kotze, Stamper and Tommy Malone. Roland Davey was next in 1h 42m, followed in 1h 44m by another large group in which Dave Levick and Fred Morrison were prominent.

Stamper, Baker and Bagshaw led through Cato Ridge, but Malone was dropping back. Levick, meanwhile, was moving up, and by Harrison Flats had picked up 30 seconds on the two leaders.   

The lead remained unchanged through Drummond, with Stamper (2h 49m) 5 yards ahead of Baker and Bagshaw. Levick was closing in with a powerful drive. The climb out of the Drummond valley put paid to Stamper’s chances. Bagshaw went ahead of Baker and opened up a lead of 2 minutes by Hillcrest. Passing through Kloof, Levick moved into 2nd position as he passed Baker. Bagshaw went through the Pinetown checkpoint in 4h 20m and appeared to have the race safely in his grasp… then he hit a bad patch. Levick was though in 4h 24m with Baker another minute back in 4h 25s.

At Westville, Levick was still in with a chance. Bagshaw, however, hung on tenaciously but, closing in on the finish, he was a tired man as he ran down Berea Road. Levick finished 1m 47s behind him while Baker closed out the top three places.

It was an amazing performance by Bagshaw. His time of 5h 47m 6s was a mere 1m 31s outside his 1969 Best Time of 5h 45m 35s. Considering the additional 4 kilometres, through the detours at Camperdown and Cato Ridge, it would have been a stunning time by a substantial margin.

The additional distance certainly robbed him of the opportunity of emulating Arthur Newton’s 1922, 23 and 24 feat of three new Best Times in successive years and, in all probability, the first three men home might have beaten the previous time.

RESULT

1stDave BagshawSouth Africa

5h 47m 06s

2ndDave LevickSouth Africa5h 48m 53s
3rdGordon BakerSouth Africa5h 57m 26s
4thBarry GerberSouth Africa5h 59m 10s
5thBill BrownSouth Africa6h 02m 12s
6thTrevor ParrySouth Africa6h 03m 03s
7thRob GardnerSouth Africa6h 08m 47s
8thRobin StamperSouth Africa6h 09m 28s
9thBill de SwardtSouth Africa6h 10m 15s
10thClive CrawleySouth Africa6h 11m 19s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stClive Crawley (40)South Africa6h 11m 19s
2ndDoug Hamilton (40)*South Africa6h 14m 39s
2ndTony Tingle (42)*South Africa6h 14m 39s

* Finished Together

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stArnold Harborth (51)South Africa

6h 54m 32s

2ndEddie Gore (51)South Africa7h 05m 34s
3rdPeter Dickson (51)South Africa7h 34m 24s

1972 Up (47th Race)

 DateSaturday, 3 June
 WeatherMild with clear sky at start. Mist in Drummond valley clearing later. Bright sunshine the rest of the day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/21
 DBN14/22
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, (changed to Smith Street) / 6:02
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance90.400 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

15.552 km/hr (3m 51s /km)

 Entries1448
 Starters1180
 Finishers – Total976
 Men976
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver85
 Bronze881
 % Finishers / Starters82.7


THE MENS RACE

A team of 8 members of Tipton Harriers from Staffordshire in England were among the starters at the Durban City Hall. Their star performers, John Malpass and Ron Bentley were expected to push the overwhelming favourite, Dave Bagshaw, to the limit.

A clear sky and mild winter weather accompanied the field as it set off up Smith Street. Bagshaw and Baker went straight to the front with Derek van Eeden on their heels. Out of Durban, through Westville and on to Cowie’s Hill, Bagshaw led the field, reaching the foot of the first major climb where he held an 8-second advantage over Baker, with van Eeden another 35 seconds back. Dave Box was next with the Tipton Harriers challenge be led by Tony Burkitt.

Bagshaw continued setting the pace through Pinetown and up Field’s Hill to the checkpoint at the top, where he went by in 1h 35m. Baker and Mick Orton, now the leading Tipton runner, followed in 1h 36m, with van Eeden only metres back.

Orton moved into 2nd position when he overhauled Baker in the vicinity of Gillitts and then, inexorably, whittled away at the distance between himself and the flying leader, drawing level with him on the descent into thick mist at Drummond, in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.

Orton and Bagshaw sped through the halfway mark in an incredible 2h 50m. Baker was next in 2h 54m. Bagshaw struggled up Inchanga and lost sight of Orton who disappeared into the mist ahead. Out of the mist and into the sunshine over the top of Inchanga, Orton was flowing with supreme ease. As the miles were left behind, he showed no sign of cracking from the punishing pace.

Through Cato Ridge and on to the checkpoint at Camperdown, Orton never wavered and reached there in 3h 59m, becoming the first man to do so in under 4 hours. Bagshaw, still running uncomfortably, went by 4h 2m, with Baker following in 4h 7m. Dave Box, meanwhile, was making good progress, going through in 4h 11m. At the highest point on the route, the water tower at Umlaas Road, Orton led Bagshaw by 2m 42s, but there were still many who did not believe Orton could win, because it was felt that the long, raking Ashburton and Polly Shortt’s Hills, would find him wanting.

To everyone’s surprise, Orton cruised up and over both, reaching the crest of Polly Shortt’s in 5h 18m. The pale, drawn figure of Bagshaw appeared next in 5h 22m 30s. Third over Polly’s was Box, who had passed Baker on the big hill.

With the long downhill, into the Capital city, his only remaining hurdle, Orton was greeted by an astonished crowd at the Collegians’ Club. Not only did he amaze everyone in maintaining his blistering pace, he crossed the line in a new Best Time of 5h 48m 57s.

RESULT

1stMick OrtonEngland

5h 48m 57s

New Best Time Up

2ndDave BagshawSouth Africa5h 53m 54s
3rdDave BoxSouth Africa5h 59m 59s
4thDerek van EedenSouth Africa6h 02m 42s
5thGordon BakerSouth Africa6h 03m 06s
6thJohn MalpassEngland6h 06m 02s
7thBill CarrEngland6h 07m 46s
8thLen JenkinsSouth Africa6h 13m 43s
9thBill BrownSouth Africa6h 14m 49s
10thDon HartleySouth Africa6h 15m 05s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stClive Crawley (41)South Africa

6h 31m 03s

2ndDoug Hamilton (41)South Africa6h 42m 44s
3rdLars Nayler (41)South Africa6h 55m 09s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stArnold Harborth (52)South Africa

7h 08m 11s

2ndEddie Pritchard (53)South Africa7h 25m 29s
3rdAllan Ferguson (50)South Africa7h 28m 43s

1973 Down (48th Race)

 DateFriday, 1 June
 WeatherCold with clear sky at start, becoming partly cloudy and mild to warm late morning.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/19
 DBN9/21
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueWestern Campus, Howard College, University of Natal
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance88.200 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

15.588 km/hr (3m 51s /km)

 Entries1621
 Starters1366
 Finishers – Total1225
 Men1225
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver197
 Bronze1018
 % Finishers / Starters89.7


THE MENS RACE

With Dave Bagshaw having returned to England, and no top-class visitors entered, it was an opportunity for the top local runners to strive for victory.

Gordon Baker’s magnificent record of 6 Gold Medals in 6 attempts was truly outstanding. He had recently won both the Karoo 50-miler and the 35-mile Bergville to Ladysmith. Dave Levick was victorious in the 56-km Two Oceans in Cape Town. Both were in peak condition.

Then at the last moment, Mick Orton, the surprise 1972 winner, submitted his entry. This was followed by that of the smooth-striding Scot, Alistair Wood.

It all pointed to an interesting, intriguing and exciting battle.

Following the jostling, bumping and barging in the mad stampede down Commercial Road and across the Umsunduzi Bridge, Koos Sutherland emerged first, over the Scottsville ridge, leading a massive group by 12 seconds as they set off en route to the foot of Polly Shortt’s. Immediately behind this group was another batch that included the likes of Orton, Wood, Eric Rencken, Fred Morrison, Baker and Levick.

Going over the crest of Polly’s, Orton made a decisive move, going into the lead on the descent of the big hill. Fifteen kilometres out, in the vicinity of Thornybush, Orton had a 500-metre lead over a group in which Baker, Rencken, Levick and Wood were running. Nearing the top of the climb, at Umlaas Road, Orton held a 2m 15s advantage over the chasing group.

With the heavy climbing behind them, there was little change in the order over the rollercoaster run through Cato Ridge, and on to Harrison Flats. The New Zealander, John Mc Brearty, was moving through the field, from a long way back, to join the prospective top contenders.

Setting a punishing pace, Orton went through Cato Ridge a little under 6 minutes ahead of Wood and Baker. With a fierce sun now beating down, Orton powered his away up and over Inchanga. On the big drop into the halfway stage at Drummond, Wood began to hobble painfully, having pulled a muscle in his thigh. He retired a few metres further on, leaving Baker to pursue Orton into Drummond.

Orton passed through the midpoint in an unbelievable 2h 45m 35s; a full 4 minutes inside Jackie Mekler’s record to halfway. He was looking amazingly relaxed, with a lead of 8 minutes over Baker. Leaving the Valley of a Thousand Hills, Levick set off after the pair ahead of him.

At Kearsney College, near the top of Botha’s Hill, Orton’s lead over Baker was 9m 12s, and he still showed no sign of slowing. Looking invincible, and already being hailed as one of the greatest Comrades runners ever, Orton clearly had the record at his mercy; provided nothing untoward went wrong. He was so far ahead, no one was visualising anyone else as the victor. Levick was maintaining a sustained surge and went past Baker and into 2nd place down Botha’s Hill.

With Orton blasting away at the front, Levick, paying for his long surge, slowed appreciably going through Hillcrest and was overtaken by Baker at Gillitts, and subsequently by Chris Hoogsteden, who was having a storming late run. Orton was timed at the checkpoint at the foot of Field’s Hill in 4h 10m. Hoogsteden and Baker came past in 4h 17m. The lead had been reduced by a minute since Botha’s Hill. Was it an ominous sign?

On the lower slope of Cowie’s Hill, Orton was clearly tiring. He was, however, so far ahead, nobody imagined he could be overtaken. Hoogsteden and Baker, separated by only 150 metres, were running much faster than Orton. So much so that spectators at Westville were speculating ‘Hoogsteden or Baker?’ In the excitement, nobody it seemed, noticed the flying Levick making great progress behind the leading trio.

At Westville, it became clear that Orton’s race was over. Hoogsteden was 5m 10s behind him and closing, with Baker and Levick another 2 minutes back. At 45th Cutting, Hoogsteden had reduced Orton’s lead to 60 seconds but had, with the extreme effort, exhausted himself. Baker now turned on the pace and went past Hoogsteden into 2nd position. Orton was only 500 metres in front of Baker who was enjoying his best-ever Comrades Marathon. Baker caught Orton on Mayville Hill, 5 kilometres from the finish. He had his life’s ambition within his grasp.

But… it was not to be.

Levick was having a blinder. Baker was told that ‘Levick was coming’. Two and a half kilometres from home, Levick gave Baker a friendly tap on the shoulder. Baker had nothing left. He could not respond.

Confusion reigned at the finish. Radio reports first announced that Orton had an unassailable lead. Then they were told that Baker was approaching the finish.

Then Levick erupted onto the track to run the final lap, of a thoroughly absorbing race, in a new record time of 5h 39m 9s. Baker held on for a gallant 2nd place while McBrearty worked his way quietly into 3rd place.

In the turmoil and confusion of the final few kilometres, Sutherland slipped past into 4th place, while the two runners who provided most of the excitement during the closing minutes of the race, Orton and Hoogsteden faded to 5th (5h 48m 9s) and 6th (5h 48m 49s) places respectively. Both were still very respectable times.

RESULT

1stDave Levick *South Africa

5h 39m 09s

New Best Time Down

2ndGordon BakerSouth Africa5h 42m 53s
3rdJohn McBreartyNew Zealand5h 46m 18s
4thKoos SutherlandSouth Africa5h 47m 49s
5thMick OrtonEngland5h 48m 09s
6thChris HoogstedenSouth Africa5h 48m 49s
7thTrevor ParrySouth Africa5h 52m 17s
8thDerek PreissSouth Africa5h 54m 35s
9thRob GardnerSouth Africa5h 56m 09s
10thDon Carter-BrownSouth Africa5h 59m 42s

* First Sub-5:45 and Sub-5:40 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDerek Kay (40)South Africa

6h 01m 00s

2ndDoug Hamilton (42)South Africa6h 09m 00s
3rdCharlie Chase (45)South Africa6h 33m 00s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stArnold Harborth (53)South Africa

6h 39m 00s

New Best Time Down

2ndAllan Ferguson (51)South Africa6h 57m 00s
3rdPeter Dickson (53)South Africa7h 21m 00s

1974 Up (49th Race)

 DateFriday, 31 May
 WeatherGloriously sunny and warm.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB2/19
 DBN12/22
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries1557
 Starters1350
 Finishers – Total1162
 Men1162
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver129
 Bronze1023
 % Finishers / Starters86.1


THE MENS RACE

“Expect a dark horse to come to the fore,” the media expounded.

Why that opinion was expressed seemed strange when, among the masses lined up outside the Durban City Hall were proven top-flight performers like Gordon Baker, Dave Levick, Dave Box and Roland Davey.

True, there was an array of talented youngsters who were capable of ruffling the feathers of the recognised runners; men like Alan Robb and Derek Preiss. They would have to perform above their best to unsettle the more experienced veterans.

Merv Myhill had established a clear lead by 45th Cutting, but a group of unknowns were trailing not too far behind. By the time the lead bunch reached Westville, they were starting to weaken and close behind, some formidable names were taking their places in an ominous batch. Soon Ronnie Brimelow went to the front setting a cracking pace while tucking in, within striking distance were Koos Sutherland, Robb and Baker.

As Cowie’s Hill loomed, Brimelow and Myhill, and a short distance back, Sutherland, had broken away. Some fifty metres adrift was Baker, Denis Morrison and Chris Hoogsteden. Preiss was a fair way back in about 30th position.

Running through Pinetown, Brimelow had surged ahead with Sutherland second. Derek van Eeden was storming along, and passed Sutherland before the ascent of Field’s Hill. Myhill was falling back and was soon out of the picture. Box was soon to follow suit. Along the Pinetown Flats, Preiss drew level with Baker, Hoogsteden, Robb and Morrison.

As usual, the big hill took its toll and a tired-looking Brimelow was clocked at 1h 35m at the checkpoint. Don Hartley had come from nowhere and went through with Sutherland and van Eeden. Everyone, however, was asking, “where is Levick?”

His was running comfortably, a long way back, seemingly enjoying the glorious running weather, rather than trying for a top spot.

Brimelow hung, doggedly, on to the lead and went through Drummond in 2h 55m 5s. Then came Hartley (2h 58m), Sutherland (2h 59m), Baker, Robb, Preiss and Hoogsteden together (3h 2m) and Morrison (3h 3m).

Inchanga, always a catalyst, was soon performing its dark deeds. Brimelow had apparently discovered new sources of energy and was running freely over the top, but it wasn’t to last. Preiss went ahead of Baker and Robb but soon tired and was re-passed by the pair on the run to Harrison Flats. Sutherland was looking very strong and appeared to be holding himself back. Hartley was slowing and was overtaken by Sutherland before fading out of contention.

Brimelow reached the Cato Ridge fly-over in 3h 55m, with Sutherland (4h 00m) next. Preiss had stepped up the pace and moved into 3rd place, leaving Baker and Robb behind. The position remained unchanged as the top contenders arrived at Camperdown

Shortly after Camperdown, Brimelow’s race came to an abrupt end. He was walking, seemingly in agony, when Sutherland swept past. Preiss was running very strongly hereabouts, claiming 2nd place from a distressed Brimelow. He certainly had Sutherland in his sights and by Umlaas Road was only 1m 50s off the pace.

It was on Polly Shortt’s where the race was finally decided. Sutherland climbed the monster hill without losing his steady rhythm but Preiss simply ‘flew’ up the testing climb. From trailing Sutherland by 90 seconds at the foot, he caught and passed him at the crest. Robb went ahead of Baker on the hill.

The race now, however, belonged to Preiss. He stretched the distance between himself and Sutherland with every stride and entered the Collegians’ Club Oval with a lead of nearly half a kilometre.

RESULT

1stDerek PreissSouth Africa

6h 02m 49s

2ndKoos SutherlandSouth Africa6h 04m 25s
3rdAlan RobbSouth Africa6h 06m 45s
4thGordon BakerSwitzerland6h 12m 32s
5thBarry GerberSouth Africa6h 13m 37s
6thTrevor ParrySouth Africa6h 14m 52s
7thDave RogersSouth Africa6h 18m 19s
8thDerek van EedenSouth Africa6h 21m 47s
9thRonnie BrimelowSouth Africa6h 23m 22s
10thManie SaaymanSouth Africa6h 27m 21s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDoug Hamilton (43)South Africa

6h 28m 00s

2ndDerek Kay (41)South Africa6h 34m 00s
3rdEddie Craig (42)South Africa6h 41m 00s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stArnold Harborth (54)South Africa

6h 59m 00s

2ndAllan Ferguson (52)South Africa7h 21m 00s
3rdEddie Pritchard (55)South Africa7h 22m 00s

1975 Up (50th Race) Golden Jubilee Year

 DateSaturday, 31 May
 WeatherCool windless morning at start with clear sky. Hot, sunny day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/24
 DBN10/22
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, Smith Street/ 6:00
 Finish VenueCollegians’ Club Oval
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Approx. Distance54 M
 Entries1501
 Starters1352
 Finishers – Total1237
 Men1236
 Women1
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver204
 Bronze1023
 % Finishers / Starters91.5


THE MENS RACE

This was a landmark year. Participation was opened to all, regardless of race or gender. All the big names were present plus a whole host of unknown local runners who could cause all sorts of problems to the regular top echelon. Also in the mix were some dangerous performers from New Zealand, Australia, Rhodesia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

To say it was anybody’s race was a fair statement.

Leading the massed celebration of running up Berea Road was Pius Khumalo, Jonathan Gardner, Dave Rogers and Koos Sutherland. Sunrise saw the flying leaders on Cowie’s Hill. First over the top was Rogers. Following him was Khumalo and Alan Robb, while not too far adrift came Sutherland, Gordon Baker, Dave Levick and Derek Preiss.

Rogers held a 200-metre advantage at Pinetown. Robb had gone past Khumalo who was dropping back. The fancied pair, Levick and Preiss, was well behind the leaders at this stage. Robb surged on the big climb up Field’s Hill, overhauling Rogers and held a lead of a minute when he reached the top. He was timed through the checkpoint at the top in 1h 36m, with Rogers passing by in 1h 36m 24s. A huge group, with all the top names among them, arrived in 1h 38m.

The group disintegrated on the run through Hillcrest and Botha’s Hill to the midpoint at Drummond. John McBrearty, Derek van Eeden and Dave Hensman broke out of the cluster and set off after those ahead.  Robb arrived at Drummond in 2h 56m with McBrearty and van Eeden going by in 2h 56m 30s. Hensman, Sutherland and Preiss were next in 2h 58m.

Inchanga, ever the catalyst, was the beginning of the end for Robb, as he faltered on the big climb, though he still led at the top. Preiss was enjoying a storming patch, overtaking all except the leader as they wound down past the Inchanga Mission School where the order was Robb (3h 24m 10s), Preiss (3h 24m 50s), McBrearty (3h 25m 5s), Sutherland (3h 26m 30s) and Kevin Shaw (3h 27m).

Preiss took over the lead at Harrison when Robb finally wilted. Effortlessly, he piled on the pressure to put the result beyond doubt. On the drop down the hill to Mpusheni, Shaw was moving strongly, going past Sutherland and McBrearty.

The  tough climbs of Ashburton and Polly Shortt’s appeared on the distant horizon. Preiss powered up both and commenced his run down to the finish with an unassailable lead.

RESULT

1stDerek PreissSouth Africa

5h 53m 50s

2ndGordon ShawSouth Africa6h 03m 15s
3rdKoos SutherlandSouth Africa6h 06m 40s
4thJohn McBreartyNew Zealand6h 07m 00s
5thAlan RobbSouth Africa6h 09m 24s
6thDave RogersSouth Africa6h 10m 14s
7thDave LevickSouth Africa6h 11m 00s
8thDerek van EedenSouth Africa6h 12m 26s
9thTim BlankleySouth Africa6h 12m 48s
10thGeoff DeenySouth Africa6h 13m 35s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDerek Kay (42)South Africa

6h 27m 00s

2ndEddie Craig (43)South Africa6h 35m 00s
3rdClive Crawley (44)South Africa6h 41m 00s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPippin Oosthuizen (52)South Africa

7h 25m 00s

2ndArnold Harborth (55)South Africa7h 26m 00s
3rdEddie Pritchard (56)South Africa7h 27m 00s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

With only two official entrants, the race was never going to rise to any great or exciting moments. Mavis Hutchinson faded badly after halfway and subsequently dropped out.

It was left to Elizabeth Cavanagh to cross the line, after 10h 8m on the road, to become the first woman to earn a Comrades Marathon Medal.

RESULT

1stElizabeth CavanaghSouth Africa

10h 08m 00s

Established Best Time Up

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stElizabeth Cavanagh (44)South Africa

10h 08m 00s

Established Best Time Up

1976 Down (51st Race)

 DateMonday, 31 May
 WeatherSunny and hot.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB9/26
 DBN10/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance90.100 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.865 km/hr (3m 47s /km)
 Women9.918 km/hr (6m 03s /km)
 Entries1773
 Starters1575
 Finishers – Total1408
 Men1402
 Women6
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver220
 Bronze1178
 % Finishers / Starters89.4


THE MENS RACE

With 8 of the 1975 Gold Medallists in the line-up, a thrilling race was anticipated, particularly so with Cavan Woodward, the world 50- and 100-mile record holder, also entered.

Woodward revealed his intent from the gun, going into an immediate lead at a pace that left roadside spectators breathless. When he crested Polly Shortt’s Hill he already held a 5-minute lead over a massive group that included all the big names; Steve Atkins, Alan Robb, Vincent Rakabaela, Zwilitsha Gono, Dave Hensman, Gordon Baker, Dave Rogers, Derek Preiss and many others. On the long climb to Thornybush, Preiss and Hensman broke clear of the main bunch while Rogers dropped behind.

Woodward passed the Camperdown checkpoint in 1h 40m, with Atkins, Hensman, Robb, Rakabaela, Chris Hoogsteden and Rogers joint second in 1h 46m. Over the switchback Hills to Cato Ridge, Woodward maintained his massive lead. At this point, his main challengers were Atkins, Robb, Rakabaela, Hoogsteden, Baker, Preiss, Hensman and Rogers.

Going through Drummond in 2h 46m, Woodward was clearly showing signs of fatigue. Hoogsteden went by in 2h 51m followed by Atkins, Hensman, Preiss, Robb and Rakabaela together in 2h 52m. Baker retired at Drummond with an inflamed Achilles Tendon.

The tough pull out of Drummond began to take its toll on the early leaders with Woodward paying for his early pace and Atkins and Hensman falling away. On the run to Hillcrest, Rogers was moving well and making up valuable time. As Hillcrest drew near, Preiss, Robb and Rakabaela went ahead of their group and set off to catch Woodward and Hoogsteden. The order through the village was Woodward, with Hoogsteden trailing him by 90 metres. Then, moving freely, came the trio of Preiss, Robb and Rakabaela. Hoosteden caught Woodward and held the lead for a short while before falling back. The chasing trio soon overhauled both, and started the long drop down Field’s Hill together.

Then drama struck.

Robb surged as he started down the hill. Preiss went with him and immediately pulled up clutching his right thigh. The hamstring had gone. He hobbled on for some time but, in essence, his challenge for a hat trick of victories was over. Robb cruised through the checkpoint at the foot of the hill in 4h 16m, followed by Rakabaela and Hoogsteden (4h 17m), Preiss (4h 18m). Rogers trailed through a long way back in 4h 27m.

Rakabaela picked up the pace through Pinetown but by the foot of Cowie’s Hill, it was his undoing, allowing Robb to pull away. With Robb increasing his lead all the time, both Woodward and Rogers were moving strongly behind him. At the Tollgate, Robb’s substantial lead was never going to be challenged, and he entered Kingsmead Stadium a clear winner.

RESULT

1stAlan RobbSouth Africa

5h 40m 43s

2ndCavin WoodwardEngland5h 49m 19s
3rdDave RogersSouth Africa5h 52m 41s
4thKoos SutherlandSouth Africa5h 53m 26s
5thSteve AtkinsSouth Africa5h 54m 39s
6thChris HoogstedenSouth Africa5h 56m 02s
7thRob AshworthSouth Africa5h 59m 01s
8thVincent RakabaelaLesotho5h 59m 02s
9thDave HensmanSouth Africa6h 01m 08s
10thDerek van EedenSouth Africa6h 02m 54s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDerek Kay (43)South Africa6h 24m 00s
2ndDoug Hamilton (45)South Africa6h 32m 00s
3rdCaspar Greeff (41)South Africa6h 42m 00s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stEddie Pritchard (57)South Africa

7h 16m 00s

2ndPippin Oosthuizen (53)South Africa7h 24m 00s
3rdMercer Davies (51)South Africa7h 50m 00s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The small womens’ contingent, it was only the 2nd occasion on which they were competing, was vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts and always ‘lost’ in groups of male runners,

Lettie Kleynhans was timed at Drummond in 4h 25m, with Lettie van Zyl clocking in a minute later. Alet Ten Tusscher and Lynn Oberholzer were prominent among the rest of the field but were a long way off the pace.

Going through Hillcrest, Kleynhans was not running with the ease that was apparent earlier in the day and before she reached Winston Park, both Ten Tusscher and Oberholzer had gone past her. van Zyl, however, was away and never in any danger of being denied victory. She continually increased the distance between herself and the next two runners and crossed the finish line at Kingsmead a full half-hour before Ten Tusscher arrived with Oberholzer another 18 minutes further adrift  

RESULT

1stLettie van ZylSouth Africa

9h 05m 00s

Established Best Time Down

2ndAlet Ten TusscherSouth Africa9h 35m 00s
3rdLynn OberholzerSouth Africa9h 53m 00s
4thMavis HutchinsonSouth Africa10h 06m 00s
5thDaphne LedlieSouth Africa10h 23m 00s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLettie van Zyl (43)South Africa

9h 05m 00s

Established Best Time Down

2ndAlet Ten Tusscher (41)South Africa9h 35m 00s
3rdDaphne Ledlie (43)South Africa10h 23m 00s

1977 Up (52nd Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 WeatherWarm, sunny day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/30
 DBN10/28
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, Smith Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.059 km/hr (3m 52s /km)
 Women10.004 km/hr (6m 00s /km)
 Entries2212
 Starters1963
 Finishers – Total1670
 Men1662
 Women8
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver188
 Bronze1472
 % Finishers / Starters85.1


THE MENS RACE

Nearly 2000 runners set off from Durban on a balmy morning and, on the long gentle pull up Berea Road to Tollgate, Vincent Rahabaela and Francis Koos established a 50 metre lead over the rest of the field. Koos held a slight lead of 15 metres over Dolf Dampies when he reached 45th Cutting where a huge group, containing all the big-name runners, were only strides behind.

By the time the leaders went through Westville, all the serious contenders had placed themselves in strategic positions. The easy-striding Koos led the way up, and over Cowie’s Hill and down through Pinetown where he held a 2-minute lead over Dave Wright, Jan Erasmus and Henry Nyembe. No more than 50 metres back, came the Alan Robb, Dave Rogers, Barry Gerber and Steve Atkins group.

Koos struggled up Field’s Hill, but still led at the checkpoint in 1h 37m. Wright and Nyembe were next in 1h 38m, but Wright quickly overtook Koos. The pace, generally, was slow and enabled Robb to tuck in behind Koos before they reached Kloof. Wright was firmly in the lead by Winston Park, with Robb looking menacing, just behind Koos and Rakabaela.

The testing climb up Botha’s Hill held no terrors for the flying leader and, looking even fresher than he did at Kloof, Wright, as he went past Kearsney College at the top of the climb, was a full two-and-a-half minutes in front of the dangerous trio of Atkins, Robb and Rakabaela.

Wright maintained his pace and clocked in at Drummond in 2h 56m 45s. Robb, Atkins and Rakabaela arrived together in 3h 00m.

At the foot of Inchanga, the unheralded Wright looked a likely winner. As in many years past, Inchanga always had a say in the way things turned out over the final kilometres. From looking unbeatable at the foot of the climb, Wright was slowing considerably by the time he went over the top. On the roller-coaster, hilly, downhill to Cato Ridge, Robb and Rakabaela regularly exchanged positions, with Atkins never out of striking distance.

At Cato Ridge, Robb and Rakabaela were 300 metres adrift of the fast-fading, Wright, but when they caught him, he hung on and the three went through the checkpoint at Camperdown, together in 4h 8m. Exiting Camperdown, Robb hit the accelerator. Rakabaela went with him, but Wright failed to respond.

On the way down to Tumble Inn, the pace was torrid. Commencing the climb up to Ashburton, Robb injected even more pace, but this time Rakabaela could not go with him. Having burst away from Rakabaela and into a commanding lead, the order at the foot of Polly Shortt’s was Robb, Rakabaele, Wright and Atkins.

With Robb away, and seemingly unassailable, the major card still to be played, was shown on Polly’s. Atkins floated up the final big hill, passing Wright and Rakabaela before the crest, to move into 2nd place.

The huge change of pace after Camperdown, put Robb in a position where, if he sustained his momentum over the final few kilometres, he could lower the Up Record. Never flagging for a moment, his relentless pace paid off and he crossed the line in Jan Smuts Stadium as the new record holder.

A brave Dave Wright hung on grimly and was beaten by a minute by 2nd placed Atkins, while the gallant Rakabaela was beaten, in the end, by his courageous, furious battle with the victor over the final quarter of the race.

RESULT

1stAlan RobbSouth Africa

5h 47m 09s

New Best Time Up

2ndSteve AtkinsSouth Africa5h 57m 48s
3rdDave WrightSouth Africa5h 58m 43s
4thVincent RakabaelaLesotho6h 03m 50s
4thHeinz JeanrichardSouth Africa6h 09m 54s
6thBarry GerberSouth Africa6h 12m 48s
7thMalcolm BallSouth Africa6h 14m 00s
8thNorman WesselsSouth Africa6h 14m 41s
9thAnton de KoningSouth Africa6h 15m 38s
10thKoos SutherlandSouth Africa6h 16m 14s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCalie Beneke (40)South Africa

6h 23m 00s

2ndDerek Kay (45)South Africa6h 30m 00s
3rdHerman van der Wilt (42)South Africa6h 53m 00s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJarrie van Jaarsveld (51)South Africa7h 56m 00s
2ndAllan Ferguson (55)South Africa7h 57m 00s
3rdEddie Pritchard (58)South Africa8h 18m 00s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

Almost unseen among massed runners at the start, the sprinkling of women competitors were ‘lost’ until the field spread out.

First to emerge from the horde, at the Field’s Hill checkpoint, was Lettie van Zyl, a minute ahead of Thea Claassen. Two minutes further back came Marie-Jean Duyvejonck. The race unfolded as the leaders approached Drummond. van Zyl was suffering from a sore back and struck a bad patch on the climb up Botha’s Hill. Claassen was running a blinder, however, and at top of the hill, near Kearsney College, she took over the lead and striding away, passed through the halfway mark in 4h 28m; 5 minutes ahead of, a battling, defiant van Zyl. Duyvejonck was through in 3rd position, although a long way back.

Once over Inchanga, van Zyl was clearly recovering from her bad patch and, running strongly, moved ever closer to Claassen. She finally caught, and went past, the leader before Cato Ridge and, reaching the Camperdown checkpoint in 6h 22m, had built up a substantial lead of 9 minutes.

So well was she moving, her lead was growing with every stride. She had set herself a schedule to finish inside 9 hours and, running along Alexandra Road, a little less than a kilometre from the finish, she looked at her watch. She had 6 minutes in which to achieve her goal.

Fighting hard against overwhelming fatigue, she accelerated and 4 minutes later established a new Best Time, with 2 minutes to spare over her goal.

RESULT

1stLettie van Zyl *South Africa

8h 58m 00s

New Best Time Up

2ndThea ClaassenSouth Africa9h18m 00s
3rdMarie-Jeane DuyvejonckSouth Africa9h 51m 00s
4thDaphne LedlieSouth Africa10h 04m 00s
5thAlet Ten TusscherSouth Africa10h 20m 00s
6thMavis HutchinsonSouth Africa10h 36m 00s

* First Sub-9:00

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLettie van Zyl (44)South Africa

8h 58m 00s

New Best Time Up

2ndDaphne Ledlie (44)South Africa10h 04m 00s
3rdAlet Ten Tusscher (42)South Africa10h 20m 00s

1978 Down (53rd Race)

 DateWednesday, 31 May
 WeatherCold at start, warming to mild with short intervals of rain in places after halfway.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/21
 DBN16/24
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.900 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.384 km/hr (3m 40s /km)
 Women10.681 km/hr (5m 37s /km)
 Entries3094
 Starters2721
 Finishers – Total2601
 Men2590
 Women11
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver394
 Bronze2197
 % Finishers / Starters95.6


THE MENS RACE

The winner was surely to come from one of Alan Robb (Winner in 1976 and 1977), Derek Preiss (Winner 1974 and 1975) or the consistently steady Vincent Rakabaela.

The crack of a pistol was followed by the never-ending slap of running shoes on the tarmac as nearly 3000 runners set out into a rain-threatening dawn. The early leaders, Piet Makola and Themba Malinga went over the top of Polly Shortts with all the big-name favourites in their wake. Among them were Malcolm Ball, Dave Wright, Barry Gerber, Robb, Preiss, Steve Atkins, Rakabaela and Anton de Koning.

On the long, testing climb through Mpusheni to the Dardanelles, the unknown George Williams was running 100 metres ahead of Atkins. Williams had increased his lead at Camperdown and reached the checkpoint 200 metres ahead of Atkins, with Gerber and Wright another 200 metres astern. A further 300 metres back, was the trio of Robb, Preiss and Rakabaela. The sight of these three together conjured up visions of a nail-biter in another few hours.

Amazingly, Williams still held the lead at Cato Ridge where the order following him, was Atkins, Gerber and Wright. A mere 25 metres back was Robb and his shadow, Rakabaela. Preiss had drifted about 30 metres behind but still appeared to be running easily.

Atkins was closing in on Williams and went past him on Harrison Flats. Inchanga, once again played its dastardly tricks on the runners. This time it was Rakabaela who faded while Robb, free of his shadow, stepped up the pace and passed both Williams and then Gerber. The order, going over the top of Inchanga, was Atkins, Wright and Robb. On the fast drop down the big hill, Robb shifted up a gear and drew level with the two ahead of him. The three were timed through halfway in 2h 48m. Preiss was having a disappointing day and retired at Drummond, as did Rakabaela, another kilometre further on, at Alverston.     

On the testing climb past Alverston, Robb went ahead of Atkins, reaching the top with a lead of 100 metres. Striking out strongly, he increased his lead to 200 metres at the top of Botha’s Hill.

Behind the flying leader, Atkins was slipping back, Gerber was struggling and De Koning was having difficulty staying in contact with the leading contenders, while Wright was coming back into the picture, passing Atkins in Hillcrest.

There was no stopping Robb, however, and on the mostly downhill final 30 kilometres, he drew further away from his opposition. From here onwards, the race took on a whole, new perspective. Robb ‘exploded’ down Field’s Hill. He was running so fast that a new Down Record seemed inevitable, while some were hinting of a sub-5h 30m.

Robb sailed through Pinetown, up and over Cowie’s Hill and through Westville, where he was 8 minutes ahead of Wright. De Koning, moving freely, was not far adrift in 3rd position.

Running alone over the final few kilometers into Durban, Robb was assured of a third consecutive win, and a new record. The real interest was, however, whether the 5h 30m barrier would survive or not. He ran without faltering, crossing the finish line at Kingsmead Stadium in an amazing 5h 29m14s.

RESULT

1stAlan Robb *South Africa

5h 29m 14s

New Best Time Down

2ndDave WrightSouth Africa5h 48m 40s
3rdAnton De KoningSouth Africa5h 49m 39s
4thPiet VorsterSouth Africa5h 52m 04s
5thTrompie StrydomSouth Africa5h 54m 14s
6thSteve AtkinsSouth Africa5h 55m 58s
7thMalcolm BallSouth Africa5h 57m 19s
8thBarry GerberSouth Africa5h 57m 38s
9thWillie VermeulenSouth Africa5h 59m 15s
10thHarry SchubertSouth Africa6h 02m 07s

* First Sub-5:30 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCalie Beneke (41)South Africa

6h 10m 00s

2ndJorrie Jordaan (41)South Africa6h 22m 00s
3rdCaspar Greeff (43)South Africa6h 38m 00s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPippin Oosthuizen (55)South Africa

7h 25m 00s

2ndEddie Pritchard (59)South Africa7h 28m 00s
3rdRoss Ashington (57)South Africa7h 29m 00s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stRue Rachailov (62)South Africa

8h 45m 00s

2ndKen Oglesby (61)South Africa8h 56m 00s
3rdAllen Boyce (64)South Africa9h 23m 00s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The outright favourite was the 1977 winner, Lettie van Zyl, while Aletta Kleynhans also had a degree of support.

Kleyhans was the first to show as the field wound its way out of the city. She led over the crest of Polly Shortts and maintained her lead up the long pull to the water tower at Umlaas Road, where van Zyl ran her down and went into a lead that was short-lived. Sue Wagner was running strongly at this point and overhauled both runners in front of her in the vicinity of the Inchanga Mission School.

Wagner led at the halfway mark in 4h 1m, with van Zyl checking in at 4h 11m. That time-gap remained unchanged as the two leaders made their way across the undulating section to Kloof, where Wagner still held a commanding 10-minute advantage.

It was on the big drop down Field’s Hill, and along the Pinetown Flats, that van Zyl found new sources of energy. She caught sight of Wagner on the climb up Cowie’s Hill and, closing steadily, went into the lead with 16 kilometres remaining.

From then on, she drew steadily away, running effortlessly into the city and crossed the finish line with a new Best Time.

RESULT

1stLettie van Zyl *South Africa

8h 25m 00s

New Best Time Down

2ndSue WagnerSouth Africa8h 43m 00s
3rdJoan ClarkSouth Africa8h 53m 00s
4thCheryl JorgensenSouth Africa9h 19m 00s
5thAlet Ten TusscherSouth Africa9h 46m 00s
6thElizabeth CavanaghSouth Africa9h 53m 00s
7thEstelle BothaSouth Africa9h 59m 00s
8thDaphne LedlieSouth Africa10h 09m 00s
9thClare TaylorSouth Africa10h 41m 00s

* First Sub-8:30 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLettie van Zyl (45)South Africa

8h 25m 00s

New Best Time Down

2ndAlet Ten Tusscher (43)South Africa9h 46m 00s
3rdElizabeth Cavanagh (47)South Africa9h 53m 00s

1979 Up (54th Race)

 DateThursday, 31 May
 WeatherCold at start. Cold and overcast, with drizzle and mist in places, all day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/17
 DBN15/21
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, Smith Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance86.600 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.059 km/hr (4m 00s /km)
 Women10.336 km/hr (5m 48s /km)
 Entries3410
 Starters3001
 Finishers – Total2820
 Men2809
 Women11
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver343
 Bronze2467
 % Finishers / Starters94.0


THE MENS RACE

‘It’s gonna be a one-horse race.’

Everybody agreed that Alan Robb, the winner of the three previous races, could not possibly be beaten.

And then Johnny Halberstadt’s entry landed on the Race Secretary’s desk. Suddenly, it wasn’t a one-horse race anymore.

In the cold, grey half-light, 3001 hopefuls swarmed up Smith Street en route to Tollgate where the first runners though were Steve Atkins, Halberstadt and Graham Farrell, with Robb and Dave Wright some 25 metres behind.

After 30 minutes, Halberstadt and Atkins were running shoulder to shoulder past 45th Cutting. Half a minute later came Robb, ensconced in a big bunch. Making his intentions clear, Halberstadt soon led by 50 seconds from Atkins, with Robb a further 25 seconds adrift as the field moved towards Westville. In a bunch immediately behind Robb, there followed a group that contained all the other dangerous names.

At the foot of Cowie’s Hill, Halberstadt had extended his lead to 1m 50s. He was followed by Akins, the Vermeulen brothers, Paul and Willie, Robb, Wright and Piet Vorster. Running at a speed in excess of 17 kilometres per hour, Halberstadt was leaving the field for dead and reached the Field’s Hill checkpoint with an advantage of 3m 5s over Atkins, with Vorster on his shoulder. Then came Willie Vermeulen, Wright and a tired-looking Robb.

Over the relatively easy stretch to Hillcrest, Halbertadt, looking great, held a 3m 30s lead over Vorster who was, in turn, followed by Atkins, Wright, Robb and Vermeulen. Up Botha’s Hill, past Kearsney College and over the rolling hills to Drummond, Halberstadt clocked in at the midpoint in 2h 45m 30s. The next runners to pass halfway were Vorster (2h 49m 30s), Atkins (2h 52m 35s) and Wright (2h 53m 28s). A dejected Robb went through in 14th position; seemingly out of contention, in 2h 56m.

The battle up front continued furiously. It was clear that if Halberstadt maintained his devastating pace, the Up Record would be annihilated. He negotiated Inchanga without any trouble. Vorster was, also, showing great composure and never allowed the flying leader to increase his lead over the massive climb. The Swiss runner, Heinz Jeanrichard, had progressed through the field and appeared set to challenge, but he, soon, fell away.

At Cato Ridge, Halberstadt looked set for a stunning victory but there was still a fair distance to go. A few short kilometers further, however, at Camperdown, he was clearly slowing. Vorster had closed the gap to 3m 45s, with Wright only a further minute back. Coming through from nowhere was Bruce Fordyce who had passed a dispirited Robb.

Then high drama struck. Vorster went past Halberstadt lying on the side of the road. He was overcome by cramp and while his helpers were struggling to massage some life back into his legs, Wright also went by 4 minutes later. In true Comrades spirit, Halberstadt was back on the road a few minutes later.

Vorster was away, however, and with the monster, Polly Shortt’s, looming on the far horizon , he appeared a certain winner. Taking advantage of the blistering pace set by Halberstadt, Vorster found himself in striking distance of the Up Record. Halberstadt was coming back, though, and he soon regained 2nd place from Wright. Behind all the drama, Fordyce was blazing his way through the field. He caught Wright on Polly’s, and set off after Halberstadt, only to fail by just 45 seconds to overtake the early pacesetter.

Polly Shortt’s offered no resistance to Vorster who cruised up the hill and completed a triumphant journey into the city to cross the finish line at Jan Smuts Stadium with a new Best Time.

RESULT

1stPiet VorsterSouth Africa

5h 45m 02s

New Best Time Up

2ndJohnny HalberstadtSouth Africa5h 50m 30s
3rdBruce FordyceSouth Africa5h 51m 15s
4thAnton de KoningSouth Africa6h 00m 18s
5thAlan RobbSouth Africa6h 01m 12s
6thMalcolm BallSouth Africa6h 01m 52s
7thGeoff DeenySouth Africa6h 02m 10s
8thDave HensmanSouth Africa6h 02m 38s
9thNorman WesselsSouth Africa6h 04m 16s
10thDave WrightSouth Africa6h 04m 58s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCalie Beneke (42)South Africa

6h 09m 56s

New Best Time Up

2ndDennis Boyle (41)South Africa6h 26m 03s
3rdHerman van der Wilt (44)South Africa6h 30m 38s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stRoy Wise (50)South Africa

7h 25m 58s

2ndBill Hobbs (50)South Africa7h 44m 00s
3rdBernie Horne (51)South Africa7h 46m 00s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stEddie Pritchard (60)South Africa

7h 41m 09s

New Best Time Up

2ndKen Oglesby (62)South Africa8h 51m 56s
3rdDoug Horton (64)South Africa8h 59m 54s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

With 17 women entered, the race promised to be more competitive than in previous years. It should be remembered, though, that these were still formative years for women in the Comrades Marathon.

From the start, Moira Hornby was the first to show, leading the way up Berea Road, through Tollgate. Behind her, positions changed regularly with Jan Mallen, Marie-Jean Duyvejonck, Lettie van Zyl and Joan Clark never permitting too much space to develop between them.

Hornby maintained a steady pace and led all the way over Cowie’s Hill, through Pinetown, Hillcrest and down to Drummond in a time of 4h 3m. Such was the intense battle behind the leader, the 2nd and 4th women through halfway were separated by a mere 4 minutes. van Zyl (4h 15m) was through in 2nd place, followed by Clark (4h 16m) and Duyvejonck (4h 19m).

As always, Inchanga was up to its usual grim deeds. On the massive hill, Mallen found she was not troubled by the steep incline and began edging closer to those in front.

On the roller-coaster downhill section through Harrison Flats, Cato Ridge and Camperdown, Mallen, at regular intervals overhauled Clark, van Zyl and, finally Hornby, to assume the lead, on the run down to Mpusheni. She climbed Polly Shortt’s with ease and, running unchallenged into Pietermaritzbug, entered Jan Smuts Stadium to establish a new Best Time.

RESULT

1stJan Mallen *South Africa

8h 22m 41s

New Best Time Up

2ndMoira HornbySouth Africa8h 29m 10s
3rdLettie van ZylSouth Africa8h 32m 55s
4thJoan ClarkSouth Africa8h 37m 18s
5thGail IngramSouth Africa9h 02m 43s
6thMarie-Jean DuyvejonckSouth Africa9h 05m 30s
7thN.F. de BeerSouth Africa9h 53m 40s
8thHazel HobbsSouth Africa9h 58m 34s
9thDaphne LedlieSouth Africa10h 10m 28s
10thVal SandisonSouth Africa10h 15m 01s

* First Sub-8:30 Up Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLettie van Zyl (46)South Africa

8h 32m 55s

New Best Time Up

2ndHazel Hobbs (45)South Africa9h 58m 34s
3rdDaphne Ledlie (46)South Africa10h 10m 28

1980 Down (55th Race)

 DateSaturday, 31 May
 WeatherCold at start, warming to mild late morning with clouds mid afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB4/20
 DBN14/20
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.900 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.937 km/hr (3m 46s /km)
 Women12.316 km/hr (4m 53s /km)
 Entries4710
 Starters4208
 Finishers – Total3977
 Men3942
 Women35
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver617
 Bronze3350
 % Finishers / Starters94.5


THE MENS RACE

‘Johnny Halberstadt is the one to beat.’

The entire press world was all on the same bandwagon. Every newspaper in the country was echoing each other… and why shouldn’t they? In the past year, he had broken the All-Africa standard marathon record with a 2h 12m 19s on the Durban beachfront and seven weeks before Comrades he won the 56-kilometre Pieter Korkie ultra.

1979 Winner, Piet Vorster, had done nothing since, and Alan Robb had a disappointing run of results that year.   

On a cold, bracing morning, leading the avalanche of runners down Polly Shortt’s, was Aaron Gumbi, Elliot Dlamini, Chris Mkhize and Gordon Kruger. On the long 6-kilometre climb to the water tower at Umlaas Road, the only change in the lead positions was that Lawrence Hlope had moved into 3rd place. The ‘big names’ were nowhere to be seen.    

Going through Camperdown, Hlope had gone to the front. The lead times were Hlope (1h 33m 10s), Gumbi and Dlamini (1h 33m 35s) and Mkhize (1h 34m 20). Some 700 metres off the pace, Robb, Halberstadt, Geoff Bacon and Vorster went past together in 1h 35m 52s.

Hlope still led from Gumbi and Dlamini at Cato Ridge. Running strongly, 800 metres behind the leader, but with only metres between them, were Robb, Halberstadt, Malcolm Ball and Bacon. Behind them, Deon Holzhauzen was moving into the picture.

The big change came at Harrison Flats. Hlope was tiring and the Robb group had caught the fading Gumbi and Dlamini duo. Hlope climbed Inchanga well enough but Holzhauzen, now in 2nd place was catching him.

He went to the front on the run down to the halfway mark at Drummond where the order was Holzhauzen (2h 45m 16s), Hlope (2h 45m 45s), Bacon (2h 46m 00s), Hoseah Tjale (2h 46m 25s), Robb (2h 46m 27s), Ball and Halberstadt (2h 46m 50s) and Vorster (2h 47m 5s). Bruce Fordyce went through in 19th position in 2h 53m.

Going past Kearsney College, Bacon held a narrow lead over Tjale and Holzhauzen with Robb, Halberstadt and Vorster not too far back. With the pace quickening, Holzhauzen was weakening and Robb went past him in the saddle between Botha’s Hill and Hillcrest. Approaching the centre of the village, Tjale went ahead of Bacon. Robb was a minute behind, and Halberstadt a further 30 seconds adrift. Fordyce had climbed up to 5th place at this stage and looked threatening.

The race was now wide open with 30 bone-jarring, downhill kilometres to the finish. Tjale blazed the trail through Gillitts, leading from Bacon, Halberstadt and Robb. Tjale had built a substantial lead by the time he went through Kloof where he was 1m 14s ahead of Bacon. Robb was next, 3 minutes behind the leader, with Ball in 4th place.

Thriving on the long downhill, Tjale was greeted by a massive crowd in Pinetown where the order was Tjale (4h 13m 20s), Robb (4h 15m 50s), Ball (4h 16m 2s), Joe Claase (4h 18m 17s) and Fordyce (4h 18m 41s). Cowie’s Hill was the downfall of Tjale. He laboured up the hill and at the top, his lead over Robb was down to 1m 52s. Tjale held on gamely but at the exit to Westville, Robb was just 20 metres away. Moments later, Tjale stopped, clutching his cramping thighs allowing Robb to hit the front.

Entering Durban, first Ball and then Fordyce went past the struggling Tjale. At 45th Cutting, the order was Robb (5h 5m 49s), Ball (5h 7m 14s) and Fordyce (5h 8m 16s). Robb never slackened on his way down Berea Road, even though Fordyce opened the throttle and overhauled Ball metres before the entrance to Kindsmead Stadium.

But it was Robb’s day and he earned a deserved 4th victory. Fordyce out-sprinted Ball to take second place.

RESULT

1stAlan RobbSouth Africa5h 38m 25s
2ndBruce ForyceSouth Africa5h 40m 31s
3rdMalcolm BallSouth Africa5h 40m 45s
4thTim BriscoeSouth Africa5h 46m 20s
5thTony AbbottSouth Africa5h 47m 27s
6thHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 50m 12s
7thDave RyanSouth Africa5h 52m 46s
8thJoe ClaaseSouth Africa5h 53m 33s
9thTammy BilibanaSouth Africa5h 56m 49s
10thIan EmerySouth Africa5h 57m 42s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDave Ryan (41)South Africa5h 52m 46s
2ndCalie Beneke (43)South Africa6h 04m 00s
3rdHenry Spires (40)South Africa6h 19m 00s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJarrie van Jaarsveld (54)South Africa

7h 06m 00s

2ndCharlie Chase (52)South Africa7h 07m 00s
3rdRoy Wise (51)South Africa7h 08m 00s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stDoug Horton (65)South Africa

8h 26m 50s

New Best Time Down

2ndEddie Pritchard (61)South Africa8h 30m 00s
3rdAllen Boyce (66)South Africa8h 50m 00s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The Old Guard was gone… it was as if they had evaporated… and a new generation descended on the Comrades scene.

A record field of 48 lined up outside the City Hall. Among them was 1979 winner, Jan Mallen. There was also Gail Ingram who broke the Two Oceans record over Easter, and the speedy Cape Town student Isavel Roche-Kelly. One who, also, could not be overlooked was three-time winner, Lettie van Zyl.

The early leader, as the field left the city, was Cheryl Jorgensen. Two novices, Isavel Roche-Kelly and Ralie Smit, were tucked in close behind. Roche-Kelly moved ahead of Smit on the arduous climb up to the highest point at Umlaas Road.  Over the hills through to Drummond, Jorgensen gradually built a slender lead, but Roche-Kelly was never more than a few minutes behind. The two front runners steadily increased the distance between themselves and Smit. Jorgensen led through Hillcrest, Kloof and Pinetown, but on the climb up Cowie’s Hill, Roche-Kelly, slowly, began making inroads into the distance separating her from the leader.

Passing through Westville, Roche-Kelly caught sight of Jorgensen and 2 kilometres further on, 10 kilometres from the finish, she wrested the lead. At that point, it was race over. Jorgensen hung on gamely but the honours went to Roche-Kelly who entered the finish stadium to become the first women earn a Silver Medal with a stunning new Down Record on 7h 18m. Jorgensen followed 4 minutes later, also going under the Silver barrier of 7h 30m.

RESULT

1stIsavel Roche-Kelly *South Africa

7h 18m 00s New Best Time Down

2ndCheryl JorgensenSouth Africa7h 22m 00s
3rdRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 50m 00s
4thGail IngramSouth Africa7h 52m 00s
5thJoan ClarkSouth Africa8h 04m 00s
6thClara FaureSouth Africa8h 10m 00s
7thMarie-Jean DuyvejonckSouth Africa8h 39m 00s
8thYvonne SumnerSouth Africa8h 43m 00s
9thPaddy WilliamsSouth Africa8h 48m 00s
10thLaura HoferSouth Africa8h 49m 50s

* First Sub-8:00 and Sub-7:30 Down Run. Isavel Roche-Kelly was killed in a cycling accident in Northern Ireland during July 1984.

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stYvonne Sumner (45)South Africa8h 43m 00s
2ndAlet Ten Tusscher (45)South Africa8h 55m 00s
3rdLettie van Zyl (47)South Africa9h 20m 00s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stAnna Villet (53)South Africa

9h 58m 00s New Best Time Down

1981 Up (56th Race)

 DateMonday, 1 June
 WeatherCrisp clear morning. Mild cloudless day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/20
 DBN13/22
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.948 km/hr (3m 46s /km)
 Women13.302 km/hr (4m 31s /km)
 Entries4532
 Starters3924
 Finishers – Total3659
 Men3600
 Women59
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver426
 Bronze3223
 % Finishers / Starters93.2


THE MENS RACE

“It will be Robb. He’s a four-time winner… and the defending Champion.”

“No one can match the Fordyce finish.”

Long before race-day, the first two positions were fixed. Although no one knew the exact order. Alan Robb and Bruce Fordyce were the names on everyone’s lips. There was also Johnny Halberstadt on many minds as well. He could not be ruled out. And then… distaster. Robb went down with a bad cold at the last moment.

On a crisp, clear morning, 3294 enthusiastic hopefuls were dispatched on their journey to the capital… 56 miles away.

Aaron Gumbi and Dudley Selby went under the Tollgate Bridge in 18 minutes. Reaching 45th Cutting in 30 minutes, the leading trio was Gumbi, Chris Mkhize and Andy Churchill. They still led at Westville in 46 minutes, but others who were moving closer were Dave Wright, David Motsie and the favoured Tony Abbott.

Churchill was first over Cowie’s Hill. Metres behind him were Gumbi and Mkhize. Then came a formidable group comprising Wright, Abbott, Graeme Fraser, Geoff Bacon, Halberstadt, Malcolm Ball and Robb. Gumbi and Mkhize went past Churchill on the downhill into Pinetown. Along the Pinetown Flats, Wright also passed Churchill and Abbott and Fraser were only 45 metres adrift.

Once over the massive Field’s Hill, the order was changing continuously. The first four at Kloof were Wright, Mkhize, Gumbi and Halberstadt. Reeling off the kilometres, Mkize reached Hillcrest with Wright only 12 seconds behind.  Another 50 seconds back came Bacon, Halberstadt and Joe Claase.

Moving steadily away from his chasers, Mkize was 35 seconds ahead of Wright at Kearsney College. On the drop into the Valley of a Thousand Hills at Drummond, Halberstadt and Claase continued their private battle while, a short way back, Fordyce and Ball were swapping places regularly. The positions at Drummond were Mkhize (2h 50m), Wright (2h 52m), Bacon, Halberstadt and Claase (2h 52m 45s) and Fordyce, Abbott and Fraser (2h 53m 30s).

Early pace is often paid for on Inchanga. By the top, Wright had closed slightly on Mkhize. Bacon, Halberstadt and Claase closed to within 40 seconds of Wright, who was clearly fading, and Fordyce made up 15 seconds on this trio. Mkhize picked up the pace on the circuitous section to Radnor Guest Farm. Fordyce had moved up a gear and, having passed Claase, Wright and Bacon in quick succession, moved into 2nd position. Halberstadt was in striking distance of the Claase trio, and was also looking to threaten Fordyce.

Leading through Cato Ridge, Mkhize was tiring, and his lead was down to 90 seconds from Fordyce and Halberstadt. Soon after, the pair, embroiled in a fierce battle, went past him. On the run to Camperdown, Halberstadt surged and went into a short-lived lead. But Fordyce was soon in front again. On the climb out of the village, Halberstadt fell back, leaving Fordyce out in front, on his own.

There was no stopping Fordyce now. He powered ahead, leading by 2m 15s at the Dardanelles. Polly Shortt’s never worried Fordyce and at the top, he was a full 5 minutes ahead of Halberstadt. On the monster hill, Abbott was making a late challenge and crested the hill in 3rd place.

With the record well within his grasp, Fordyce flew over the final six downhill kilometers to the Jan Smuts Stadium, to establish a new Best Time.

RESULT

1stBruce Fordyce *South Africa

5h 37m 28s New Best Time Up

2ndJohnny HalberstadtSouth Africa5h 46m 00s
3rdTony AbbottSouth Africa5h 52m 41s
4thChris MkhizeSouth Africa5h 53m 29s
5thDanny BiggsSouth Africa5h 54m 08s
6thGraeme FraserSouth Africa5h 54m 12s
7thGeoff BaconSouth Africa5h 54m 50s
8thDave WrightSouth Africa5h 56m 02s
9thDave AndersonSouth Africa5h 57m 07s
10thJoe ClaaseSouth Africa6h 03m 02s

* First Sub-5:45 Up Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCalie Beneke (44)South Africa

6h 10m 54s

2ndJohn Dixon (42)South Africa6h 13m 33s
3rdPieter de Villiers (40)South Africa6h 37m 46s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stWillie Mavuma (51)South Africa

7h 04m 00s

2ndClive Crawley (50)South Africa7h 13m 26s
3rdLars Nayler (50)South Africa7h 15m 05s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stEddie Pritchard (62)South Africa

8h 34m 11s

2ndRoss Ashington (61)South Africa8h 55m 04s
3rdKen Oglesby (64)South Africa8h 58m 14s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The first three from 1980 were all on the start line. Isavel Roche-Kelly was the outright favourite after her new Down Record. Cheryl Jorgensen, with a sub-7h 30m was very much in with a chance, and Ralie Smit, although a fair way back in 3rd place, in 1980, could not be overlooked.

When the field had established itself, Roche-Kelly was the early leader at Westville. Next came Jorgensen, Lise Warren and Smit. Roche-Kelly led through Hillcrest with the chasing order unchanged and, by Drummond, she had established a substantial lead. The positions at halfway were Roche-Kelly in a very fast 3h 17m, Jorgensen (3h 37m), Warren (3h 40) and Smit (3h 42m).

Inchanga posed no threats to the leading women. Roche-Kelly increased her lead as she flew past Ethembeni School, Cato Ridge and Camperdown. Jorgensen consolidated her 2nd position while a torrid battle was being waged behind them for 3rd place.

Gail Ingram was having a storming run as she closed in on Pietermaritzburg. She went past Warren on Polly Shortt’s and drew inexorably closer to Smit. But in the end there were just not enough kilometres left and she failed by 15 seconds to catch Smit in her dash from the top of Polly’s. The battle for the minor places was so intense that at the death, 2m17s separated positions 3, 4 and 5.

But, as in 1980, the star of the day was Roche-Kelly. Her time of 6h 44m 35s meant she, not only, reduced the Up Record by an astonishing 1h 38m, but became the first woman to breach the 7-hour barrier.

RESULT

1stIsavel Roche-Kelly *South Africa

6h 44m 35s

 New Best Time Up

2ndCheryl JorgensenSouth Africa7h 21m 55s
3rdRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 46m 34s
4thGail IngramSouth Africa7h 46m 49s
5thLise WarrenSouth Africa7h 48m 51s
6thCheryl HookeSouth Africa8h 29m 44s
7thClara FaureSouth Africa8h 30m 17s
8thLowell FourieSouth Africa8h 41m 32s
9thPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa8h 46m 26s
10thHelen LucreSouth Africa8h 50m 19s

* First Sub-7:00 and Sub-6:45 Up Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stPaddy Williams (40)South Africa

8h 57m 11s

2ndMoose Ely (43)South Africa8h 59m 32s
3rdYvonne Sumner (46)South Africa9h 32m 49s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stAnna Villet (54)South Africa

9h 22m 22s

New Best Time Up

2ndElizabeth Cavanagh (50)South Africa10h 26m 15

1982 Down (57th Race)

 DateMonday, 31 May
 WeatherOvercast with heavy drizzle at start, clearing to warm and sunny mid afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB12/17
 DBN15/20
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance91.400 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.416 km/hr (3m 39s /km)
 Women12.888 km/hr (4m 39s /km)
 Entries5501
 Starters4887
 Finishers – Total4602
 Men4500
 Women102
 Medals – Gold10
 Silver619
 Bronze3973
 % Finishers / Starters94.2


THE MENS RACE

The only ‘big name’ missing from the line-up was Johnny Halberstadt who had turned professional during the preceding year; thus rendering himself ineligible. With Bruce Fordyce and Alan Robb back, it promised to be a tough, thrilling fight.

And it was.

Also in the field were a string of top performers who could spring a surprise; men like Henry Nyembe, Chris Mkhize, Tony Abbott and Graeme Fraser.

A solid drizzle was falling as the huge, sodden field set off for the coast, more that 91 kilometres away. First to emerge out of the wet and dark, on the ascent of Polly Shortts were Johannes Tsetseng, Israel Kutoana and Derek Mazibuko. At the top of the hill, Mazibuko enjoyed a lead of a minute over the chasing mass. He increased his lead to 2m 30s by Umlaas Road.

Going into Camperdown, the order was Mazibuko (1h 22m), Testseng, Kutoana and Nyembe (all 1h 22m 40s), with Abbott, Fraser, Dave Wright, Mkhize, and Malcolm Ball (all 1h 23m). Robb was in a group 3 minutes back, with Fordyce in another bunch further adrift.

The order of the first four was unchanged at Cato Ridge, but Fordyce had moved to within 3 minutes of the leader. Leaving the village, a tiring Mazibuko was overtaken by Kutoana, Tsetseng and Nyembe. Inchanga was lost in a dense mist and the first to break through it was Nyembe who led into Drummond in 2h 48m 32s. Then came Fordyce, Robb, Wright, Abbott and Fraser.

On the climb to Alveston, the clouds started lifting and a few weak sunbeams made a welcome appearance. At Botha’s Hill, the clouds had almost disappeared and the morning warmed up.

So did the pace up front. Racing past Kearsney College, Robb surged, taking Fordyce and Nyembe with him. Hurtling down the big hill, Nyembe was forced to capitulate. Robb and Fordyce were together going through Hillcrest.

Exiting the village, with 33 kilometres remaining, most of which was downhill, Fordyce surged. It was the start of, probably, the greatest battle in Comrades history. Robb responded immediately.

Behind them, Fraser and Abbott went past Nyembe. 

Through Gillitts and Kloof, the pace was breakneck, almost foolhardy, with neither Fordyce nor Robb surrendering an inch until at the top of Field’s Hill, where Fordyce surged again. Robb did not go with him and trailed the leader by 150 metres at the bottom where the order was Fordyce (4h 8m 45s), Robb (4h 9m 45s), Wright (4h 11m 30s) with Fraser and Abbott (4h 11m 55s).     

In the centre of Pinetown, the flying Fordyce had extended his lead over Robb to 500 metres with Wright, looking weary, and the Fraser/Abbott duo next. By the top of Cowie’s Hill, a dejected-looking Robb was 4 minutes behind Fordyce.

From there on, it was Fordyce all the way, as he went further and further ahead. When he completed the final lap in Kingsmead Stadium he was 7 minutes clear of Robb.

Over the hilly section from Westville, into Durban, Fraser moved ahead of Abbott, and was gradually catching the tiring Robb.

But… it was not to be. At the finish, he was just 29 seconds short of the runner-up position.

RESULT

1stBruce FordyceSouth Africa

5h 34m 22s

2ndAlan RobbSouth Africa5h 41m 26s
3rdGraeme FraserSouth Africa5h 41m 55s
4thTony AbbottSouth Africa5h 42m 32s
5thDave WrightSouth Africa5h 46m 49s
6thPiet VorsterSouth Africa5h 50m 20s
7thDeon HoltzhausenSouth Africa5h 52m 44s
8thHenry NyembeSouth Africa5h 53m 29s
9thDerrick TiversSouth Africa5h 55m 10s
10thDave AndersonSouth Africa5h 55m 25s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJohn Dixon (42)South Africa

6h 08m 57s

2ndRiel Hugo (40)South Africa6h 20m 15s
3rdKoos Sutherland (41)South Africa6h 22m 25s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stCorrie van Groeningen (50)South Africa

7h 01m 05s

2ndLars Nayler (51)South Africa7h 12m 00s
3rdNic Collier (50)South Africa7h 14m 19s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stRoss Ashington (61)South Africa

7h 58m 50s 

New Best Time Down

2ndAllan Ferguson (60)South Africa8h 19m 35s
3rdDutchie De Boer (61)South Africa8h 20m 01s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

With 1980 and 81 winner, Isavel Roche-Kelly a non-entrant, the runner-up from those two years, Cheryl Jorgensen, was the firm favourite.

Jorgensen wasted no time in setting the pace. She was first over Polly Shortt’s and reaching Camperdown in 1h 44m 52s, had a lead of 2 minutes over Lise Warren. Then followed Helen Lucre and Lynn Cresswell in quick succession.

Jorgensen was building an unassailable lead going through Drummond, Hillcrest and down to the bottom of Field’s Hill, which she reached in 5h 9m 40s. Next through was a tiring Warren (5h 38m 13s) and, coming along strongly, Ralie Smit (5h 44m 48s).

Going down Field’s Hill, Jorgensen appeared to be struggling. “It was a bad patch,” she said later. She ran through it, however, and by Pinetown her rhythm had returned and she ran untroubled over Cowie’s Hill and through Westville to the finish, earning her 3rd successive Silver Medal.

Warren recovered somewhat after Pinetown but had fallen a long way behind Jorgensen, but held on to 2nd position. Smit claimed 3rd place for the third successive year.

RESULT

1stCheryl JorgensenSouth Africa7h 04m 59s
2ndLise WarrenSouth Africa7h 52m 26s
3rdRalie SmitSouth Africa8h 01m 16s
4thPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa8h 03m 05s
5thJennifer SaundersSouth Africa8h 04m 14s
6thLynne SpenceSouth Africa8h 11m 25s
7thSandy StevensSouth Africa8h 12m 48s
8thEstie van WykSouth Africa8h 14m 48s
9thJean CadmanSouth Africa8h 17m 33s
10thHazel HairsSouth Africa8h 22m 13s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stPaddy Williams (41)South Africa

8h 22m 40s

New Best Time Down

2ndYvonne Sumner (47)South Africa8h 23m 39s
3rdHilda Weiland (43)South Africa8h 48m 51s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stAnna Villet (55)South Africa

9h 18m 38s

New Best Time Down

2ndNell du Plessis (58)South Africa10h 18m 45
3rdElizabeth Cavanagh (51)South Africa10h 48m 37

1983 Up (58th Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 WeatherMild to warm cloudless day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/23
 DBN13/25
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance87.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.937 km/hr (3m 46s /km)
 Women12.154 km/hr (4m 56s /km)
 Entries6636
 Starters5862
 Finishers – Total5365
 Men5205
 Women160
 Medals – Gold11
 Silver585
 Bronze4769
 % Finishers / Starters91.5


THE MENS RACE

The only question that needed answering was ‘Who will come second?’

It was a given that Bruce Fordyce would win again… and score a hat trick.

First to crest the 2-kilometre slog to Tollgate were Bernard Posholi, Johannes Makgotsi and Johannes Tsetseng. The trio were still leading at 45th Cutting but, on their heels was a group of recognised performers; Graeme Fraser, Piet Vorster and Alan Robb.

By Westville, the trio had surrendered first place to Gordon Shaw and 20 metres behind them came Robb. A group containing Fraser, Tony Abbott, Fordyce and Vorster were handily placed just 200 metres to their rear.

Changes in the lead positions occurred on the pull up Cowie’s Hill. Rakabaela Selkonyela reached the top first with Vorster and Shaw at his shoulder. These three were joined by Colin Goosen along the Pinetown Flats as they headed towards Field’s Hill. Going through Kloof, Vorster, Goosen and Fraser held a small lead. At Gillitts, Vorster had gone ahead on his own. Fordyce, Robb and Danny Biggs were running comfortably, not too far behind.

Running four abreast, on the incline into Hillcrest, were Goosen, Shaw, Fraser and Vorster, with Fordyce keeping them in sight. Botha’s Hill saw Vorster and Shaw leading with Goosen shadowing them. As the pair passed Kearsney College, Fordyce, who had been caught by Hoseah Tjale, was 300 metres behind.

As the leaders wound their way down to Drummond, the lead was rotating continuously. The first five past the halfway checkpoint were Goosen, Vorster, Fraser and Shaw together, with Biggs 45 metres back. Tjale and Fordyce trailed a further 300 metres behind.

As always, Inchanga brought changes in the order. Although the leading four held their positions, Fordyce and Tjale were on the move and both overtook Biggs before the crest. Once over the top Shaw surged, taking Fraser with him. Fordyce reached the top in 3rd place, 200 metres off the pace and well placed to mount a charge for the lead. His finishing kick was greatly feared.

Passing the Ethembeni School, Shaw led Fraser by 50 metres, who, in turn, had the Tjale/Foryce threat another 50 metres away.

A riveting battle was developing.

The pair passed Fraser at Radnor and were now only 20 metres adrift of Shaw. They caught him a few moments later at the Nagle Dam turn-off. Running at a shade under 16 kilometres per hour into Cato Ridge, the pace was beginning to show on Shaw.

Shaw, however, did not give in easily and, swapping surges with Fordyce, they ran 50 metres ahead of Tjale, with Fraser a further 300 metres back. Fordyce stamped his authority on the race and went ahead of Shaw just before Camperdown. Then disaster struck for Shaw. He crumpled to the ground with cramp and while receiving a massage from his attendants, both Tjale and Fraser went past.

At the Lion Park turn-off, Fordyce held a 6-minute lead over Tjale, 7 minutes over Fraser and 8m 30s over Vorster and Goosen. Shaw was back on the road, and though moving slowly, he appeared to be recovering from his mishap. Polly Shortt’s held no terrors for Fordyce. He sailed up, reaching the top 11 minutes before, a very tired, Fraser.

With Fordyce running to victory, drama of the highest degree was being played out on Polly’s. Fraser, clawing the air in agony, walking stiff-legged from severe cramps, stopped for a massage before hobbling on. Shaw had recovered and was coming along in fine fashion after his earlier setback. Tjale was struggling and Vorster was reduced to walking.

With the Up Record now a certainty, Fordyce was on track to breach the 5h 30m barrier for the Up Run. It would be close however. Running faster than 17 kilometres per hour along Washington, Oribi and Jesmond Roads, he missed the barrier by a mere 12 seconds but, in the process, reduced his own previous best time by 7m 16s.

Back down the road, the drama was unbearable. Fraser was battling, against debilitating cramp, to hold off Shaw, who was running cautiously to prevent a recurrence of the cramp that struck him down earlier. One hundred metres separated Fraser from Shaw as he turned into Jesmond Road, 2 kilometres from home. Shortly before turning into Jan Smuts Stadium, Shaw went into 2nd position. He beat Fraser by 32 seconds.

RESULT

1stBruce FordyceSouth Africa

5h 30m 12s

New Best Time Up

2ndGordon ShawSouth Africa5h 45m 48s
3rdGraeme FraserSouth Africa5h 46m 20s
4thTony AbbottSouth Africa5h 54m 26s
5thErrol AckermanSouth Africa5h 55m 27s
6thHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 59m 25s
7thPiet VorsterSouth Africa5h 59m 34s
8thJohn DixonSouth Africa6h 00m 17s
9thTony DearlingSouth Africa6h 00m 25s
10thColin GoosenSouth Africa6h 02m 14s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJohn Dixon (43)South Africa

6h 00m 17s

New Best Time Up

2ndPieter de Villiers (42)South Africa6h 19m 59s
3rdKoos Sutherland (42)South Africa6h 23m 41s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stCorrie van Groeningen (51)South Africa

7h 02m 12s

2ndLars Nayler (52)South Africa7h 06m 17s
3rdDerek Kay (50)South Africa7h 23m 57s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stAllan Ferguson (61)South Africa

8h 19m 22s

2ndArthur Wright (60)South Africa8h 26m 14s
3rdTorgny Oehgren (61)South Africa8h 26m 54s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

Cheryl Jorgensen, on the basis of her 1982 victory, was a clear favourite, although novice, Lindsay Weight, on the strength of recent performances over ultra distances, was considered a realistic threat.

Jorgensen went into an immediate lead but after 6 kilometres, was overhauled by Weight who was thought to have committed the novice’s cardinal sin; getting caught up in the hype and excitement and going out too fast, too soon. She soon settled into a comfortable running pace and led the field up Cowie’s Hill, through Pinetown and up Field’s Hill. Following her were Jorgensen and Lise Warren.

In mild, cloudless weather, Weight was the first woman over Botha’s Hill where the chasers were Warren, Jenny Wilson, Jorgensen and Gail Ingram. Over the downhill rollercoaster section to Drummond, Weight was holding her own and went through the midpoint ahead of Wilson, Warren and Jorgensen. Silver Medals were well within reach of the leaders, but there was little margin for error if anything went awry.

Weight was slowly building a substantial lead. By the Lion Park turn-off she held a 10-minute advantage over Wilson who had, a short distance back, gone ahead of Warren. Weight had promised herself a walk on Polly Shortt’s, but, in full glare of television cameras, was ‘obliged’ to keep running.

From the top of the monster hill, it was plain sailing for Weight. Wilson was running easily but was never in a position to challenge.

Weight and Wilson were both novices and although their times were slightly behind the existing record, they were in the forefront of the improving standard of women’s distance-running; brought about upon the realisation that the first 5 women came home in under 7h 30m.

RESULT

1stLindsay WeightSouth Africa7h 12m 56s
2ndJenny WilsonSouth Africa7h 23m 45s
3rdGail IngramSouth Africa7h 27m 00s
4thCheryl JorgensenSouth Africa7h 29m 41s
5thMoira HornbySouth Africa7h 29m 59s
6thLise WarrenSouth Africa7h 32m 42s
7thRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 35m 36s
8thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 44m 36s
9thAudrey SteynSouth Africa7h 53m 37s
10thPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa7h 54m 14s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stPaddy Williams (42)South Africa

8h 15m 33s

New Best Time Up

2ndHilda Weiland (44)South Africa8h 54m 33s
3rdTwinkle Toes Goodwin (47)South Africa9h 22m 16s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stNell du Plessis (59)South Africa

10h 05m 10

2ndAnna Villet (56)South Africa10h 37m 20
3rdDaphne Ledlie (50)South Africa10h 42m 53

1984 Down (59th Race)

 DateFriday, 1 June
 WeatherVery cold at start, warm and cloudless by mid morning.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB-2/21
 DBN10/22
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.750 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.452 km/hr (3m 39s /km)
 Women13.244 km/hr (4m 32s /km)
 Entries8513
 Starters7435
 Finishers – Total7105
 Men6842
 Women263
 Medals – Gold11
 Silver937
 Bronze6157
 % Finishers / Starters95.6


THE MENS RACE

Bruce Fordyce was the hottest pre-race favourite since Wally Hayward in the 50s and Arthur Newton in the 20s.

There were other very capable performers, all of whom could make things uncomfortable for the champion if he faltered at any stage. There were around 30 runners with real chances of earning one of the 10 Gold Medals on offer. Among them were Kevin Shaw, Willie Farrell, Mike Symonds and Bernard Rose, all of whom possessed tons of speed. Hoseah Tjale, Graeme Fraser and Bob de la Motte were proven stayers. Then there was Alan Robb, Geoff Bacon and Chris Reyneke lingering on the periphery.

An epic battle was anticipated, even though it would be a major upset if Fordyce did not win.

Velemseni Nyandeni was the early leader. He was 300 metres ahead of a massed group at the top of Polly Shortt’s. After 16 kolimetres, at the Lion Park turn-off, he was holding on to his lead, but among an assorted group, a minute behind, were Shaw and Reyneke. Four minutes later came the group with all the big guns.

At Cato Ridge, Symonds (1h 53m 29s) had gone to the front with Reyneke and Shaw on his heels. Hidden in the amorphous group that followed, were all the runners that would contest the showdown, 4 hours later. Going up Inchanga, Reyneke went ahead of Shaw, while de la Motte broke clear of his group.

Reaching Drummond in 2h 44m 20s, Reyneke was followed by Shaw in 2h 45m 37s. de la Motte was through in 2h 48m 14s, while Fordyce, in a loose group, was clocked at 2h 50m 2s.

Pounding ahead, through the haze in the Valley of a Thousand Hills and over the hilly section to Botha’s Hill, Reyneke maintained his lead. de la Motte caught Shaw at Kearsney College. The order at Hillcrest was Reyneke (3h 23m 30s), de la Motte (3h 25m 15s), Shaw (3h 26m 45s) and Fordyce (3h 27m 10s). Over the gentle downhill to Kloof, de la Motte caught a quick glance of Reyneke, 100 metres ahead and then inherited’ the lead as Reyneke dashed into the bushes at the side of the road. Entering the village, Fordyce passed Shaw to move into 3rd position.

de la Motte led the charge through Pinetown in 4h 10m 54s, with Reyneke and Fordyce, 2m 10s behind the leader, in pursuit. Reyneke tired quickly on Cowie’s Hill. Fordyce, making his move, was lying 2nd as he commenced the descent to Westville and set out after the flying leader. However, the pace was telling on de la Motte and Fordyce was closing the gap inexorably. Coming out of the village, de la Motte’s lead was down to 55 seconds and, with Fordyce charging, the distance between the two was diminishing with every stride.

At 45th Cutting, Fordyce trailed by 30 seconds and, shortly thereafter, sailed into the lead. Picking up the pace even more, it became apparent that, as he dashed over Tollgate, a new record was a possibility. Never faltering over the run-in after an epic fight-back, he entered Kingsmead Stadium with a new Best Time behind his name.

RESULT

1stBruce FordyceSouth Africa

5h 27m 18s

New Best Time Down

2ndBob de la MotteSouth Africa5h 30m 59s
3rdChris ReynekeSouth Africa5h 34m 39s
4thHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 37m 24s
5thDanny BiggsSouth Africa5h 47m 11s
6thDeon HoltzhausenSouth Africa5h 48m 14s
7thGraeme FraserSouth Africa5h 48m 22s
8thArthur LemosSouth Africa5h 48m 58s
9thEric BatemanSouth Africa5h 50m 37s
10thKevin ShawSouth Africa5h 51m 56s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJohn Dixon (44))South Africa

6h 04m 00s

2ndCalie Beneke (47)South Africa6h 07m 27s
3rdTrevor Metcalfe (40)South Africa6h 08m 57s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stCasper Steyn (50)South Africa

7h 01m 35s

2ndLars Nayler (53)South Africa7h 04m 12s
3rdTony Sukel (51)South Africa7h 13m 00s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stUys Fick (60)South Africa

7h 59m 33s

2ndAllan Ferguson (62)South Africa8h 24m 50s
3rdTorgny Oehgren (62)South Africa8h 39m 32s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

There was no outright favourite, although Lindsay Weight, in view of her win in 1983, had more support than the rest of the main contenders. The ever-dangerous Ralie Smit was back, while tri-athlete, Moira Hornby, was reported to be super-fit after a hard season campaigning overseas.

Weight and Smit were the first to emerge from the dark of the city, running alongside each other as they dropped down the hill after cresting Polly Shortt’s and remained in close proximity for the next few kilometres. On the long 6-kilometre climb to Umlaas Road, Smit moved ahead of Weight, and at Bayat’s Store she held a lead of 200 metres, but Weight overhauled the leader on Inchanga and led into Drummond in 3h 18m.

Following the two leaders into halfway were Cheryl Jorgensen, Gail Ingram, Anneline Pieterse and Priscilla Carlisle. The order remained unchanged across the hills to Kloof, where the early pace was beginning to manifest itself on the leaders. Weight, although losing a toenail, took the jarring Field’s Hill in her stride. Carlisle was cramping badly.

After Field’s Hill, Weight unearthed a new lease of life, so much so that the Down Record was in jeopardy. Running away from the rest of the main contenders and, with the many interposing hills being taken with ease, Weight entered Kingsmead Stadium with the previous best time in tatters, removing a massive 18 minutes off the previous best and, in the process, became the first woman to dip under 7 hours on the Down Run.

Carlisle hung on tenaciously and, despite repeated episodes of cramp, went past Ingram. Her gallant effort had, however, drained her of her final ounces of strength. Entering the home straight, she was reduced to walking. Then less than 50 metres from the line, amid agonising gasps from the crowd, her legs gave way. Try as she did to regain her footing, they would not respond.

“Crawl,” was on everyone’s lips.

She did and held off Ingram by 19 seconds to capture 2nd place.

RESULT

1stLindsay Weight *South Africa

6h 46m 35s

New Best Time Down

2ndPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa7h 15m 32s
3rdGail IngramSouth Africa7h 15m 51s
4thSandy StevensSouth Africa7h 18m 04s
5thCheryl JorgensenSouth Africa7h 20m 35s
6thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 24m 20s
7thGail BuhrmannSouth Africa7h 29m 08s
8thLise WarrenSouth Africa7h 31m 43s
9thGlynnis RawsonSouth Africa7h 34m 11s
10thCynthia BauerSouth Africa7h 42m 35s

* First Sub-7:00 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGail Buhrmann (40)South Africa

7h 29m 08s

New Best Time Down

2ndPaddy Williams (43)South Africa8h 00m 58s
3rdHilda Weiland (45)South Africa8h 23m 03s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stThelma Fouche (50)South Africa

9h 10m 32s

New Best Time Down

2ndAnna Villet (57)South Africa9h 14m 35s
3rdCathy Linger (51)South Africa9h 59m 05s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stNell du Plessis (60)South Africa

10h 10m 55

New Best Time Down

1985 Up (60th Race) Diamond Jubilee Year

 DateFriday, 31 May
 WeatherMild and pleasant at start. Warming late morning with wind late afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB4/23
 DBN13/23
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance88.626 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.779 km/hr (3m 48s /km)
 Women12.863 km/hr (4m 40s /km)
 Entries10109
 Starters9058
 Finishers – Total8190
 Men7890
 Women300
 Medals – Gold11
 Silver645
 Bronze7534
 % Finishers / Starters90.4


THE MENS RACE

Having equalled Arthur’s Newton’s 4 successive victories (1922 – 1925), the pressure was on Bruce Fordyce to attempt, and achieve, an unheard-of 5th. It would not be easy with all the main contenders from the previous year in the line-up.

The dash of unknowns and no-hopers into the early morning gloom had now become an accepted aspect of the start, while the real contenders played their usual waiting game.

The first of the recognised performers to reach Cowie’s Hill were Bruce Matthews, Aaron Jama and Chris Reyneke. Not too far back came Villiers Oberholzer, Gordon Shaw and Hoseah Tjale, with Fordyce just behind them.

Matthews and Jama remained together through Pinetown and up Field’s Hill, while Tjale Oberholzer and Shaw held their positions. The two leaders went through Winston Park in 2h 5m. Third through was Oberholzer (2h 5m 45s), with Tjale, 4th in 2h 6m 10s. The Fordyce group went by, 100 metres back.

On the climb up Botha’s Hill, the pace told on Jama, leaving Matthews with a clear lead at the top. Matthews maintained the lead and went through the Drummond checkpoint in 2h 50m with Tjale 50 metres adrift. Oberholzer was a further 50 metres behind in 3rd place. The Fordyce group trailed the leader by 800 metres.

Inchanga was the undoing of Matthews. He tired badly on the hill and, with 47 kilometres to go, Tjale went into the lead. Oberholzer was closing in on Matthews, while Danny Biggs, Fordyce and Derek Tivers were, in turn, all moving up on Oberholzer. With only 200 metres separating him from the pursuing group, Tjale led past the Inchanga Mission School but for the chasing group, consisting of Fordyce, Biggs, Tivers and Oberholzer, the race had reached a difficult stage. The positions within the group were changing rapidly and, during this tough period, they were driving each other on and, soon, all four had gone past Tjale. It was a case of who was going to crack first.

Vying for supremacy, Fordyce and Tjale broke from the pack, surging to the front. Running at 3m 36s to the kilometre, the pair built a substantial lead. Fordyce was the stronger runner on the hills and kept testing Tjale with regular surges. On the hill just before Camperdown, Tjale could not respond, allowing Fordyce to draw away into a lead that he would never relinquish. The race was clearly over once Fordyce had established his supremacy.

In the run in over the remaining hills, Fordyce steadily increased his lead over both Tjale and Tivers who filled the minor places.

RESULT

1stBruce FordyceSouth Africa

5h 37m 01s

2ndHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 42m 40s
3rdDerrick TiversSouth Africa5h 53m 53s
4thIan EmerySouth Africa5h 54m 53s
5thDave AndersonSouth Africa5h 55m 11s
6thDanny BiggsSouth Africa5h 57m 55s
7thBoysie van StadenSouth Africa5h 59m 14s
8thDe Villiers OberholzerSouth Africa5h 59m 22s
9thAlan RobbSouth Africa5h 59m 26s
10thGraeme FraserSouth Africa6h 00m 04s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stTrevor Metcalfe (41)South Africa

6h 10m 35s

2ndKoos Sutherland (44)South Africa6h 19m 41s
3rdJohn Dixon (45)South Africa6h 27m 10s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stCasper Steyn (51)South Africa

7h 17m 05s

2ndLars Nayler (54)South Africa7h 18m 31s
3rdErnie Verrall (50)South Africa7h 22m 40s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stAllan Ferguson (63)South Africa

8h 26m 06s

2ndRoss Ashington (64)South Africa9h 06m 38s
3rdTorgny Oehgren (63)South Africa9h 15m 26s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

Lindsay Weight was seeking to be the second woman to achieve a hat trick of successive wins, but her task was not a forgone conclusion with the tough Helen Lucre in the field. Lucre had set new records in both the Two Oceans and the Pieter Korkie in the build-up to Comrades, so an intriguing battle was expected.

Lost in a mass of male runners, Lucre, Weight and Ralie Smit had worked their way into the lead as they climbed Field’s Hill. Lucre and Weight were running very easily and by the top of Botha’s Hill, Lucre held a slender 12-metre lead over Weight. Smit had fallen back on the descent after Field’s.

Lucre continued to forge ahead and went through Drummond in 3h 22m. Weight followed a minute later, with Priscilla Carlisle (3h 30m) having worked her way into the top three. Weight ran into problems after Inchanga and lost contact with Lucre who appeared to be heading for certain victory.

Lucre held her lead as she ran into Pietermaritzburg. Her aim, it appeared, was victory rather than the Up Record. Weight, however, was not to be denied a top finish. She crossed the line 8 minutes behind the winner, and held a 22-minute advantage over third-placed Carlisle.

RESULT

1stHelen LucreSouth Africa6h 53m 24s
2ndLindsay WeightSouth Africa7h 01m 23s
3rdPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa7h 24m 07s
4thRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 24m 56s
5thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 26m 07s
6thMarietta SassenbergSouth Africa7h 38m 39s
7thAnna ClemsonSouth Africa7h 52m 26s
8thCheryl TorrSouth Africa7h 56m 10s
9thMaureen BairdSouth Africa8h 00m 04s
10thAnn MargolinSouth Africa8h 03m 08s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRalie Smit (40)South Africa

7h 24m 56s

New Best Time Up

2ndPaddy Williams (44)South Africa8h 07m 25s
3rdFlora Cameron (40)South Africa8h 29m 39s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stYvonne Sumner (50)South Africa

9h 06m 56s

New Best Time Up

2ndAnna Villet (58)South Africa9h 38m 45s
3rdThelma Fouche (51)South Africa10h 14m 47

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stNell du Plessis (61)South Africa

10h 38m 44

New Best Time Up

1986 Down (61st Race)

 DateSaturday, 31 May
 WeatherClear and cool at start. Mild to warm later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/30
 DBN15/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance88.771 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.434 km/hr (3m 39s /km)
 Women12.834 km/hr (4m 41s /km)
 Entries11451
 Starters10552
 Finishers – Total9653
 Men9221
 Women432
 Medals – Gold11
 12021202
 Bronze8440
 % Finishers / Starters91.5


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

1stBruce Fordyce *South Africa

5h 24m 07s New Best Time Down

2ndBob de la MotteSouth Africa5h 26m 12s
3rdHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 29m 02s
4thBoysie van StadenSouth Africa5h 37m 00s
5thDeon HoltzhausenSouth Africa5h 40m 13s
6thAlan RobbSouth Africa5h 41m 09s
7thIan EmerySouth Africa5h 42m 35s
8thDanny BiggsSouth Africa5h 45m 57s
9thSteve HollierSouth Africa5h 46m 48s
10thLeon SwanepoelSouth Africa5h 51m 11s

* First Sub-5:25 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDes Rowntree (40)South Africa6h 00m 36s
2ndTrevor Metcalfe (42)South Africa6h 02m 42s
3rdKoos Sutherland (45)South Africa6h 03m 19s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJapie Strydom (52)South Africa

6h 48m 54s

2ndErnie Verrall (51)South Africa6h 59m 29s
3rdEliyethe Jali (51)South Africa7h 07m 01s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stUys Fick (62)South Africa

8h 18m 32s

2ndAllan Ferguson (64)South Africa8h 21m 30s
3rdHendrik Barnard (63)South Africa8h 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

1stHelen LucreSouth Africa

6h 55m 01s

2ndRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 07m 40s
3rdLettie GreeffSouth Africa7h 14m 49s
4thLorraine van der PoelSouth Africa7h 20m 51s
5thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 22m 46s
6thHester KotzeSouth Africa7h 23m 52s
7thAngie LongmanSouth Africa7h 26m 24s
8thLynne SpenceSouth Africa7h 27m 50s
9th

Suzanne de Villiers *

South Africa7h 29m 29s
9thTilda Tearle *South Africa7h 29m 29s

* Finished together

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRalie Smit (41)South Africa

7h 07m 40s New Best Time Down

2ndSuzanne De Villiers (41)South Africa7h 29m 29s
3rdPaddy Williams (45)South Africa7h 39m 30s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stThelma Fouche (52)South Africa

8h 49m 05s New Best Time Down

2ndAnna Villet (59)South Africa8h 49m 57s
3rdTwinkle Toes Goodwin (50)South Africa8h 56m 38s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stNell du Plessis (62)South Africa

10h 39m 36

1987 Up (62nd Race)

 DateSunday, 31 May
 WeatherChilly at start but very hot sunny day later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/27
 DBN11/25
 Start Venue/TimeCorner Pine & Aliwal Streets / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance87.500 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.577 km/hr (3m 51s /km)
 Women12.845 km/hr (4m 40s /km)
 Entries10842
 Starters9783
 Finishers – Total8375
 Men7967
 Women408
 Medals – Gold11
 Silver712
 Bronze7652
 % Finishers / Starters85.6


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, De Villiers 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

1stBruce FordyceSouth Africa

5h 37m 01s

2ndBob de la MotteSouth Africa5h 43m 38s
3rdHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 44m 42s
4thBoysie van Staden *South Africa5h 48m 41s
4thArthur Lemos *South Africa5h 48m 41s
6thGraeme FraserSouth Africa5h 50m 29s
7thAlan RobbSouth Africa5h 51m 17s
8thLeon SwanepoelSouth Africa5h 53m 02s
9thDeon HoltzhausenSouth Africa5h 53m 21s
10thSiphiwe GqeleSouth Africa5h 53m 51s

*Finished together

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stArthur Lemos (41)South Africa

5h 48m 41s New Best Time Up

2ndDes Rowntree (41)South Africa6h 00m 56s
3rdTony Abbott (41)South Africa6h 20m 13s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJoe Crouch (51)South Africa7h 05m 24s
2ndErnie Verrall (52)South Africa7h 15m 51s
3rdJohn Stuart (51)South Africa7h 30m 24s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stUys Fick (63)South Africa

8h 43m 56s

2ndKotie van Vuuren (60)South Africa9h 09m 42s
3rdAllan Ferguson (65)South Africa9h 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

1stHelen LucreSouth Africa6h 48m 42s
2ndLindsay WeightSouth Africa6h 58m 44s
3rdRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 01m 13s
4thBeverley MalanSouth Africa7h 07m 03s
5thSally EdwardsSouth Africa7h 21m 50s
6thFrith van der MerweSouth Africa7h 22m 19s
7thPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa7h 22m 55s
8thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 25m 11s
9thLorraine van der PoelSouth Africa7h 25m 14s
10thErika CoetzeeSouth Africa7h 35m 32s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRalie Smit (42)South Africa

7h 01m 13s New Best Time Up

2ndSarah Hackney (46)South Africa8h 11m 09s
3rdLolly Thomson (40)South Africa8h 33m 43s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stEdith Laros (50)South Africa

10h 15m 44

2ndYvonne Sumner (52)South Africa10h 16m 20
3rdDaphne Ledlie (54)South Africa10h 17m 16

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stAnna Villet (60)South Africa

10h 24m 01 New Best Time Up

2ndNell du Plessis (63)South Africa10h 35m 31

1988 Up (63rd Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 WeatherCool morning warming to hot cloudless day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB2/21
 DBN12/24
 Start Venue/TimeCorner Pine & Aliwal Streets / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance87.500 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.020 km/hr (3m 45s /km)
 Women13.360 km/hr (4m 30s /km)
 Entries12302
 Starters11225
 Finishers – Total10363
 Men9818
 Women545
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver967
 Bronze9383
 % Finishers / Starters92.3


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

1stBruce Fordyce *South Africa

5h 27m 42s New Best Time Up

2ndMark PageSouth Africa5h 38m 28s
3rdNick BesterSouth Africa5h 39m 00s
4thHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 41m 16s
5thBoysie van StadenSouth Africa5h 46m 30s
6thJetman MsuthuSouth Africa5h 49m 32s
7thCharl MattheusSouth Africa5h 49m 47s
8thMadumetja MogashaneSouth Africa5h 50m 31s
9thJohan EbersohnSouth Africa5h 51m 40s
10thEphraim SekotlongSouth Africa5h 51m 56s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stArthur Lemos (42)South Africa

5h 56m 49s

2ndTony Abbott (42)South Africa6h 03m 38s
3rdDes Rowntree (42)South Africa6h 14m 51s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stCalie Beneke (51)South Africa

6h 56m 30s

2ndMickey Pretorius (52)South Africa6h 58m 51s
3rdJoe Crouch (52)South Africa7h 10m 16s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stWillie Loedolff (60)South Africa

7h 39m 54s New Best Time Up

2ndAllan Ferguson (66)South Africa8h 52m 07s
3rdDerek King (60)South Africa8h 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

1stFrith van der MerweSouth Africa

6h 32m 56s New Best Time Up

2ndLettie GreeffSouth Africa7h 04m 00s
3rdHelen LucreSouth Africa7h 07m 50s
4thLindsay WeightSouth Africa7h 08m 51s
5thLorraine van der PoelSouth Africa7h 17m 47s
6thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 23m 33s
7thTilda TearleSouth Africa7h 29m 02s
8thPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa7h 30m 39s
9thAnn MargolinSouth Africa7h 42m 26s
10thMariana MintySouth Africa7h 47m 13s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stSuzanne De Villiers (44)South Africa

7h 58m 50s

2ndLolly Thomson (41)South Africa8h 05m 19s
3rdPatsy Clemmans (43)South Africa8h 17m 02s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stHazel Colborne (52)South Africa

9h 57m 10s

2ndThelma Fouche (54)South Africa10h 07m 45
3rdYvonne Sumner (53)South Africa10h 15m 19

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stNell du Plessis (64)South Africa

10h 35m 37

1989 Down (64th Race)

 DateWednesday, 31 May
 WeatherFine and mild with scattered cloud.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB4/25
 DBN13/25
 Start Venue/TimeCorner Commercial Road & Longmarket Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.600 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.006 km/hr (3m 45s /km)
 Women15.156 km/hr (4m 00s /km)
 Entries13573
 Starters12164
 Finishers – Total10502
 Men9832
 Women670
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver894
 Bronze9595
 % Finishers / Starters86.3


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

1stSam TshabalalaSouth Africa

5h 35m 51s

2ndWillie MtoloSouth Africa5h 39m 59s
3rdJean-Marc BellocqFrance5h 42m 28s
4thNick BesterSouth Africa5h 43m 05s
5thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 44m 50s
6thAnton HectorSouth Africa5h 46m 15s
7thEphraim SekotlongSouth Africa5h 46m 53s
8thLucas TswaiSouth Africa5h 47m 03s
9thCharl MattheusSouth Africa5h 48m 58s
10thHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 50m 16s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stKoos Sutherland (48)South Africa6h 12m 54s
2ndDes Rowntree (43)South Africa6h 21m 47s
3rdTerry Cairns (41)South Africa6h 23m 09s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stBenjamin Mamabolo (55)South Africa

6h 58m 45s

2ndEssie Esterhuizen (51)South Africa7h 09m 07s
3rdMax Vey (50)South Africa7h 17m 10s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stWillie Loedolff (61)South Africa

7h 57m 39s New Best Time Down

2ndRoy Wise (60)South Africa8h 43m 03s
3rdHendrik Barnard (66)South Africa8h 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

1stFrith van der Merwe *South Africa

5h 54m 43s New Best Time Down

2ndValerie BleazardSouth Africa6h 56m 08s
3rdNaidene HarrisonSouth Africa7h 00m 09s
4thPat LithgowSouth Africa7h 11m 32s
5thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 13m 44s
6thTilda TearleSouth Africa7h 14m 35s
7thRalie SmitSouth Africa7h 16m 50s
8thPriscilla CarlisleSouth Africa7h 27m 36s
9thGail BuhrmannSouth Africa7h 29m 21s
10thRae BisschoffSouth Africa7h 35m 05s

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

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRalie Smit (44)South Africa

7h 16m 50s

2ndPriscilla Carlisle (40)South Africa7h 27m 36s
3rdGail Buhrmann (45)South Africa7h 29m 21s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stVal van Ginkel (51)South Africa

9h 48m 49s

2ndHazel Colborne (53)South Africa9h 52m 08s
3rdThelma Fouche (55)South Africa10h 30m 09

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stAnna Villet (62)South Africa

9h 57m 20s New Best Time Down

1990 Up (65th Race)

 DateThursday, 31 May
 WeatherCloudless and very hot.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/24
 DBN15/25
 Start Venue/TimeOld Durban Railway Station, Pine Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance87.400 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.404 km/hr (3m 54s /km)
 Women12.485 km/hr (4m 48s /km)
 Entries12796
 Starters11779
 Finishers – Total10266
 Men9616
 Women650
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver847
 Bronze9406
 % Finishers / Starters87.2


THE MENS RACE

At 34 years of age, Bruce Fordyce acknowledged that his best years were behind him.

He had, however, committed himself to another Comrades, knowing that an attempt at the Up Record was not possible.

Once the massive field had left Durban, the race took on much the same shape as the previous Up Run in 1988. Boysie van Staden and Jetman Msuthu were, again, the first to emerge after the annual TV no-hopers had drifted into oblivion. The pair led through Pinetown, by which stage, Mark Page was running easily in 3rd place.

On the gentle downhill from Botha’s Hill to Drummond, Page caught the two leaders and the trio went past the halfway mark 5 minutes ahead of Fordyce who was experiencing uncomfortable episodes of nausea. He kept going, however, but the discomfort was palpable.

By Camperdown, Page and Msuthu had dopped van Staden and appeared confident, with Fordyce 4 minutes adrift. Meshack Radebe, from nowhere at halfway, had been working his way through those ahead of him, had drawn level with Fordyce. He looked a potential winner. Hoseah Tjale was also making positive moves and was about to enter the fray among the leaders.

Page, more than any of the leaders, was aware of Fordyce’s finishing power over his favourite stretch of road, so he pushed harder on the tantalizing downhill to Mpusheni, increasing his advantage to four-and-a-half minutes. As he commenced the ascent of Little Polly’s, Page was in absolute control and only needed to maintain his pace to win.

If Page had been aware of Fordyce’s bout of nausea, he might have put in a stronger, more decisive, surge. Running in joint 3rd position, with Radebe rubbing shoulders with him, Fordyce realised that his persisting nausea led him to believe that Radebe would out-run him on the hills before Pietermaritzburg.  

On Little Polly’s, for no apparent reason, Msuthu retired and Radebe fell off the pace. Up front, Page was starting to feel the first signs of fatigue, but his lead should still carry him through. Then, on Polly Shortt’s, cramp set in. Page turned and looked back in anguish. Fordyce was coming and there was nothing he could do about it. Try as he may, he was a beaten man. Fordyce surged to the front and ran unchallenged to the finish for a 9th victory.

He was not aware of Tjale’s sustained effort over the final few kilometres. Both Tjale and Radebe went past a devastated Page, in the final dash, to claim the minor places.

RESULT

1stBruce FordyceSouth Africa5h 40m 25s
2ndHoseah TjaleSouth Africa5h 45m 19s
3rdMeshack RadebeSouth Africa5h 45m 40s
4thMark PageSouth Africa5h 46m 42s
5thJean-Marc BellocqFrance5h 47m 32s
6thEphraim SekotlongSouth Africa5h 48m 01s
7thBoysie van StadenSouth Africa5h 48m 37s
8thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 48m 58s
9thGary TurnerSouth Africa5h 49m 11s
10thNick BesterSouth Africa5h 52m 43s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJohnny Halberstadt (40)South Africa5h 59m 30s
2ndPeter McNamara (41)South Africa6h 09m 53s
3rdJohan Schoeman (40)South Africa6h 13m 33s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJohn Dixon (50)South Africa

6h 43m 14s New Best Time Up

2ndCaspar Greeff (55)South Africa6h 56m 19s
3rdKenne de Kock (55)South Africa7h 00m 37s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stMike Gierke (60)South Africa

8h 22m 24s

2ndWillie Loedolff (62)South Africa8h 48m 21s
3rdJohn Coulthard (60)South Africa8h 53m 47s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The best news in the lead-up to race day was that Lindsay Weight had submitted her entry. However, the sad news was that both Helen Lucre and Frith van der Merwe had elected to give the race a miss. This was a great disappointment as there were no other top contenders entered.

Having been away from Comrades for a few years, Weight’s state of fitness, and preparedness, was unknown. Based on her previous performances, however, she was expected to be near the front, when the race for top honours began.

Without any clear indicators to go on, anyone could emerge from the throng. From early on, it became clear that it was certain to develop into a tactical race rather than an attempt at a record, which appeared to be out of reach of any runner in the field.

The strategy looked like developing into a wait-and-see game. The lead changed regularly with Annette Schoeman, Nadine Harrison, Di Terreblanche, Tilda Tearle and Denise Lorenzen all enjoying, albeit brief, spells in the lead.

Going through Drummond, no more than 11 minutes separated the first five at the checkpoint. As the field assembled, in reasonably close order, on the outskirts of Durban, it was Naidene Harrison who led by 4 minutes, passing 45th Cutting. Following in her wake was Terreblanche, Tearle and Schoeman.

Harrison seemed very comfortable and, bearing a catastrophe, was unlikely to be reeled in. The uncertainty was, of the chasers, who had the reserves left to determine the final order. Over the final six kilometers the answer was revealed. Harrison held on, slightly increasing her margin of victory. Schoeman had that little extra, with Terreblanche and Tearle following her home at roughly two-minute intervals.

RESULT

1stNaidene HarrisonSouth Africa

7h 02m 00s

2ndAnnette SchoemanSouth Africa7h 07m 35s
3rdDiana TerreblancheSouth Africa7h 09m 42s
4thTilda TearleSouth Africa7h 11m 16s
5thJean CooperSouth Africa7h 17m 37s
6thDenise LorenzenSouth Africa7h 20m 57s
7thCarol CrosleySouth Africa7h 27m 12s
8thLindsay WeightSouth Africa7h 27m 26s
9thHazel HairsSouth Africa7h 29m 02s
10thShirley MiddlemostSouth Africa7h 29m 31s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stHazel Hairs (40)South Africa7h 29m 02s
2ndMarietta Sassenberg (40)South Africa7h 37m 52s
3rdPriscilla Carlisle (41)South Africa7h 54m 43s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stHazel Colborne (54)South Africa

9h 53m 54s

2ndThelma Fouche (56)South Africa10h 24m 45
3rdJudy van Niekerk (50)South Africa10h 37m 45

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stAnna Villet (64)South Africa

10h 58m 19

1991 Down (66th Race)

 DateFriday, 31 May
 WeatherMild pleasant day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB2/23
 DBN10/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.200 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.700 km/hr (3m 49s /km)
 Women14.530 km/hr (4m 08s /km)
 Entries15019
 Starters13988
 Finishers – Total12078
 Men11149
 Women929
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver1122
 Bronze10943
 % Finishers / Starters86.3


THE MENS RACE

“Will he get number ten?”

That was the question on everyone’s lips. The question should really have been “is his heart still in it?”

Despite the new generation emerging; usurpers to the king’s crown, Bruce Fordyce was still the nations overwhelming favourite to annex a tenth victory.

The problem was that the view of the one person who realised that the national dream may not be achievable, was not taken into consideration when pre-race predictions were made.

Fordyce, himself, was not convinced that he was capable of another win.

The champion, however, was the focus of the television cameras as the runners took their places on the start line. Fordyce was a cautious starter who possessed a lethal closing kick that had been so tellingly demonstrated, during the course of an entire decade. The strategy had never failed him.

What was strange for him this morning was that after twelve or thirteen kilometres, he caught up to a woman competitor. It was Frith van der Merwe. He had never started so cautiously that a woman was ahead of him at any stage of the race during his entire career. Yet he caught her and then moved ahead to eventually reel in his long-time adversary, and friend, Hoseah Tjale.

The first half of the race panned out precisely as it had done, nearly every year, since the early 80s. The spectators at Drummond knew that another victory was assured when Fordyce passed by, three-and-a-half minutes after the lead group comprising Nick Bester, Shaun Meikljohn, Israel Morake, Charl Mattheus and Colin Thomas. They were certain that Fordyce had only to maintain his pace and the rest would be swept away, as Durban approached.

Going through Hillcrest, the leaders, Bester, Meiklejohn and Morake, were watching each other. They weren’t worried about the nine-time winner. Information from their seconds was that Fordyce was fading… and no longer a danger.

Suddenly it was all over. Fordyce stopped and walked off the road. He had had enough. An epoch had ended. He admitted to the media in attendance, “if this was any race other than Comrades, I would bail. But because it is Comrades, I’m going on to the end”. He did. He finished, to massive applause, in 6h 57m 02s.

Ahead of the drama at Hillcrest, the lead changed hands frequently, but as the end game developed on the approaches to Durban, Bester showed the necessary resolve and held on to take a narrow victory from Meiklejohn and Thomas, who edged out Morake in a desperate sprint for the line.

RESULT

1stNick BesterSouth Africa

5h 40m 53s

2ndShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 43m 55s
3rdColin ThomasSouth Africa5h 45m 13s
4thIsrael MorakeSouth Africa5h 45m 43s
5thGary TurnerSouth Africa5h 46m 28s
6thCharl MattheusSouth Africa5h 47m 31s
7thLucas MatlalaSouth Africa5h 48m 33s
8thAlan RobbSouth Africa5h 51m 49s
9thSimon TshabalalaSouth Africa5h 53m 17s
10thMadumetja MogashaneSouth Africa5h 54m 15s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stArthur Lemos (45)South Africa

5h 54m 46s

2ndJohnny Halberstadt (41)South Africa6h 08m 40s
3rdLouis Harmse (40)South Africa6h 16m 34s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJohn Dixon (51)South Africa

6h 38m 04s New Best Time Down

2ndCaspar Greeff (56)South Africa6h 52m 26s
3rdMalcolm Don–Wauchope (51)South Africa6h 59m 36s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stWillie Loedolff (63)South Africa

7h 51m 58s New Best Time Down

2ndClive Crawley (60)South Africa8h 17m 01s
3rdLars Nayler (60)South Africa8h 23m 05s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

Frith van der Merwe was back after another series of sensational results in the build-up to Comrades. It also indicated that the result had been settled long before race-day. The real race, it was assumed, would be to decide the Silver and Bronze Medallions.

That is how it played out.

van der Merwe went to the front, from the gun, and simply ran away from every woman in the race. So fast was her initial pace that Bruce Fordyce only caught her 12 or 13 kilometres after the start. She crossed the line in 6h 8m 19s, (the 2nd fastest Down time after her 5h 54m 43s in 1989), 46 minutes ahead of the runner-up.

Even though the Gold Medal had been awarded more than three-quarters of an hour earlier, as predicted, the battle for the minor places was a close affair with Heleen Reece beating Tilda Tearle by 44 seconds.

Despite the prediction of years before, that a woman will never complete the Comrades Marathon in under 7h 30m to earn Silver Medal, was justifiably refuted by the results of the day. That the standard of women’s ultra distance running was improving at such a rapid rate was confirmed when 17 women romped home inside the 7h 30m barrier. 

RESULT

1stFrith van der MerweSouth Africa6h 08m 19s
2ndHeleen ReeceSouth Africa6h 54m 17s
3rdTilda TearleSouth Africa6h 55m 01s
4thDiana TerreblancheSouth Africa7h 00m 13s
5thFrances van BlerkSouth Africa7h 04m 49s
6thGail ClaaseSouth Africa7h 10m 09s
7thNaidene HarrisonSouth Africa7h 11m 47s
8thRae BisschoffSouth Africa7h 12m 05s
9thValerie BleazardSouth Africa7h 21m 06s
10thBerna DalySouth Africa7h 23m 57s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGail Buhrmann (47)South Africa

7h 27m 26s

2ndRosemarie Lugwig (40)South Africa7h 39m 39s
3rdSuzanne De Villiers (46)South Africa7h 55m 21s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stSarah Hackney (50)South Africa

8h 16m 19s New Best Time Down

2ndJanet Skinner (51)South Africa8h 35m 13s
3rdWillemien Smuts (50)South Africa8h 42m 58s

1992 Up (67th Race)

 DateSunday, 31 May
 WeatherCool at start. Mild to warm later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB1/27
 DBN9/29
 Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance86.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.026 km/hr (4m 00s /km)
 Women12.654 km/hr (4m 45s /km)
 Entries13237
 Starters12508
 Finishers – Total10692
 Men9817
 Women875
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver847
 Bronze9832
 % Finishers / Starters85.5


THE MENS RACE

The Fordyce era was over and consigned to a glorious period in history.

Who would, or could, fill the void left by the great champion?

Nick Bester would be defending the crown he won the previous year. Mark Page was Fordyce’s foil the two previous Up Runs, but only over two-thirds of the race distance, before cramp in the hamstrings ruined his chances, on both occasions, on the run-in.

These two appeared to have the most impressive past records to install them as pre-race favourites. Not to be overlooked, however, were top performers like Shaun Meiklejohn, Boysie van Staden, Thompson Magawana, Charl Mattheus, Jetman Msuthu and Gary Turner. All were capable of winning performances.

When the field reached Drummond, the halfway point in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, many of the TV runners were still there but, significantly, so were all those among whom the major positions would be contested in just under three hours. In that amorphous group were Page, van Staden, Mattheus, Msuthu, Bester, and Meiklejohn.

Page knew that his tactic of going hard from Cato Ridge, in the two previous Up Runs, would have secured two wins, had it not been for Fordyce’s deadly final kick on the big hills outside Pietermaritzburg. He opted for the same strategy again and surged, building a substantial lead. Nobody responded. Bester dropped out of contention and Mattheus was battling through a bad patch.

Page seemed to have everything under control with victory in his grasp. And then it happened again… as it had in the two previous Up Runs; cramp in the hamstrings as he ascended Polly Shortts. He stopped, clutched his leg, started jogging painfully… stopped again and… walked further.

He looked back and saw Mattheus, having recovered from his earlier problems, climbing the monster hill, seemingly, without any effort at all. Moments later Mattheus strode past Page, followed by Msuthu a short while later.

Mattheus ran untroubled to the finish at Jan Smuts Stadium where he stopped the clock in 5h 42m 34s. Msuthu maintained his 2nd position. A distraught Page dug deep holding off a fast-finishing Meiklejohn by a mere 39 seconds.

Weeks later, the news broke that Mattheus had failed a drug test when his urine sample showed traces of a substance banned by the IAAF. Having innocently taken an over-the-counter remedy for a throat infection, that had no performance-enhancing benefits whatsoever, Athletics South Africa disqualified him.

All finishers were, as a result, promoted by one position.

RESULT

1stJetman MsuthuSouth Africa

5h 46m 11s

2ndMark PageSouth Africa5h 48m 58s
3rdShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 49m 37s
4thKoos MorwaneSouth Africa5h 51m 21s
5thNick BesterSouth Africa5h 52m 25s
6thBoysie van StadenSouth Africa5h 52m 28s
7thTheo RafiriSouth Africa5h 52m 39s
8thLucas MatlalaSouth Africa5h 53m 51s
9thZephania NdabaSouth Africa5h 54m 08s
10thJoseph MokoenaSouth Africa5h 57m 27s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDavid Mponye (42)South Africa

6h 07m 28s

2ndDes Rowntree (46)South Africa6h 16m 28s
3rdLouis Harmse (41)South Africa6h 17m 19s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJulius Nkosi (50)South Africa

6h 56m 08s

2ndDavid Jele (50)South Africa6h 59m 28s
3rdMoses Kunene (50)South Africa7h 10m 50s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stWillie Loedolff (64)South Africa

8h 08m 35s

2ndRichard Kgoete (60)South Africa8h 20m 00s
3rdLars Nayler (61)South Africa8h 33m 46s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

An injury to Frith van der Merwe robbed the race of another record, or close to record, performance. Perhaps she had over-raced during the past few years but, as in the case of Bruce Fordyce, her best years were, effectively, behind her. Never again would the local ultra distance scene be mesmerised by the scintillating performances she treated them to over a short career of five years. At her peak, she was, unquestionably, the best ultra runner in the world. Sadly, another golden epoch had passed into history.

Again, there was no outright favourite. If the results of the past year were an accurate measure of ability – 17 women earned Silver Medals in 1991 – there were a number of high-class performers who were certain to ensure an exciting race.

Heleen Reece, Tilda Tearle and Diana Terreblanche; 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in 1991 could all be counted upon to produce something special. There were also a number of others, lingering on the periphery of that group, who could perform above themselves at any time.

Two surprise names appeared with the early leaders once the field started sorting itself out. Pat Lithgow and Susan Robertson were only a short distance off the main contenders who were running in a somewhat loose group at the head of the race. Sanet Beukes was showing signs of prominence, early on, but soon dropped behind the main group.

Frances van Blerk was the leader through Drummond and had, by that stage, established a three-minute lead over Tearle and Robertson who were separated by 50 metres. Running steadily, van Blerk, gradually, but consistently, built a comfortable lead and put a quarter-of-an-hour between herself and Tearle at the finish. Robertson staved off a determined late dash by Petro Pankhurst, to take third position.

RESULT

1stFrances van BlerkSouth Africa6h 51m 05s
2ndTilda TearleSouth Africa7h 07m 44s
3rdSusan RobertsonSouth Africa7h 11m 25s
4thPetro PankhurstSouth Africa7h 12m 08s
5thPat LithgowSouth Africa7h 13m 04s
6thDenise LorenzenSouth Africa7h 13m 33s
7thSanet BeukesSouth Africa7h 19m 15s
8thDalene VermeulenSouth Africa7h 24m 09s
9thAstrid DamerellSouth Africa7h 26m 41s
10thDesiree BothaSouth Africa7h 30m 01s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRalie Smit (47)South Africa

7h 57m 24s

2ndAudrey Steyn (43)South Africa8h 02m 05s
3rdBetsie Haarhoff (46)South Africa8h 14m 27s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stDebbie Goosen (50)Namibia

8h 39m 43s New Best Time Up

2ndJean Cammidge (51)South Africa9h 16m 52s
3rdPaddy Williams (51)South Africa9h 25m 34s

1993 Down (68th Race)

 DateMonday, 31 May
 WeatherClear day. Mild to warm.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/23
 DBN14/22
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.900 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.880 km/hr (3m 47s /km)
 Women12.992 km/hr (4m 37s /km)
 Entries13595
 Starters13032
 Finishers – Total11319
 Men10217
 Women1102
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver990
 Bronze10316
 % Finishers / Starters86.9


THE MENS RACE

Gradually the new generation were making their presence felt and staking a claim in the race. There was a galaxy of new and exciting stars coming through but… who would be the one to shine brightest at the right time.

Shaun Meiklejohn and evergreen Deon Holtzhausen had established themselves as potential winners. Then there was Theo Rafiri and Mohala Mohloli who were impressive in build-up events, as well as standard marathon specialist and Two Oceans record holder, Thompson Magawana. On top of that galaxy, was a German, Charly Doll, who had a sub-6h 30m best, for 100 kilometres.

A sumptuous feast of ultra distance delights was on the menu.

No prisoners were taken as the field settled down after exiting the Capital city. Those who were reckoned to be the main contenders, when Durban appeared on the horizon, remained in close order. Allowing any one, or more, to break free, and dictate the race, was not permitted.

Shortly after passing Drummond, Doll did just that, and went to the front. Local commentators knew that such a strategy was foolish and were convinced that he would capitulate further down the road. The South Africans, they maintained, working together, would later run him down with ease.

It didn’t happen… until Botha’s Hill arrived.

On the big drop, Rafiri put his nose in front of the chasing group. Doll was still running steadily… but Rafiri was clearly going faster. At Hillcrest, the gap had closed. Doll was aware that an attack was imminent and he did not appear as comfortable as he did, when he assumed the lead, after the midpoint.

On the gentle descent to Kloof, Rafiri struck. He had been inexorably drawing closer to the leader and at the entrance to the village; he strode past Doll and into the lead. It appeared to onlookers that Rafiri had the race in his grasp; appearing to be in total control. The race was clearly his. All he had to do was maintain his momentum.

Then… he committed a cardinal sin. He opened up to full throttle down Field’s Hill.

Such was his enthusiasm, he opened a gap of 4 minutes on Doll, but was clearly in trouble along the Pinetown Flats. This was confirmed as he took his first strides up Cowie’s Hill. He was finished. Doll sensed this and closed in on the exhausted leader. In the meantime, Mohloli had broken clear of the chasing group, went into 3rd position and set off in pursuit of Doll.

With Rafiri losing ground all the time, both Doll and Mohloli closed in. Doll waited patiently and once over Tollgate, opened up. As Doll went past, Rafiri realised he was beaten and his main concern was to hold on to his second place. It was a desperate struggle, but he managed to do so and held Mohloli off by a mere 25 seconds.

RESULT

1stCharly DollGermany

5h 39m 41s

2ndTheo RafiriSouth Africa5h 42m 16s
3rdMohala MohloliLesotho5h 42m 41s
4thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 46m 24s
5thThompson MagawanaSouth Africa5h 49m 29s
6thRudi du PlessisSouth Africa5h 50m 44s
7thZephania NdabaSouth Africa5h 52m 21s
8thDeon HoltzhausenSouth Africa5h 52m 29s
9thEloi De OliveiraSouth Africa5h 53m 27s
10thSimon WilliamsonSouth Africa5h 54m 18s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stDeon Holtzhausen (40)South Africa

5h 52m 29s New Best Time Down

2ndRoland Vuillemenot (47)France5h 57m 24s
3rdSiphiwe Gqele (42)South Africa6h 01m 03s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stDanny Shongwe (53)South Africa

6h 24m 04s New Best Time Down

2ndDavid Jele (51))South Africa6h 27m 43s
3rdCarel van Wyk (57)South Africa6h 52m 40s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stRichard Kgoete (61)South Africa

7h 30m 16s New Best Time Down

2ndPiet Botha (60)South Africa7h 53m 43s
3rdDenis Scott (60)South Africa8h 15m 02s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The race, for the second successive year lacked an out-and-out favourite. None of the leading contenders possessed the ability of Frith van der Merwe. Consequently, any one, of many, stood an equal chance of success.

Tilda Tearle had finished third and second, in the previous two races. She also was a serial top ten performer, having collected numerous Silver Medals along the way. She seemed ripe for victory, but with women like Rae Bischoff, Sanet Beukes, Diana Terreblanche and Berna Daly among the starters, the ultimate winner, whoever she may be, would have to run well to achieve that victory.

As is so often the case, the first women to feature, do so after a fair distance has been covered. Going through Cato Ridge, spread over short, irregular intervals, were Daly, Terreblanche, Tearle and Beukes. This quartet dominated the first half of the race, swapping positions from time to time. At Pinetown, with 70 kilometres behind her, Tearle struck out for the lead when she broke free from the lead group. Once Cowie’s Hill had been disposed of, Bischoff moved into second place, but she made no impression on the lead that Tearle had established. Daly also started to improve her position, moving into third place at Westville. The top three were firmly entrenched at this stage and the situation never changed as the race drew to a close.

Tearle consolidated her lead and finished a full 5 minutes ahead of Bischoff, who was a further 3 minutes in front of Daly.

RESULT

1stTilda TearleSouth Africa6h 55m 07s
2ndRae BischoffSouth Africa7h 00m 30s
3rdBerna DalySouth Africa7h 03m 32s
4thSanet BeukesSouth Africa7h 06m 28s
5thDiana TerreblancheSouth Africa7h 07m 24s
6thDebbie MentonSouth Africa7h 11m 49s
7thDesiree BothaSouth Africa7h 12m 21s
8thMarie-France Janse van VuurenSouth Africa7h 19m 36s
9thNokuthula HlengwaSouth Africa7h 21m 22s
10thDenise DippenaarSouth Africa7h 22m 48s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stKarin Schaaf (41)South Africa

7h 35m 56s

2ndCelia Barbosa (43)South Africa7h 51m 21s
3rdAnn Margolin (41)South Africa8h 09m 53s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stSarah Hackney (52)South Africa

8h 04m 32s New Best Time Down

2ndDebbie Goosen (51)Namibia8h 24m 24s
3rdJoyce Storm (50)South Africa9h 13m 24s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stDaphne Ledlie (60)South Africa

9h 43m 23s New Best Time Down

2ndMarza Cupido (63)South Africa 10h 46m26

1994 Up (69th Race)

 DateTuesday, 31 May
 WeatherClear windless day. Fine and mild. 

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/23
 DBN11/25
 Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance86.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.361 km/hr (3m 54s /km)
 Women12.960 km/hr (4m 38s /km)
 Entries12706
 Starters12130
 Finishers – Total10269
 Men9189
 Women1080
 Medals – Gold13
 Silver762
 Bronze9494
 % Finishers / Starters84.7


THE MENS RACE

It is a foolhardy strategy to try and win from start to finish.

Wally Hayward did in the 1930 Up Run… so did Jackie Mekler in 1964 (Up)… but they were something special. Mick Orton tried it in 1973, on the Down Run, and came disastrously short. It was a proven strategy for failure.

Great excitement was generated when a surprise entry was received from the USA. Alberto Salazar was coming to run the Comrades Marathon.

Salazar was the undisputed king of the standard marathon, for a short spell, during the early years of the 80s. He had won New York 3 years in succession (1980, 81 and 82) as well as Boston in 1982. All were sub-2h 10m.

When he stood at the start in Durban, he had never run beyond 42 kilometres. Also at the start was defending champion, Charly Doll and a host of local talent that was well prepared to lead the field home. None of Theo Rafiri, Thompson Magawana, Charl Mattheus, Mohala Mohholi and former winners, Jetman Msuthu and Nick Bester, could be ignored in pre-race selections.

Salazar was never far from the leaders, even in the mad dash up Berea Road by the TV specialists. He tracked them out of Durban, through Westville, and up Cowie’s Hill where mountain specialist, Dirkie Moolman, moved into prominence. With Field’s Hill looming on the distant horison, the pair headed the massive field along the Pinetown Flats, just 21 kilometres into the race. Moolman revealed his climbing ability on the hill and moved ahead of Salazar and passing through Kloof, at the crest, he led by a minute.

From that point, Salazar gradually cut into the deficit and, passing through Hillcrest, got within striking distance. At the foot of Botha’s Hill, he surged to the front… and stayed there.

Such was the pace he was running, he went through Drummond in 24h 44m, a new record for the first half of Comrades. Following him through the midpoint were Moolman (2h 45m), Magawana, Rafiri and Livingstone Jabanga (all 2h 48m), Mattheus (2h 49m), Doll and Mohloli (both 2h 50m) and Bester and Msuthu (both 2h 55m).

Salazar had already run 2 kilometres further than he had ever run before, and he still had the same again, over the second half. The pundits were certain he would fall apart before long.

Rafiri, Mohloli, Magawana and Bester showed signs of challenging for the lead at times without positioning themselves for a really serious attempt to strike. It was Bester and Mohloli who, in the end, provided the only meaningful assaults on the leader. Over the final 10 kilometres, they were, both, clearly faster than Salazar, but the attempt came too late.

Salazar, although losing ground on the run-in, had plenty in reserve to hang in and win by 4m 13s from Bester with Mohloli only 23 seconds further adrift.

RESULT

1stAlberto SalazarUSA

5h 38m 39s

2ndNick BesterSouth Africa5h 42m 52s
3rdMohala MohloliLesotho5h 43m 15s
4thPeter CamenzindSwitzerland5h 43m 37s
5thTheo RefiriSouth Africa5h 44m 52s
6thCharly DollGermany5h 52m 51s
7thJacob TlhapiSouth Africa5h 53m 46s
8thJetman MsuthuSouth Africa5h 54m 27s
9thDenis GackFrance5h 54m 30s
10thLivingstone JabangaSouth Africa5h 54m 53s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stPeter Camenzind (42)Switzerland

5h 43m 37s New Best Time Up

2ndCharly Doll (40)Germany5h 52m 51s
3rdDavid Mponye (44)South Africa5h 59m 43s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stDanny Shongwe (54)South Africa

6h 50m 51s

2ndJohn Dixon (54)South Africa6h 54m 42s
3rdJulius Nkosi (52)South Africa7h 02m 29s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stBenjamin Mamabolo (60)South Africa

7h 44m 33s

2ndVossie Vosloo (60)South Africa8h 26m 17s
3rdPhillippus Maartens (63)South Africa8h 55m 43s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

South African domination of the race was shortly to end. A new dawn was about to break, which would strangle the race for a decade and a half. Two Russians, Valentina Shatyayeva, Valentina Liakhova and a Hungarian, Martha Vass represented a challenge that local women could not match.

Local hopes were pinned on defending champion, Tilda Tearle, and Frith van der Merwe, staging a comeback to the Comrades Marathon. Tearle was not at the peak of her form and the fitness of van der Merwe was unknown.

van der Merwe went to the front from the start and although she led through Westville, over Cowie’s Hill and long the Pinetown Flats, her smooth, flowing stride was missing. It was clear that she was in trouble. This became apparent when Liakhova went past her on Field’s Hill. She eventually withdrew from the race shortly after passing through Kloof and with it the local challenge was effectively over. The two flying Russians, with Vass not too far behind, were running at a speed that, if maintained, projected a finishing time that was beyond the reach of any of the South Africans.

Tearle was experiencing an unhappy run and, although she finished in the top ten, effectively dropped out of contention. It was Helene Joubert who rose to the challenge. Working her way past those ahead of her, she wrested the lead from Liakhova over the hilly section between Gillitts and Winston Park and headed the Russian through the halfway mark at Drummond. Next through Drummond were Shatyayeva, Vass and Sanet Beukes.

After cresting Inchanga, Joubert struggled valiantly. Her earlier effort was clearly taking its toll. She was losing ground to the chasing Liakhova who went past her on the approach to Cato Ridge. Still, Joubert dug deep, clinging to her 3rd place. It was only on the pull up Polly Shortt’s that she surrendered that position when Shatyayeva and Vass powered past.

With the three visiting women out in front and seemingly out of reach, the sole local woman to mount an effective attack was Sanet Beukes, but the two Russians, with Liakhova dictating matters ahead of Shatyayeva, were never in danger of losing their grip on proceedings. Beukes, however, launched a gallant effort to overhaul a tiring Vass on the dash from the top of Polly Shortt’s. She failed by a minute and 17 seconds

RESULT

1stValentina LiakhovaRussia6h 41m 23s
2ndValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 45m 49s
3rdMartha VassHungary6h 51m 04s
4thSanet BeukesSouth Africa6h 51m 43s
5thHelene JoubertSouth Africa6h 58m 53s
6thJowaine ParrottSouth Africa7h 09m 14s
7thDebbie MentonSouth Africa7h 10m 27s
8thIna SandersSouth Africa7h 11m 34s
9thTilda TearleSouth Africa7h 14m 25s
10thNaidene HarrisonSouth Africa7h 14m 41s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stHilary Walker (40)England

7h 38m 31s

2ndTrudie Radloff (40)South Africa7h 42m 52s
3rdCynthia Bauer (43)South Africa7h 52m 55s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stThea Kruger (51)South Africa

8h 54m 40s

2ndJoyce Storm (51)South Africa8h 54m 52s
3rdPaddy Williams (53)South Africa9h 20m 30s

1995 Down (70th Race)

 DateWednesday, 20 May
 WeatherCloudless day. Warm to hot.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB7/29
 DBN14/29
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance90.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.290 km/hr (3m 41s /km)
 Women14.216 km/hr (4m 13s /km)
 Entries13528
 Starters13128
 Finishers – Total10538
 Men9353
 Women1185
 Medals – Gold15
 Silver740
 Bronze9783
 % Finishers / Starters80.3


THE MENS RACE

The late withdrawal of the entries of defending champion, Alberto Salazar, and 1993 winner, Charly Doll, was a big disappointment. It was, however, somewhat countered by the entries of two formidable Russians, the current world 100-kilometre champion, Alexei Volgin, and former holder of the same title, Konstantin Santalov.

South African hopes rested with the improving Shaun Meiklejohn and the ever-consistent Charl Mattheus. 

The early pace was provided by Aaron Nzimande and Elias Mabane. Both were talented athletes, not in the run-for-your-life-and-then-fade brigade. They paced themselves sensibly and Nzimande led at halfway in 2h 44m with Mabane on his shoulder. Three minutes later, came Mattheus, Meiklejohn and Livingstone Jabanga.

The section to Botha’s Hill saw no change in the lead, but on the stretch between Hillcrest and Kloof, those who would, ultimately, duel for top honours, had positioned themselves for the final shootout. At Winston Park, just beyond Hillcrest, Mabane faltered leaving Nzimande alone in pole position. Behind him, Jabanga’s challenge ran out of steam. He was dropped by Meiklejohn and Mattheus, who soon passed Mabane, and proceeded to close the distance between themselves and Nzimande. Nzimande had no answer when the pair overtook him near the top of Field’s Hill, from where it became apparent that the winner would come from this duo.

A high-speed duel ensued as they, perhaps unwisely, raced each other down the big hill. As they ran onto the Pinetown flats, Meikljohn opened a short gap, but on Cowie’s Hill, Mattheus came back at him and then went into the lead on the descent to Westville. Mattheus was first past 45th Cutting and seemingly had the race under control but Meiklejohn came back strongly as he raced down to Sherwood, and went into the lead on the climb to Tollgate. This time there was no return for Mattheus.

Meiklejohn held on to beat Mattheus by 59 seconds.

RESULT

1stShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa

5h 34m 02s

2ndCharl MattheusSouth Africa5h 35m 01s
3rdAlexei VolginRussia5h 40m 38s
4thMohala MohloliLesotho5h 41m 30s
5thGary TurnerSouth Africa5h 42m 33s
6thSipho MasangoSwaziland5h 47m 09s
7thColin LindequeSouth Africa5h 48m 11s
8thLucas MatlalaSouth Africa5h 49m 13s
9thNick BesterSouth Africa5h 49m 54s
10thTheo RafiriSouth Africa5h 50m 33s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCornet Matomane (42)South Africa

6h 02m 28s

2ndRussell Dyer (40)South Africa6h 11m 43s
3rdThomas Sigg (40)Switzerland6h 12m 31s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stDanny Shongwe (55)South Africa

6h 58m 42s

2ndMoses Kunene (53)South Africa7h 07m 59s
3rdMokwena Morifi (50)South Africa7h 09m 10s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stGeoffrey Oliver (62)England

7h 22m 49s New Best Time Down

2ndCaspar Greeff (60)South Africa7h 26m 11s
3rdBenjamin Mamabolo (61)South Africa7h 48m 07s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

If ever a truly world-class field was assembled for a race, the 1995 Comrades Marathon had it.

The star performer, and surprise entry, was American, Ann Trason, the world 100-kilometre record holder. The only question mark against her was that she had been suffering form a mysterious stomach bug during the week before she arrived in South Africa. Despite that, she was regarded as far superior to any local runner, and any of the talented Russians who were returning for another attempt at the race.

The Russian pair, Valentina Liakhova and Valentina Shatyayeva, as well as Martha Vass of Hungary, the first three from 1994, were back.

What of the local challenge? Sanet Beukes, Helene Joubert and Jowaine Parrot, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively in 1994, were all in top condition and confidant of making the pace, up front, uncomfortable. Also in the mix was Tilda Tearle, the reigning Down champion, as well as former three-times winner, Helen Lucre,.

An unknown factor in the equation was the German, Maria Bak, an experienced ultra campaigner, but untested over the renowned Comrades Hills. She was, realistically, in with only an outside chance.

From the start in a chilly Pietermaritzburg, Trason made her intentions abundantly clear. No respect was shown for the hilly course; a dangerous tactic for a Comrades novice, although, in terms of reputation, she was a class act. Comrades, however, can be a cruel adversary if provoked. She had been troubled by a stomach bug in the days leading up to race day, but by the way she attacked from the start, it seemed that the problem had cleared up.

At Drummond, she was 8 minutes ahead of 2nd placed Bak, and running at such speed that knowledgeable spectators opined that Frith van der Merwe’s sensational 1989 Down Record was in jeopardy. It was not, however, to be her day. The stomach bug returned and struck her down. She struggled on for another kilometre, before Bak overtook her on the climb to the top of Botha’s Hill, before retiring.

Bak was, now, far ahead of Helene Joubert, who was followed a fair distance behind by Shatyayeva. The positions remained changed as the top three approached Kingsmead Stadium in Durban.

RESULT

1stMaria BakGermany6h 22m 45s
2ndHelene JoubertSouth Africa6h 34m 04s
3rdValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 42m 21s
4thSanet BeukesSouth Africa6h 57m 28s
5thValentina LiakhovaRussia6h 57m 57s
6thDenise DippenaarSouth Africa7h 00m 28s
7thJean RaynerSouth Africa7h 03m 22s
8thTilda TearleSouth Africa7h 04m 21s
9thLettie GreeffSouth Africa7h 12m 35s
10thRae BisschoffSouth Africa7h 13m 23s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRae Bisschoff (41)South Africa

7h 13m 23s

2ndDiana Terreblanche (41)South Africa7h 24m 19s
3rdAstrid Dammerell (42)South Africa7h 46m 23s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stDebbie Goosen (53)Namibia

8h 24m 37s

2ndMarianne Dahl (51)Germany8h 40m 28s
3rdHazel Quilliam (50)South Africa9h 02m 50s

 

1996 Up (71st Race)

 DateMonday, 17 June
 WeatherCool at start with thin cloud layer. A few drops of rain shortly after the start. Chilly breeze for most of the morning. Otherwise cool to mild all day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB2/20
 DBN9/22
 Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueJan Smuts Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance86.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.786 km/hr (3m 48s /km)
 Women13.932 km/hr (4m 18s /km)
 Entries13552
 Starters13041
 Finishers – Total11262
 Men10030
 Women1232
 Medals – Gold15
 Silver903
 Bronze10344
 % Finishers / Starters86.4


THE MENS RACE

Entries from a host of foreign-based runners, all ultra distance specialists, indicated that the local stars were going to have to be at the top of their game if they were to fight off the foreign threat.

Russians, Alexei Volgin and Konstantin Santalov were back. The international contingent included another Russian, Mikhail Kokorev, Valmir Nunes, the Brazilian holder of the world 100-kilometre championship, Dmitri Grishin from the Ukraine, Tom Johnson of the USA, Australian Don Wallace, and Chris Parkes from England.

Parkes went off like a startled hare and was joint leader, with Stemmer Lekoto, as they went over the top of Cowie’s Hill and through Pinetown. On the assault of the mighty Field’s Hill, Parkes accelerated as if he were participating in a 1500 metre track race: not a 90-kilometre ultra marathon. He held a big lead and passed the halfway mark in 2h 38m 35s; a time that projected to around 5h 15m for the full distance. The pundits merely shook their heads and waited for his demise.

They were correct.

Following Parkes through Drummond were Lekoto (2h 44m 31s) and Walter Nkosi (2h 45m 23s), but both fell away rapidly soon after. Then followed the group consisting of Volgin, Bester, Mattheus and the novice, Grishin.

Parkes was the first to crest Inchanga, but it was already clear that his race was over. Within 3 kilometres, he was no longer the leader. He had nothing left as the Bester quartet flew past. Grishin appeared to be the most comfortable in this group, looking very strong on the hills and, with Ashburton and Polly Shortt’s looming, it seemed that he might pose severe problems for those around him. On the long downhill to Mpusheni, Volgin fell back and apparently out of contention. Bester and Mattheus, working together, were successful in shaking Grishin off and opened a small gap.

Then Grishin demonstrated his strength as a climber. On Little Polly’s, the pull up to Ashburton, he went past both.

How would he handle the big one; Polly Shortt’s itself? The answer was emphatic; it never bothered him at all and, once over the top, he cruised into the city, breaking the 5h 30m barrier in the process.

It was, nevertheless, a thrilling battle. Bester came back strongly to finish just over a minute behind the winner. With Volgin also putting in a determined surge for the line, less than 3 minutes separated the first three at the finish.

Will there ever be another race comparable to the 1996 Comrades? Thirty-two men dipped below 6 hours… and another 4 clocked in within a further 60 seconds.

RESULT

1stDmitri GrishinRussia5h 29m 33s
2ndNick BesterSouth Africa5h 30m 48s
3rdAlexei VolginRussia5h 32m 21s
4thCharl MattheusSouth Africa5h 34m 56s
5thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 39m 20s
6thGary TurnerSouth Africa5h 40m 52s
7thTom JohnsonUSA5h 41m 57s
8thMikhail KokorevRussia5h 42m 10s
9thMoses LebakengSouth Africa5h 43m 27s
10thDonovan WrightSouth Africa5h 45m 55s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMarkus Engeler (41)Switzerland5h 59m 01s
2ndBoysie van Staden (41)South Africa6h 03m 02s
3rdJohan Ebersohn (44)South Africa6h 09m 20s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stMoses Kunene (54)South Africa

7h 00m 12s

2ndJacinto De Faria (51)South Africa7h 06m 59s
3rdArthur Brindley (50)South Africa7h 16m 54s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCarel van Wyk (60)South Africa

7h 06m 41s New Best Time Up

2ndBenjamin Mamabolo (62)South Africa7h 57m 33s
3rdCaspar Greeff (61)South Africa8h 07m 16s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

Ann Trason was back again; this time in perfect health. After her disappointment in 1995, when a stomach bug destroyed her hopes when poised to threaten Frith van der Merwe’s Down Record, she was determined to make amends.

Englishwoman, Caroline Hunter-Rowe, a former world 100-kilometre champion was expected to produce fierce competition, in the closing stages, when the real race began. Home favourite, Frith van der Merwe, led the South African contingent but she was considered a few years past her peak. Nearly all the regular Gold Medallists were at the start in Durban. It promised to be one of the great women’s races.

It wasn’t. From the outset, it was a rout. Trason was a class apart. She led from the start and simply ran further away from her opposition as the race progressed. En route to an emphatic victory, she set a new Best Time for the first half of the race, reaching Drummond in 3h 03m. Passing Drummond in 3h 8m, Maria Bak was a further 5 minutes ahead of 3rd placed Jowaine Parrott.

Over the testing second half of the course, Trason showed no signs of weakness. Spectators reasoned that, never having seen Polly Shortt’s before, the monster would catch her out. They were wrong again. She took it in her stride; never revealing the slightest evidence of faltering.

Racing down to the finish in Jan Smuts Stadium, a new Best Time was a foregone conclusion. She crossed the line in 6h 13m 23s, slashing more that 19-and-a-half minutes off van der Merwe’s record.

The overall standard of the race was such that 2nd placed Bak was also inside the previous mark and, on top of that, seven women went under 7 hours. In all, 23 women beat 7h 30m to earn Silver Medals, yet not too many years before, someone said that a woman will “never run 90 kays in under seven-and-a-half hours”.    

RESULT

1stAnn Trason *USA

6h 13m 23s New Best Time Up

2ndMaria BakGermany6h 24m 08s
3rdValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 30m 33s
4thJowaine ParrottSouth Africa6h 55m 19s
5thBerna DalySouth Africa6h 56m 33s
6thCarolyn Hunter-RoweEngland6h 57m 59s
7thValentina LiakhovaRussia6h 59m 44s
8thSanet BeukesSouth Africa7h 05m 57s
9thReneé ScottSouth Africa7h 07m 26s
10thNurziya BagmanovaRussia7h 09m 06s

* First Sub-6:15 Up Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stSanet Beukes (40)South Africa7h 05m 57s
2ndNancy Will (44)South Africa7h 12m 34s
3rdFrances van Blerk (41)South Africa7h 21m 14s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stDebbie Goosen (54)Namibia

8h 17m 42s New Best Time Up

2ndYvonne Lariviere (50)South Africa8h 33m 20s
3rdRos Young (52)England9h 17m 41s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stHazel Colborne (60)South Africa

10h 23m 38 New Best Time Up

1997 Down (72nd Race)

 DateMonday, 16 June
 WeatherChilly morning, mild to warm later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB4/20
 DBN8/23
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.900 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.416 km/hr (3m 39s /km)
 Women15.048 km/hr (4m 00s /km)
 Entries13835
 Starters13352
 Finishers – Total11353
 Men9984
 Women1369
 Medals – Gold15
 Silver924
 Bronze10414
 % Finishers / Starters85.0


THE MENS RACE

In 1992, Charl Mattheus crossed the finish line in Pietermaritzburg ahead of the entire field. For a few days, he was the winner of the Comrades Marathon. Then officialdom deprived him of that honour. He learned he had failed a drug test for ingesting an over-the-counter remedy for a sore throat a few days before race-day. It was unsophisticated medication that had no effect on, or would enhance, his performance in the race. In any event, he was disqualified.

His training in the build-up to 1997 was flawless. This was his chance to erase the disappointment of 1992.

With the introduction of prize money, the complexion of the race had changed. With so much now at stake, strategy and tactics were re-aligned to position a runner to strike at the most opportune moment.

As always, a huge bunch of runners, with no realistic chance of achieving anything, led the field for a substantial distance before their catastrophic pace dumped them in mid-field. However, the main contenders no longer permitted those no-hopers to get too far ahead and they formed themselves into a big chase group and played a waiting game with each other.

The first significant move came from Mattheus; attacking on the stiff pull up Inchanga. Nick Bester and Dmitri Grishin went with him and the trio passed through the midpoint at Drummond in 2h 43m 45s with the rest of the recognised performers still in close contact with the leaders. The climb out of the Valley of a Thousand hills saw numerous changes in the top order. On the hilly section to Kearsney College, at the top of Botha’s Hill, Bester surged. Zithulele Sinqe responed immediately and the pair soon overhauled the lead group of Mattheus, Donovan Wright, Grishin and Soccer Ncube.

With the fast, flatish stretch between Hillcrest and Kloof, a piece of road where hard racing was required, the gauntlet was thrown down.

It was now anybody’s race. It would come down to who wanted it the most. Jaroslaw Janicki had been working his way past those in front of him and began to feature among the front runners. Mattheus, feeling strong, set off in pursuit of the leaders and soon found himself alone in 3rd place. Grishin and Ncube were tiring and dropped back. Mattheus’ sustained effort brought him onto the shoulders of Bester and Sinqe.

Onlookers assumed the victor would emerge from the trio. Bester provided the next break, streaking away down Field’s Hill at around 3 minutes per kilometer. Matteus and Sinqe let him go, choosing the flatter section through Pinetown to launch their attack. At Crompton Street in Pinetown, the three were running alongside each other with Cowie’s Hill ahead. With 20 kilometres of hard running remaining, Sinqe capitulated on the hill and drifted out of contention as a serious threat.

It was now down to a shoot-out between Bester and Mattheus. Bester attacked on the climb to 45th Cutting and still held a short advantage as he went over Tollgate. He seemed a sure winner. All the time, Janicki continued to pass runners ahead of him. 

The moment of truth had arrived for Mattheus. His physical strength had evaporated; all that remained was his mental strength… if he had any left in reserve. He kicked.

With 4 kilometres remaining, he went to the front, hung in and… as he strode into Kindsmead Stadium… the pain of 1992 was lifted from his shoulders.

RESULT

1stCharl MattheusSouth Africa

5h 28m 37s

2ndNick BesterSouth Africa5h 30m 41s
3rdJaroslaw JanickiPoland5h 32m 50s
4thZithulele SinqeSouth Africa5h 33m 18s
5thAndrew KaleheSouth Africa5h 33m 24s
6thSarel AckermannSouth Africa5h 33m 27s
7thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 34m 04s
8thMahala MohloliLesotho5h 34m 34s
9thPeter CamenzindSwitzerland5h 34m 47s
10thKonstantin SantalovRussia5h 37m 36s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stPeter Camenzind (45)Switzerland

5h 34m 47s New Best Time Down

2ndKaziemierz Bak (40)Germany5h 58m 44s
3rdTrust Langa (40)South Africa6h 03m 24s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPetrus Molefe (50)South Africa6h 51m 33s
2ndMokwena Morifi (52)South Africa6h 55m 29s
3rdAlan Mc Cormack (50)South Africa6h 57m 11s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCarel van Wyk (61)South Africa

6h 53m 42s New Best Time Down

2ndBenjamin Mamabolo (63)South Africa7h 39m 21s
3rdAttie Nortje (62)South Africa8h 29m 59s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

In 1996, Ann Trason demolished Frith van der Merwe’s Up Record by more than 19 minutes. She returned for the 1997 Down Run. Did that mean that van der Merwe’s stunning Down Record of 5h 54m 43s, set in 1989, was regarded as being under threat?

It was a difficult question to answer. Trason’s pedigree was beyond doubt. So was van der Merwe’s. In essence, it was a futile question to debate. It could only be answered on the road.

Maria Bak was also in the line-up. She had a win in 1995 and was runner-up, to Trason, in 1996. Valentina Liakhova and Valentina Shatyayeva were back to prove that they could also feature in the result.

Bak and Trason were in close contact from the gun, never letting each other out of sight. On the pull up to the Water Tower at Umlaas Road, Bak made a break and endeavoured to get as far ahead as possible. At Drummond she held an advantage of 90 seconds over Trason with Liakhova, a distant 3rd.

After Drummond, Bak continued to push hard and at Hillcrest, she had increased the gap to 2 minutes. Bak could not make any further headway and the 2-minute difference remained constant all the way through Kloof, down Field’s Hill and along the Pinetown flats. Going through Pinetown, Bak was limping noticeably; which was later reported to be a bruised heel, which slowed her down appreciably.

Trason, on the other hand, was travelling effortlessly and closing in on the hapless leader as she ran over Cowie’s Hill, through Westville and into Durban. When they passed under the Tollgate Bridge, the difference was down to 10 seconds. With the end so close, Bak was unable to respond as Trason piled on the pace.

It was now Trason against the stopwatch and van der Merwe’s record. She failed by 3m 42s to beat the record but her time of 5h 58m 25s made her the second woman to return a sub-6 hour performance. Bak failed by a mere 28 seconds to beat that barrier.

RESULT

1stAnn TrasonUSA5h 58m 25s
2ndMaria BakGermany6h 00m 28s
3rdValentina LiakhovaRussia6h 22m 59s
4thValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 31m 38s
5thCharlotte NobleSouth Africa6h 45m 51s
6thRené du PlessisSouth Africa6h 45m 58s
7thHelene JoubertSouth Africa6h 51m 15s
8thBerna DalySouth Africa6h 52m 37s
9thRae BisschoffSouth Africa7h 05m 04s
10thSanet BeukesSouth Africa7h 07m 51s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRae Bisschoff (43)South Africa

7h 05m 04s New Best Time Down

2ndSanet Beukes (42)South Africa7h 07m 51s
3rdCindey Jordaan (40)South Africa7h 24m 36s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stCaroline Andrew (50)New Zealand

8h 55m 28s

2ndSue van Heerden (50)South Africa9h 06m 07s
3rdJoyce Storm (54)South Africa9h 16m 28s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stIsabel Foley (63)New Zealand9h 47m 11s
2ndHazel Colborne (61)South Africa10h 53m 28

1998 Up (73rd Race)

 DateTuesday, 16 June
 WeatherClear, with warm sunshine.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/23
 DBN9/23
 Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueScottsville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance87.300 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.045 km/hr (3m 44s /km)
 Women13.140 km/hr (4m 34s /km)
 Entries13380
 Starters12196
 Finishers – Total10492
 Men9206
 Women1286
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver646
 Bronze9826
 % Finishers / Starters86.0


THE MENS RACE

There was no clear favourite. 1996 and 1997 Victors, Dmitri Grishin and Charl Mattheus were the names most frequently heard during pre-race talk, but the Comrades had a nasty habit of dealing out cruelty to those who harboured thoughts of success.

Mattheus carried the hopes of the host nation, but Nick Bester could never be left out of any predictions.

Two major groups established themselves soon after the start. Up front were Grishin, Mattheus, Jaroslaw Janicki and Alexei Volgin. Mattheus and Grishin were ostensibly keeping a wary eye on each other. Close behind was another group with Bester, Shaun Meikljohn and Sarel Ackermann prominent. Bester and Meiklejohn were crafty campaigners who understood the benefit of leaving the early cut and thrust to others… and then attacking from behind when it counted. The ultimate victor was sure to emerge from these two groups.

Grishin, who seemed to enjoy surging on the big hills, did so on Field’s, but Mattheus was up to the challenge. His short burst opened a gap of 90 seconds between his group and the Bester group.

The lead group went through Drummond in 2h 44m 38s. Grishin, always aggressive on the hills, was attempting to shake off his rivals up Inchanga, but Mattheus answered every effort, while the rest in the group fell away. The Bester contingent was also dropping back.

On the run down the hill after Inchanga, Grishin picked up the pace to an almost suicidal level. Mattheus, as always, responded but Volgin fell away.

Approaching Camperdown, the flying Grishin was not looking so relaxed. He slowed and Mattheus went past; opening a gap of 50 metres. His recovery, from what appeared to be a brief spasm of cramp in his right thigh, was quick and he was soon up with Mattheus, regained the lead, and reached Umlaas Road 20 metres in front. At this stage, Mattheus was showing signs that he was a beaten man. The murderous pace since Drummond had depleted his reserves.

Grishin was, by now, away. With two big hills looming, and being a hill specialist, Grishin was assured of another win. His sole remaining opponent was the stopwatch; the metal heart that never stops beating. Was the Up Record in jeopardy? The answer was about to be revealed.

Neither Ashburton nor Polly Shortt’s created any problems for the flying Russian. He coasted to the finish at Scottsville Racecourse in a new Best Time of 5h 26m 25s.

RESULT

1stDmitri GrishinRussia

5h 26m 25 New Best Time Up

2ndCharl MattheusSouth Africa5h 31m 32s
3rdAlexei VolginRussia5h 33m 57s
4thIgor TyupinRussia5h 35m 23s
5thRavil KashapovRussia5h 37m 26s
6thAndrew KaleheSouth Africa5h 39m 40s
7thSarel AckermannSouth Africa5h 40m 49s
8thLivingstone JabangaSouth Africa5h 41m 07s
9thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 41m 59s
10thAnatoli KruglikovRussia5h 42m 14s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRavil Kashapov (41)Russia

5h 37m 26s New Best Time Up

2ndAnatoli Kruglikov (40)Russia5h 42m 14s
3rdJohan Burger (40)South Africa5h 51m 05s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stHannes Meyer (52)South Africa

6h 54m 59s

2ndAlan Mc Cormack (52)South Africa7h 02m 11s
3rdHeinz Steiner (54)Austria7h 02m 49s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCalie Beneke (62)South Africa

7h 58m 14s

2ndChristiaan Vetsch (64)Switzerland8h 03m 19s
3rdBenjamin Mamabolo (64)South Africa8h 10m 04s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

With Ann Trason and Maria Bak not among the entrants, there was once more no clear favourite. The two Russians, Valentinas, Shatyayeva and Liakhova, based on past performances, perhaps held a slight upper hand.

Of the local women, Helene Joubert and Rae Bischoff had posted a few satisfactory, though unspectacular, efforts.

From the start, the logic of the main contenders appeared difficult to comprehend. Bischoff went to the front before Westville and stayed there. Not considered as a major threat, Liakhova and Shatyayeva let her go without making any attempt to watch her closely. The pattern remained unchanged. Bischoff, without any extra effort, or attempt, to increase her lead, simply found herself moving further and further ahead.

Midway through the second half of the race, the two Russians suddenly awoke to the fact that they were in trouble. Bischoff’s lead demanded a supreme effort to drag her back and they set about it. Shatyayeva was not up to the task. It was left to Liakhova to redeem their earlier miscalculations. Bischoff, meanwhile, aware that the attack was coming, did not alter her plans. She just maintained her pace, while Liakhova’s frantic chase came closer. Despite desperate urging from roadside spectators, that her lead was being drastically reduced, Bischoff maintained her normal steady pace and crossed the finish line 19 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

RESULT

1stRae BischoffSouth Africa6h 38m 57s
2ndValentina LiakhovaRussia6h 39m 16s
3rdValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 44m 13s
4thSanet BeukesSouth Africa6h 57m 15s
5thKaren BradfordSouth Africa7h 02m 09s
6thAmor van ZylSouth Africa7h 02m 51s
7thElizabeth McCaulSouth Africa7h 03m 34s
8thBerna DalySouth Africa7h 04m 14s
9thIna SandersSouth Africa7h 06m 07s
10thAnn ChesterSouth Africa7h 10m 12s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stRae Bisschoff (44)South Africa

6h 38m 57s New Best Time Up

2ndSanet Beukes (42)South Africa6h 57m 15s
3rdAmor van Zyl (41)South Africa7h 02m 51s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLavinia Petrie (53)Australia

8h 06m 58s New Best Time Up

2ndJanine Faraoni (50)South Africa9h 05m 24s
3rdGillie Schepers (51)South Africa9h 27m 19s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stIsabel Foley (64)New Zealand

9h 58m 17s New Best Time Up

2ndHazel Colborne (62)South Africa10h 49m 04

1999 Down (74th Race)

 DateWednesday, 16 June
 WeatherMild to hot sunny day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB9/22
 DBN14/23
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.900 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.337 km/hr (3m 40s /km)
 Women13.795 km/hr (4m 21s /km)
 Entries14133
 Starters12794
 Finishers – Total11287
 Men9820
 Women1467
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver803
 Bronze10464
 % Finishers / Starters88.2


THE MENS RACE

Is it really possible to predict, with any degree of certainty, a winner in the modern era? With so much talent around, both local and foreign, it is very much a lottery, attempting to do so.

So it was when the huge field stood anxiously outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Dmitri Gishin had earned the moniker of being an Up runner. He was out to prove that he was equally adept at performing over the Down course.

While most of the top brigade accepted that the most successful strategy was to adopt a conservative first half and then strike from behind at the death. Such a plan appeared to have been shelved soon after the start when Grishin commenced pushing the pace on the hills early on. This caused much confusion among the main contenders.

On every hill, Grishin surged to the front and then dropped back on the down sections. For some reason, most of his rivals followed him. Two who didn’t were Nick Bester and Jaroslaw Janicki. They realised he was going much too fast and, wisely, held themselves back.

As always, the huge hulk of Inchanga, wrought changes. Grishin surged to the front but, this time, not as confidently as before. Janicki had, by now, moved onto Grishin’s shoulder as the pace slowed slightly.

Suddenly, there was a breakaway. Anatoliy Korepanov, Michael Peace, Letu Rachaka and Donovan Wright went to the front, but the latter pair faded out of contention quickly thereafter. Grishin did not respond immediately. Once over the top, the quartet, followed by Janicki, sped away. Peace was first through the halfway mark in 2h 45m 50s with Korepanov a few strides behind. Joseph Ikaneng was third in 2h 45m 55s and merely metres behind him was a massive group of 11 with all the major players positioning themselves to strike.

From Drummond, down Botha’s Hill, through Hillcrest to Kloof, the lead changed hands often as the front runners seemed hell-bent on making things as difficult as possible for each other. At Kloof, the lead group consisted of six, from among whom the winner was sure to emerge. Mohala Mohloli, Andrew Kelehe, Lucas Matlala, Janicki, Volgin and Grishin. Field’s Hill reduced the group to five. Grishin had destroyed himself while trying to destroy his rivals early on.

On Cowie’s Hill, Janicki made a decisive break. He had looked good on Inchanga, and was apparently still feeling that way. He looked confident and comfortable and gradually increased his lead through Westville and, as he crested 45th Cutting, seemed a certain winner.

Volgin, however, had others ideas. He readily hauled in the leader and went to the front as he climbed up to Tollgate. As quickly as he gained the lead, he lost it. He had responded to every surge that Grishin made during the first half and now he had to pay for his misjudgment. He collapsed onto the pavement as the elegant Janicki strode past into the lead for the final time. While Volgin lay in agony on the pavement at Tollgate, Kelehe and Matlala both flashed by.

But there was no stopping Janicki. He was away and heading for victory at Kingsmead, failing by 11 seconds to break the 5h 30m barrier.

RESULT

1stJaroslaw JanickiPoland

5h 30m 11s

2ndAndrew KeleheSouth Africa5h 32m 42s
3rdLucas MatlalaSouth Africa5h 33m 30s
4thAlexei VolginRussia5h 35m 00s
5thAnatoliy KorepanovRussia5h 38m 04s
6thWalter NkosiSouth Africa5h 40m 20s
7thJoseph IkanengSouth Africa5h 41m 08s
8thKonstantin SantalovRussia5h 41m 36s
9thShaun MeiklejohnSouth Africa5h 44m 07s
10thGrigory MurzinRussia5h 47m 25s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stAnatoliy Korepanov (40)Russia5h 38m 04s
2ndLivingstone Jabanga (40)South Africa5h 58m 30s
3rdRavil Kashapov (42)Russia6h 01m 02s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stRainier Lindermann (50)Germany

6h 13m 14s New Best Time Down

2ndHannes Meyer (53)South Africa6h 51m 23s
3rdAlan Mc Cormack (53)South Africa6h 52m 54s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCarel van Wyk (64)South Africa

7h 13m 36s

2ndCalie Beneke (63)South Africa8h 17m 22s
3rdBenjamin Mamabolo (65)South Africa8h 17m 45s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

As in the Men’s race, there was no clear favourite. Helene Joubert carried the hopes of South African supporters. This hope seemed vindicated when she took the lead early on but, at no stage, did she achieve any significant advantage. Birgit Lennartz, Berna Daly and the Brazilian, Maria Venancio remained in close attendance.

There was no injection of pace early on and in a relatively pedestrian race, Lennartz appeared the strongest candidate to succeed; which she did. She hit the front on Botha’s Hill and stayed there.

Novice, Grace De Oliviera, was, meantime, running a sensible race. She never permitted herself to be drawn into pushing too hard in the early stages, preferring to bide her time and allowing the race ahead of her to develop, before taking on any challenge that might arise. She slowly worked away at her own pace, overtaking those ahead in her stride and finished just less than 4 minutes behind Lennartz.

RESULT

1stBirgit LennartzGermany6h 31m 03s
2ndGrace De OlivieraSouth Africa6h 34m 53s
3rdMarina BychkovaRussia6h 36m 34s
4thMaria VenancioBrazil6h 40m 18s
5thValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 45m 07s
6thMadeleen OttoSouth Africa6h 47m 06s
7thBerna DalySouth Africa6h 48m 13s
8thIna SandersSouth Africa6h 56m 20s
9thAnn ChesterSouth Africa7h 01m 56s
10thCharlotte NobleSouth Africa7h 02m 04s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stIna Sanders (40)South Africa

6h 56m 20s New Best Time Down

2ndLilac Flay (43)New Zealand7h 06m 00s
3rdLiz Chelin (42)South Africa7h 17m 44s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stClaudia Preston-Thomas (50)South Africa

8h 17m 45s

2ndAudrey Steyn (50)South Africa8h 32m 13s
3rdLynda Bell (50)South Africa8h 46m 34s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stUrsula Schmitz (67)Germany

9h 35m 57s New Best Time Down

2000 Up (75th Race)

 DateFriday, 16 June
 WeatherWarm sunny day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB9/24
 DBN11/23
 Start Venue/TimeDurban Post Office, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueScottsville Racecourse
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance87.300 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.088 km/hr (3m 44s /km)
 Women13.946 km/hr (4m 18s /km)
 Entries24552
 Starters23961
 Finishers – Total20016
 Men16716
 Women3300
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver695
 Bill Rowan3281
 Bronze16020
 % Finishers / Starters83.5


THE MENS RACE

If bookmakers had their way, there is little doubt that the defending Up Run champion, Dimitri Grishin, would have been installed as the odds-on, pre-race favourite. All the smart money would have been cast his way in view of him having won the previous two Up Runs. Others that would have been highly placed in the betting were Alexei Volgin and Vladimir Kotov. None of the top South African contingent was considered a threat to the East Europeans and, as the massive field left Durban in a trouble-free start, this view prevailed. Once the field crossed the city boundary, the early lead group comprised Volgin, Grishin, Grigoriy Murzin and Kotov and, although they interchanged positions as the race progressed up Cowie’s Hill, through Pinetown and up Field’s Hill, three South Africans, Walter Nkosi, Andrew Kelehe and Butiki Jantjies, had gone out with them.

On the rollercoaster drop from Field’s Hill to Drummond, Murzin broke free and reached the halfway point in 2h 43m 56s.

The chasing quintet, in close order, were clocked through halfway, at Drummond, in 2h 46m. The intimidating Inchanga failed to break any of them but, gradually, the changes commenced on the approach to Cato Ridge where Jantjies withdew. Nkosi fell off the pace shortly thereafter and ultimately out of contention. Going through Camperdown, it was clear that Kelehe was not running as easily as he had been earlier, and Murzin was rapidly being reeled in. Before he reached the highest point, near the water tower at Umlaas Road, he had surrended the lead.

The long descent to the bridge at Mpusheni brought no overall change between the three leaders but, with two big hills, Ashburton and Polly Shortt’s, beckoning, and knowing his ability as a climber, unless something spectacular occurred, it seemed that Grishin was a certain winner.

Then something spectacular, and unexpected, occurred. On the short drop from Ashburton, to the foot of Polly’s, Kotov pounced. Grishin failed to respond and, on the hill itself, Volgin also passed Grishin.

By now, Kotov was truly flying and, while the order over the final six kilometers remained unchanged, he breasted the tape, at the Scotsville Race Course, in a time of 5h 25m 33s; a new Best Time.

RESULT

1stVladimir KotovBelarus

5h 25m 33s New Best Time Up

2ndAlexei VolginRussia5h 27m 08s
3rdDmitri GrishinRussia5h 32m 47s
4thDonovan WrightSouth Africa5h 35m 37s
5thAndrew KaleheSouth Africa5h 36m 32s
6thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 37m 46s
7thWalter NkosiSouth Africa5h 40m 18s
8thDon WallaceAustralia5h 42m 49s
9thMikhail KokorevRussia5h 43m 15s
10thAnatoliy KorepanovRussia5h 44m 38s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stVladimir Kotov (42)Belarus

5h 25m 33s New Best Time Up

2ndAnatoliy Korepanov (41)Russia5h 44m 38s
3rdPeter Camenzind (48)Switzerland5h 57m 49s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stHannes Meyer (54)South Africa

6h 56m 29s

2ndRobert Edouard-Betsy 51)South Africa7h 13m 53s
3rdSam Damane (50)South Africa7h 26m 12s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stDanny Shongwe (60)South Africa7h 40m 37s
2ndCalie Beneke (64)South Africa7h 55m 53s
3rdErwin Remmele (63)Germany7h 58m 02s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

Although it was eleven years since her sensational 5h 54m 43s in the 1989 Down Run, Frith van der Merwe was still the darling, and sole South African hope, of the local supporters. Whether she could overcome the new ‘foreign invasion’ was uncertain.

Maria Bak, winner in 1995, and Birgit Lennartz, winner in 1999, were both in the line-up and neither could be discounted as being up there when the race for line-honours began.

First to emerge on the early climb to Toll Gate, was Comrades novice, Natalia Volgina. She retained the lead through Pinetown, up Field’s Hill and through Hillcrest, increasing the distance between herself and her chasers, but the first signs of fatigue were showing. It was clear that, on the climb up Botha’s Hill, they were slowly reeling her in.

Volgina, however, still led through Drummond but Bak, who passed through in 3h 03m 52s, was within striking distance. Following the two front-runners through the halfway point was Elvira Kolpakova (3h 11m 02s), Lennartz (3h 13m 07s), and a tiring van der Merwe (3h 17m 35s). 

By this stage, Volgina’s race was, clearly, over and she retired from the race soon after Bak powered past her, on the climb up Inchanga. Such was the emphatic manner of Bak’s attack, there was little doubt who would be victorious as she drew effortlessly further away from the rest of her rivals.

As van der Merwe slipped out of contention, to eventually finish in eleventh position, Grace De Oliveira made a brave effort to keep the South African hopes alive. It was, however, a lost cause. Despite running down many of those ahead of her, she could not catch Bak and Lennartz, and she alone prevented a clean sweep by the visiting runners and was the only local competitor in the top six positions.

RESULT

1stMaria BakGermany6h 15m 35s
2ndBirgit LennartzGermany6h 33m 55s
3rdGrace De OliveiraSouth Africa6h 38m 45s
4thElvira KolpakovaRussia6h 43m 35s
5thValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 46m 54s
6thMarina BychkovaRussia6h 47m 29s
7thCarol MercerSouth Africa6h 49m 00s
8thTanja SchaeferGermany6h 51m 57s
9thRené du PlessisSouth Africa6h 53m 51s
10thMadeleen OttoSouth Africa6h 57m 42s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMaria Bak (41)Germany

6h 15m 35s

New Best Time Up

2ndAmor van Zyl (43)South Africa7h 12m 59s
3rdNancy Will (47)South Africa7h 17m 07s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stClaudia Preston-Thomas (51)South Africa

8h 19m 37s

2ndLavinia Petrie (55)New Zealand8h 25m 48s
3rdFran Pocock (50)South Africa8h 31m 12s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stAnnette Aliphon (60)South Africa

11h 19m 12s

2ndGreta Koerber (63)Germany11h 30m 42s
3rdJudith Cohen (61)South Africa11h 43m 20s

2001 Down (76th Race)

 DateSaturday, 16 June
 WeatherCool at start. Mild to warm later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/26
 DBN10/26
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance89.600 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.499 km/hr (3m 38s /km)
 Women14.378 km/hr (4m 10s /km)
 Entries15361
 Starters14125
 Finishers – Total11076
 Men9416
 Women1660
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver742
 Bill Rowan2502
 Bronze5250
 Vic Clapham7812
 % Finishers / Starters78.4


THE MENS RACE

Would the Men’s title ever return to South Africa?

That was the question most locals were asking. The last South African winner was Charl Mattheus in 1997. They were hoping that, somewhere, a local hero would emerge to halt the East European stranglehold that had developed. Surely an Arthur Newton, a Hardy Ballington, a Jackie Mekler, Wally Hayward, Alan Robb or a Bruce Fordyce must be lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity, to restore the National pride and expectations.

But was there?

Once the huge field had stampeded out of Pietermaritzburg, and ignoring the no-hopers that that persistently went to the front before evaporating into oblivion within the first hour or two, all the main contenders gathered in a massive group that remained intact until the sharp end of the race arrived after 50 to 55 kilometres.

As the lead group commenced the drop down Inchanga to the midpoint at Drummond, Nick Bester and Charl Mattheus emerged at the front, giving rise to expectations that this might be South Africa’s day. The hopes were short-lived, however, when both retired soon after, on the climb to Alveston. Once more, a European victory loomed.

The inexperienced Fusi Nhlapo went into the lead, for a short while, going into Kloof. Russian, Leonid Shvetsov, had been running in the main group all the way to this point and when he went past Nhlapo, he seemed set for a win. Changes were taking place all through the lead group. Vladimir Kotov, an Up Run specialist, was enjoying his best Down Run and was looking ominous as he wove his way into contention. Also putting in an appearance, near the front, was 1999 runner-up, Andrew Kelehe.

A huge crowd of spectators waited anxiously at the top of the hill at 45th Cutting expecting to see Shvetsov leading the way into Durban. Delirium reigned when the first to appear over top of the testing climb was Andrew Kelehe, with little more than 7 kilometres to run. Next, to the crowd’s dismay, came Kotov, having passed Shvetsov before commencing the climb, running so fast it appeared inevitable that he would run Kelehe down within the next 2 kilometres.

Kelehe, however, had matters well in control. He entered Kingsmead Stadium amid jubilant scenes, a comfortable 37 seconds ahead of Shvetsov. Kotov’s threatening pace at 45th Cutting deserted him on the long downhill to the finish.

RESULT

1stAndrew KeleheSouth Africa

5h 25m 52s

2ndLeonid ShvetsovRussia5h 26m 29s
3rdVladimir KotovBelarus5h 27m 22s
4thAlexei VolginRussia5h 27m 41s
5thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 30m 38s
6thGrigory MurzinRussia5h 33m 00s
7thDmitri GrishinRussia5h 36m 04s
8thSarel AckermannSouth Africa5h 36m 51s
9thWalter NkosiSouth Africa5h 38m 16s
10thMichael MpotoaneSouth Africa5h 38m 43s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stVladimir Kotov (43)Belarus

5h 27m 22s New Best Time Down

2ndIsaac Tshabalala (41)South Africa5h 59m 54s
3rdPeter Camenzind (49)Switzerland6h 04m 07s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stZakiel Masha (51)South Africa6h 31m 16s
2ndMichael Langa (53)South Africa6h 48m 42s
3rdLucas Mashianoke (50)South Africa7h 03m 37s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCalie Beneke (65)South Africa7h 55m 58s
2ndManfred Schlimper (61)Germany7h 56m 28s
3rdCaspar Greeff (66)South Africa8h 17m 08s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

German, Maria Bak, was, as the defending champion, the short-odds favourite. Local hopes were pinned heavily on the shoulders of South Africa’s favourite Comrades daughter, Frith van der Merwe. It was an onerous burden, considering that she was clearly, long past her best. The only other local woman thought to have a real chance was perennial Grace De Oliviera, who had finished 3rd in 2000 and 2nd in 1999.

The distance separating the leaders over the first half of the race was never more than a few metres with Bak and Elvira Kolpakova in the vanguard as the race entered the critical second half. De Oliviera was trailing by 14 minutes going through the halfway checkpoint at Drummond. It would require a monumental effort to reel in the flying leaders on the run-in. Bak’s mental toughness, and knowledge of the course, led commentators to favour her as the eventual winner. However, as the two women raced for the finish in Durban, Kolpakova proved to be the stronger.

Over the final kilometers, positions were changing. De Oliviera could not sustain her challenge and fell away. Russian, Marina Bychkova, Deborah Mattheus and Carol Mercer were picking up places as those ahead faltered. The first to yield was race-leader, Bak. She faded badly after climbing Cowie’s Hill. First to go past her was Kolpakova who, at this stage, had clearly pressed the accelerator. Next to go past, in quick succession, were Bychkova and Mattheus.

Mattheus moved into 2nd position on the run-in from Tollgate, but the chances of catching the flying leader were beyond her. Kolpakova entered Kingsmead Stadium 9m 11s ahead of Mattheus with Bychkova another 1m 16s further back.

RESULT

1stElvira KolpakovaRussia6h 13m 54s
2ndDeborah MattheusSouth Africa6h 23m 04s
3rdMarina BychkovaRussia6h 24m 21s
4thMaria BakGermany6h 25m 48s
5thMaria VenancioBrazil6h 39m 03s
6thCarol MercerSouth Africa6h 41m 00s
7thGrace De OliveiraSouth Africa6h 41m 05s
8thReneé ScottSouth Africa6h 54m 58
9thValentina ShatyayevaRussia6h 57m 06s
10thMadeleen OttoSouth Africa7h 01m 15s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMaria Bak (42)Germany

6h 25m 48s New Best Time Down

2ndMaria Venancio (41)Brazil6h 39m 03s
3rdMarietjie Mongomery (41)South Africa7h 09m 20s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stClaudia Preston-Thomas (52)South Africa

8h 09m 16s

2ndAlthea Bacchialoni (50)South Africa8h 26m 02s
3rdDiane Ridgway (52)USA8h 47m 11s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stMayumi Aihara (60)Japan

9h 02m 42s New Best Time Down

2ndSarah Hackney (60)South Africa10h 35m 53
3rdYvonne Lingenfelder (60)South Africa10h 40m 43

2002 Up (77th Race)

 DateMonday, 17 June
 WeatherCool at start. Mild to warm. Never oppressively hot.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB7/26
 DBN10/25
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 6:00
 Finish VenueScottsville Racecourse
 Time Limit11 Hours
 Official Distance86.550 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.689 km/hr (3m 50s /km)
 Women13.871 km/hr (4m 20s /km)
 Entries12167
 Starters11395
 Finishers – Total9029
 Men7844
 Women1185
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver564
 Bill Rowan2205
 Bronze6240
 % Finishers / Starters79.2


THE MENS RACE

It was an unseasonal, balmy morning, that Monday, in mid-June. With winter not too far away, the Indian Spring would, later during the morning, wreak havoc among the fancied performers.

There were questions that required answers when the huge field stood assembled in West Street, a few hundred metres inland from the vast Indian Ocean.

Question… Would Andrew Kelehe, the defending champion set off a new winning streak?

Question… Vladimir Kotov, a few years on the wrong side of 40, had set a new Up Record in 2000 and, reputedly, in top condition; would he be there when it mattered?

Question… Willie Mtolo, back after 13 years since his second place in 1989; the ballerina who didn’t run… but glided along the road. Was he about to make a delayed, but very welcome, return?

When the pistol sent the runners on their way to Pietermatritzburg, the answer to the questions would be furnished in 331 minutes.

First to show – once the melee among the no-hopers, who routinely went to the front from the gun, had been disposed of and dumped by the real contenders – was Joseph Ikaneng and Oleg Kharitonov. Charging up Cowie’s Hill, they led a talented group that included all the big names. Kelehe, Kotov and Mtolo were already within striking distance. So was the Spaniard, Jorge Martinez.

Although the pace up front was reasonable, the Up Record was not in danger, which indicated that the outcome would likely be decided by tactics.

Through Pinetown, Hillcrest, Drummond and Cato Ridge, the lead changed only by routine swapping of positions among the leaders from time to time. On the short, sharp climb out of Camperdown, Mtolo pounced and only Kotov went with him. The explosive injection of pace saw Kelehe, Kharitonov and Ikaneng drift off the back.

The Indian Spring had kicked in; the mercury spiralled into the danger zone, above 30 degrees, as the race hotted up in late morning.

Half way up Little Polly’s, Kotov made the move that would prove to be decisive. Mtolo held on for a while, but running down the hill from Ashburton, cramp, which had bedevilled him in the run-in in 1989, deprived the race of what may have been a thriller.

Kotov increased his lead to three-and-a-half minutes as he ran unchallenged to the finish at the Scotsville Racecourse. Mtolo dug deep and only just hung on to his Silver Medallion. Martinez finished third but suffered the extreme disappointment – despite a desperate sprint in the home straight – of failing by two seconds to catch Mtolo.  

RESULT

1stVladimir KotovBelarus

5h 30m 59s

2ndWillie MtoloSouth Africa5h 33m 35s
3rdJorge MartinezSpain5h 33m 37s
4thOleg KharitonovRussia5h 34m 43s
5thSarel AckermannSouth Africa5h 39m 05s
6thAlbe GeldenhuysSouth Africa5h 39m 45s
7thJoseph IkanengSouth Africa5h 44m 11s
8thDon WallaceAustralia5h 44m 19s
9thAndrew KeleheSouth Africa5h 46m 32s
10thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 46m 59s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stVladimir Kotov (44)Belarus5h 30m 59s
2ndDon Wallace (40)Australia5h 44m 19s
3rdMohala Mohloli (41)Lesotho5h 53m 21s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPeter Camenzind (51)Switzerland

6h 21m 57s New Best Time Up

2ndFreddy Khashiri (55)Zimbabwe6h 39m 23s
3rdLucas Mashianoke (51)South Africa7h 08m 34s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stDanny Shongwe (62)South Africa

7h 52m 34s

2ndCalie Beneke (66)South Africa8h 12m 33s
3rdMoses Kunene (61)South Africa8h 23m 21s

 


THE WOMENS RACE

The race would be dominated by foreign runners. That was never in doubt. The only unknown was ‘which one?’

Two-time winner, Germany’s Maria Bak, had won the previous Up Run in 2000. Her speed, experience and knowledge of the course and conditions – always a valuable factor – was unquestioned.

Any one of the Russians could be expected to have an impact on the race, at the death, when the major medals were being contested.

Eight-time Gold Medallist, Valentina Shatyayeva, could never be overlooked. Marina Bychkova, with 3 Gold Medals in 3 attempts will always be a danger. Elvira Kolpakova, winner in 2001, is sure to have an eye on a double.

Local hopes were pinned on Grace De Oliveira, Sarah Mahlangu and Madeleen Otto. Whether they had what was needed, to scare the visiting runners, would be known just after midday.

Russian novice, Yelene Razdrogina set a frenetic pace from the gun, as she scorched up Berea Road towards Tollgate and through to 45th Cutting. All the fancied runners were assembling in a compact group behind her, but they were falling further back as the flying leader seemed hell bent on an astonishing new record… or suicide.

Razdrogina went over the top of Cowie’s Hill in 1h 6m 46s. She was so far ahead, that the group consisting of Bak, Natalia Volgina and Kolpakova only passed through in 1h 10m 51s. Mahlangu was only 3 metres behing this trio. Already, the foreign brigade were looking ominous, establishing itself in the vanguard as the race developed.

Field’s Hill presents itself early in the race, but the monstrous climb can, and often does, create changes that have a major effect on the medal issue at the end. This was one of those days.

Razdrogina maintained the lead as she raced over the hills to Drummond, where she passed through in 3h 4m 59s. Bak and Volgina (3h 7m 46s) had gone ahead of Kolpakova (3h 8m 59s). Mahlangu held on to 5th place, going by in 3h 9m 26s. De Oliveira lay in 8th position in 3h 18m 7s.

Razdrogina had, indeed, committed suicide over the first half. Inchanga confirmed it. She still led over the top, but her race was, effectively, over. Over the ensuing miles, the chasing brigade ran her down and, in regular succession, went past as she drifted into oblivion.

The next major hurdle was Polly Shortt’s. When the leading runners crested the hill, the final finishing positions were already finalised. Bak had gone into the lead near the Mpusheni bridge, and at the top of the hill, was nearly 3 minutes clear of Volgina. Bychkova followed another 6 minutes later. Novice, Farwa Mentoor, was having a storming run and had improved her position from 7th at halfway, to 4th at the foot of Polly’s.

The run into the city was a formality as all the leaders retained the places they held at the top of Polly Shortt’s.

Mentoor produced a superb performance for a novice, finishing 4th in 6h 41m 20s.

RESULT

1stMaria BakGermany6h 14m 21s
2ndNatalia VolginaRussia6h 17m 26s
3rdMarina BychkovaRussia6h 24m 23s
4thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 41m 20s
5thElvira KolpakovaRussia6h 41m 56s
6thGrace De OliveiraSouth Africa6h 43m 12s
7thSarah MahlanguSouth Africa6h 53m 41s
8thYelena RazdroginaRussia6h 57m 54s
9thMarietjie MontgomerySouth Africa6h 59m 24s
10thValentina ShatyayevaRussia7h 02m 41s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMaria Bak (43)Germany

6h 14m 21s New Best Time Up

2ndGrace De Oliveira (40)South Africa6h 43m 12s
3rdMarietjie Montgomery (42)South Africa6h 59m 24s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stMaureen O’Loughlin (50)Australia

8h 50m 43s

2ndPenny Visser (55)South Africa9h 01m 12s
3rdThea Kruger (58)South Africa9h 18m 11s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stMayumi Aihara (61)Japan

9h 37m 12s New Best Time Up

2ndSarah Hackney (61)South Africa10h 54m 22

2003 Down (78th Race)

 DateMonday, 16 June
 WeatherCool at start with mist in the valleys. Fine and warm later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB9/25
 DBN15/23
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.179 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.272 km/hr (3m 41s /km)
 Women14.548 km/hr (4m 08s /km)
 Entries13303
 StartersUnknown
 Finishers – Total11416
 Men9546
 Women1870
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver672
 Bill Rowan2436
 Bronze5778
 Vic Clapham2510
 % Finishers / Starters


THE MENS RACE

The excitement at the finish venue in Durban, late in the morning, was diametrically opposite to the conservative wait-and-see mood at the start.

Vladimir Kotov and Oleg Kharitonov, who both performed exceptionally in 2002, were expected to repeat those feats. The South African challenge was perceived as below the standard of the visitors and unlikely to mount a serious threat when the major medals were distributed. Willie Mtolo was back in the line-up. So was Walter Nkosi, a solid performer, as well as former winner, Andrew Kelehe. None of the three were thought to be in the type of form to press for top honours

No one, other than the regular TV brigade, seemed prepared to commit himself in the early stages. Once the early-morning mist had risen from the valleys, three Russians had emerged and gone ahead of the pack. They were Kharitonov, Eduard Takbhatullin and Denis Zhalybin. Only Nkosi had gone with them as they led through Cato Ridge. As the group approached the halfway point, Nkosi surprised the trio, surging past and leading through Drummond in 2h 45m 30s.

When the chasing pack, eventually, came alive and realised the gravity of their situation, it was Fusi Nhlapo and Joseph Molaba who broke free. Nhlapo, a sensational down-hill runner, waited patiently until he crested the mineshaft, Field’s Hill, then he trod on the gas. Molaba was left for dead as Nhlapo closed the 500-metre gap to the leaders within minutes, overtaking them with ease, but when he was seen struggling up Cowie’s Hill, it was thought that he had committed the Comrades runner’s cardinal sin; racing flat-out down Field’s.

Molaba was having a wonderful run and, over the section from Cowie’s to 45th Cutting, he stormed past those ahead of him; failing by thirteen seconds to thwart second-placed Kharitonov.

The day, however, belonged to Nhlapo. His sustained pace, once he had taken the lead, carried him to victory by almost three minutes.

RESULT

1stFusi NhlapoSouth Africa

5h 28m 53s

2ndOleg KharitonovRussia5h 31m 42s
3rdJoseph MolabaSouth Africa5h 31m 55s
4thJorge MartinezSpain5h 32m 32s
5thAndrew KeleheSouth Africa5h 35m 18s
6thSarel AckermannSouth Africa5h 35m 52s
7thWalter NkosiSouth Africa5h 39m 26s
8thWillie MtoloSouth Africa5h 41m 30s
9thDenis ZhalybinRussia5h 41m 39s
10thMoses LebakengSouth Africa5h 42m 31s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMohala Mohloli (42)Lesotho5h 46m 48s
2ndSimon Malindi (40)South Africa5h 54m 48s
3rdVladimir Kotov (45)Belarus5h 57m 04s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPeter Camenzind (52)Switzerland

6h 05m 18s New Best Time Down

2ndCornet Matomane (51)South Africa6h 29m 27s
3rdFreddy Khashiri (56)Zimbabwe6h 45m 06s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCalie Beneke (67)South Africa

7h 23m 32s

2ndHoward Ferris (61)USA7h 51m 50s
3rdTamsanqa Jusayi (61)South Africa7h 55m 01s

THE WOMENS RACE

Was there a South African capable of halting the foreign onslaught?

The media view was that there was not. During the previous nine years, South Africa’s medallists were Deborah Mattheus (Silver 2001), Grace de Oliviera (Silver 1999 and Bronze 2000), Rae Bisshoff (Gold 1998) and Helene Joubert (Silver 1995).

Twenty-seven major medals on offer… with just five going to local women.

The media was fully justified in predicting another foreign avalanche… and they were correct. Only Farwa Mentoor (8th) and Yolande Maclean (9th) prevented a clean sweep of the ten Gold Medals by the visitors.

With no clear favourite among the Russian group, three-time Bronze Medallion winner, Marina Bychkova, looked a possible victrix. A number of others were of unknown ability. They were novices; Tatyana Zhirkova and the identical Nurgalieva twins, Olesya and Elena.

The early pace was taken up by the Hungarian, Simona Staicu, who led through the halfway at Drummond. She had won the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town a few months back. Her pace through Drummond was such that a new Down Record looked to be in the offing. However, she paid dearly for her early exuberance over the second half, just managing to hang on for the tenth, and last, Gold Medal. Zhirkova passed her in the Alverston area, but when the Nurgalieva twins caught her approaching Hillcrest, she had no reply.

The race was, at this stage, over as a contest. The twins progressed unhindered towards Durban with Elena beating Olesya by five minutes. Zhirkova followed a further five minutes behind.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia6h 07m 47s
2ndOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 12m 08s
3rdTatyana ZhirkovaRussia6h 17m 51s
4thMaria BakGermany6h 18m 33s
5thMarina BychkovaRussia6h 19m 22s
6thAlena VinitskayaRussia6h 22m 48s
7thElvira KolpakovaRussia6h 24m 30s
8thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 32m 38s
9thYolande MacleanSouth Africa6h 44m 40s
10thSimona StaicuHungary6h 54m 49s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMaria Bak (44)Germany

6h 18m 33s New Best Time Down

2ndGrace De Oliveira (41)South Africa7h 00m 05s
3rdRenee Scott (41)South Africa7h 00m 15s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stAstrid Damerell (50)South Africa

8h 01m 35s New Best Time Down

2ndHuguette Jouault (51)France8h 02m 52s
3rdAnna van der Merwe (50)South Africa8h 05m 20s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stPamela Osborn (62)South Africa9h 03m 30s
2ndMayumi Aihara (62)Japan9h 36m 56s
3rdIsabel Hobbs (60)South Africa10h 18m 46

2004 Up (79th Race)

 DateWednesday, 16 June
 WeatherCloudless, fine and warm.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB5/23
 DBN8/25
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Oval
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance86.750 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.707 km/hr (3m 49s /km)
 Women14.022 km/hr (4m 17s /km)
 Entries12059
 Starters11364
 Finishers – Total10126
 Men8562
 Women1564
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver507
 Bill Rowan1927
 Bronze5041
 Vic Clapham2631
 % Finishers / Starters89.1


THE MENS RACE

No one was confident enough to make a definitive prediction on the outcome.

Vladimir Kotov was aiming at a hat trick of Up Run victories. He had won convincingly in 2000 and 2002 but, it was asked, was his age now becoming a factor, considering that he was in his mid-forties.

Oleg Kharitonov, the runner-up in 2003, was reckoned to have an outside chance.

The local hopes were pinned on 2001 winner, Andrew Kelehe and the ever-popular – but under-achieving – Willie Mtolo.

On the track, it is known that when the field is strung out in single file, the pace is on but, when the field is bunched, the race is slow and tactical.

The 2004 race resembled a slow tactical affair. None of the talented performers showed any inclination to test the water up front. The race record was, already, never under threat. Other than the perennial TV exhibitionists, everyone of the, ultimate, Gold medallists climbed Cowie’s Hill in a group, and seven of them were all given the same time. In the end, it came down to who would hit the thrust button first… and who could hold on the longest.

Philani Memela led the race through the Cowie’s Hill checkpoint precisely on one hour. Twenty-six seconds later came the quartet of Frans Mathebula, Clement Hlasa, Mabule Raphotle and Andries Moleme.

Right on their heels, only fifteen metres behind, was the massive group that contained all the day’s Gold medallists.

Memela increased his lead to exactly one minute by the time he reached Drummond but following him was the contender group, which had thinned considerably since Pinetown, but, significantly, all the Gold seekers were still on his tail.

On the ascent of Inchanga, Memela drifted into oblivion, and before Harrison Flats, Hlasa had also gone. So it was now down to the big guns; a group of seven playing a very tactical game. Who would be the first, or the bravest, to squeeze the trigger. Through Cato Ridge, the group comprised Kotov, Kharitonov, Mtolo, Joseph Ikaneng, Jaroslaw Janicki, Hlonepho Mphulanyane and Kelehe. They were still handcuffed together as they passed through Camperdown.

“When is it going to happen?” those on the Press truck mused.

Then it did.

Kotov, an acknowledged climber, surged on the nasty little hill out of the village. They all responded but Ikaneng, followed shortly by Mphulanyane, drifted off the back. The pace up front had quickened considerably and the track theory kicked in. They were now ‘in single file’ but still in close contact. Then Kelehe fell off the pace at the Water Tower, the highest point between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. On the long, fast drop to the Mpusheni Stream – the water jump in the early years – Mtolo succumbed.

Running up Little Polly’s, Kotov surged again… and Kharitonov did not respond. It was now between Kotov and Janicki. With Polly Shortts looming, and Kotov the super hill runner, the race was over.

Cruising, untroubled up the final major climb, Kotov put three minutes between himself and Janicki to clinch a hat trick of ‘Up’ victories.

RESULT

1stVladimir KotovBelarus

5h 31m 22s

2ndJaroslaw JanickiPoland5h 34m 17s
3rdOleg KharitonovRussia5h 39m 08s
4thWillie MtoloSouth Africa5h 39m 56s
5thAndrew KeleheSouth Africa5h 42m 34s
6thJoseph IkanengSouth Africa5h 43m 03s
7thHlonepha MphulanyaneSouth Africa5h 44m 10s
8thJorge MartinezSpain5h 45m 34s
9thJohan OosthuizenSouth Africa5h 46m 07s
10thJacob MadimaSouth Africa5h 48m 31s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stVladimir Kotov (46)Belarus5h 31m 22s
2ndWillie Mtolo (40)South Africa5h 39m 56s
3rdMohala Mohloli (43)Lesotho6h 01m 55s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPeter Camenzind (53)Switzerland

6h 11m 12s New Best Time Up

2ndAubrey Watson (52)South Africa6h 48m 44s
3rdStephen Seema (52)South Africa6h 55m 49s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stMoses Kunene (63)South Africa

8h 28m 41s

2ndTony Spector (62)South Africa8h 36m 40s
3rdAlbert McGee (68)Zimbabwe8h 48m 04s

THE WOMENS RACE

Traditionally, for whatever reason, the leading women do not run in a compact group. One or two often attack from the start and the other contenders follow at regular, lengthy intervals.

The visiting Russians were, as usual, expected to go hard from the start. They did but, surprisingly, a compact group of six, checked through Cowie’s Hill together in 1h 8m. Passing through Pinetown, Tatyana Zhirkova had fallen behind. Farwa Mentoor was the sole South African to go with Marina Bychkova and the Nurgalieva sisters.

Bychkova led the twins by two strides as she passed the halfway mark in 3h 04m 32s; a time indicating that the Up Record was in danger. Mentoor followed 14 seconds later but, despite the exceptional speed of those ahead, she made up that small gap in the run over Inchanga and through Cato Ridge, to pass the Camperdown checkpoint with the lead group.

Then it happened; the same as the men. The hammer went down and Elena Nurgalieva strode into the lead which she defended all the way to the finish. The pace told on Olesya Nurgalieva and she faded in the Dardanelles area. Mentoor could not match the leaders on the punishing climb up Little Polly’s. Bychkova succumbed on Polly Shortts, finishing three minutes adrift of Elena Nurgalieva whose relentless pace over the final quarter of the race gave her a new Best Time.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia

6h 11m 15s New Best Time Up

2ndMarina BychkovaRussia6h 14m 13s
3rdFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 18m 23s
4thOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 20m 32s
5thTatyana ZhirkovaRussia6h 28m 02s
6thMaria BakGermany6h 30m 44s
7thYolande MacleanSouth Africa6h 45m 40s
8thGrace De OliveiraSouth Africa6h 46m 59s
9thReneé ScottSouth Africa6h 56m 28s
10thRiana van NiekerkSouth Africa7h 12m 23s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMaria Bak (45)Germany6h 30m 44s
2ndGrace De Oliveira (42)South Africa6h 46m 59s
3rdRenee Scott (42)South Africa6h 56m 28s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLinda Potgieter (51)South Africa

8h 29m 58s

2ndSandra Fismer (51)South Africa9h 02m 24s
3rdWendy Bloom (50)South Africa9h 15m 59s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stThea Kruger (61)South Africa9h 43m 32s
2ndPamela Osborn (62)South Africa10h 10m 45
3rdMayumi Aihara (63)Japan10h 20m 26

2005 Down (80th Race)

 DateThursday, 16 June
 WeatherCold at start. Fine and mild later.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/23
 DBN9/24
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.170 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.355 km/hr (3m 40s /km)
 Women14.911 km/hr (4m 01s /km)
 Entries13899
 Starters13043
 Finishers – Total11728
 Men9726
 Women2002
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver637
 Bill Rowan2424
 Bronze5716
 Vic Clapham2931
 % Finishers / Starters89.9


THE MENS RACE

Pre-race predictions are becoming increasingly difficult as the difference in ability of the elite performers fits into a very narrow band. Considering that a matter of seconds may separate an entire group of thirty or forty, as it surges across the checkpoint at halfway, the end result comes down to who is experiencing a good, or not so good, day or who makes the correct judgment call for attacking, or waiting, for the precise moment to strike.

So it was before the start. Any of the fifteen or sixteen big names could fill the Gold Medal positions. There were also some very talented runners among the next level who could, surprisingly, sneak in and scare the best.

First past the Water Tower at Umlaas Road, the highest point along the race route, was Andrias Masoeu in 1h 11m 28s. Following him were Herbert Mazagolo (1h 13m 28s) and Samuel Matsoso (1h 14m 24s). Two minutes later, a huge group – which subsequently provided all the Gold Medallists – passed through in 1h 16m 30s. Mazagolo and Matsoso were out of the running before Cato Ridge.

Although he increased his lead to eight minutes by halfway, Masoeu’s pace indicated that he was never going to challenge for top honours when the accelerator was depressed. Next through Drummond was Sipho Ngomane, running only his second Comrades, in 2h 48m 14s. The main bunch, which had thinned considerably, passed the timekeeper in 2h 49m 30s. This group included Oleg Kharitonov, Andrew Kelehe, Vladimir Kotov, Fusi Nhlapo, Johan Oosthuizen and Claude Moshiywa.

Ngomane, only 23 years old, was the big surprise. Unheralded, he strode away from this high-powered, experienced contingent. Shortly after passing though Hillcrest he caught, and passed, Masoeu on the downhill to Winston Park. From that point, he ran a perfectly judged race, maintaining a watchful eye on his pursuers, never allowing them to make any appreciable inroad into his lead.

Ngomane reached the top of Cowie’s Hill in 4h 22m 55s. Claude Moshiywa, after going through halfway in 5th position, and looking ominous, was next over the top in 4h 27m 02s. He was followed by Kharitonov, Kelehe and Kotov, running together, in 4h 27m 30s.

Moshiywa’s great effort from Drummond, in the end, cost him dearly. The chasing pack reeled him in before Westville and he drifted out of the major positions, eventually finishing 8th.

Ngomane passed 45th Cutting – with seven kilometres to the finish – in 4h 59m 44s. The pursuit of Moshiywa broke up the 3 K’s. Kharitonov was next (5h 03m 40s) with Kelehe (5h 04m 13s) and Kotov (5h 07m 07s) following. They were left to dispute the Silver and Bronze Medals.

Kharitonov made a determined effort over the final few kilometres but Ngomane was in total control, crossing the line at Kingsmead Stadium a clear winner by two minutes.

RESULT

1stSipho NgomaneSouth Africa

5h 27m 11s

2ndOleg KharitonovRussia5h 29m 16s
3rdAndrew KeleheSouth Africa5h 31m 45s
4thVladimir KotovBelarus5h 34m 00s
5thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 39m 02s
6thMohala MohloliLesotho5h 40m 18s
7thJohan OosthuizenSouth Africa5h 40m 58s
8thClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa5h 42m 23s
9thElias MabaneSouth Africa5h 46m 21s
10thAlbe GeldenhuysSouth Africa5h 46m 38s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stAndrew Kalehe (40)South Africa5h 31m 45s
2ndVladimir Kotov (47)Belarus5h 34m 00s
3rdMohala Mohloli (44)Lesotho5h 40m 18s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPeter Camenzind (54)Switzerland

5h 59m 40s New Best Time Down

2ndAubrey Watson (53)South Africa6h 24m 57s
3rdNicholas Dlamini (50)South Africa6h 46m 29s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stPaulus Ramathoka (61)South Africa

8h 40m 57s

2ndKatsuyoshi Miyano (61)Japan8h 42m 37s
3rdFrancois Hofmeyr (63)South Africa8h 49m 25s

THE WOMENS RACE

Were any of the local women capable of sinking or, at best, capsizing the Russian flotilla?

South African hopes were pinned on Farwa Mentoor, Yolande Maclean and Grace De Olveira, but the pertinent question was “could they achieve the improbable – or impossible?”

In the end, they couldn’t.

As expected, the three big names in the field, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva and Tatyana Zhirkova, went straight to the front and led going out of the city.

They went by the Water Tower, at Umlaas Road, together in 1h 23m 24s. Mentoor passed through in 4th place (1h 24m 07s) with Marina Bychkova next (1h 27m 28s).

The leading trio remained intact over the hills to Drummond, going through the halfway checkpoint in 3h 01m 40s, increasing the distance over Mentoor (3h 05m 00s) to 3m 20s. Bychkova came through next in 3h 06m 46s.

Were the three leaders going to stay together and sprint for the tape at Kinsmead? The ensuing 25 kilometres provided the answer. On the exit from Kloof, at the top of Field’s Hill, Zhirkova put in a testing surge. The Nurgalieva twins responded initially but on the steep drop into Pinetown they faded, and when she crested Cowie’s Hill, Zhirkova had a lead of 22 seconds over Elena and 2m 17s over Olesya. The race, at that stage, was effectively over.

Zhirkova went further and further ahead as she approached Durban and put 11m 49s between herself and Olesya, who overtook Elena at Tollgate.

Mentoor gamely held onto 4th place, edging out Bychkova by a mere 9 seconds.

RESULT

1stTatyana ZhirkovaRussia5h 58m 51s
2ndOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 10m 40s
3rdElena NurgalievaRussia6h 12m 19s
4thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 19m 21s
5thMarina BychkovaRussia6h 19m 30s
6thMarina MyshlyanovaRussia6h 28m 50s
7thElvira KolpakovaRussia6h 34m 45s
8thYolande MacleanSouth Africa6h 37m 36s
9thTatyana TitovaRussia6h 43m 17s
10thLindsay van AswegenSouth Africa7h 04m 34s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stGrace De Oliveira (43)South Africa7h 05m 55s
2ndDagmar Rabensteiner (42)Austria7h 07m 54s
3rdRenee Scott (43)South Africa7h 19m 39s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stStyntjie Prins (51)South Africa

7h 28m 45s New Best Time Down

2ndNancy Will (52)South Africa7h 39m 19s
3rdLinda Potgieter (52)South Africa8h 14m 09s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJenny Allebone (61)South Africa

8h 24m 00s New Best Time Down

2ndThea Kruger (61)South Africa9h 26m 16s
3rdPamela Osborn (64)South Africa9h 41m 23s

2006 Up (81st Race)

 DateFriday, 16 June
 WeatherMild with scattered cloud throughout the day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/21
 DBN13/23
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Oval
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance86.700 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.512 km/hr (3m 52s /km)
 Women14.083 km/hr (4m 16s /km)
 Entries12066
 Starters10857
 Finishers – Total9848
 Men8239
 Women1609
 Medals – Gold20
 Silver505
 Bill Rowan1979
 Bronze4727
 Vic Clapham2617
 % Finishers / Starters90.8


THE MENS RACE

Ideal running conditions greeted the contestants when they arrived at the start. This was a relief in view of the cold and wind that, the night before, indicated inclement weather for race-day.

Climbing Cowie’s Hill – 17 kilometres from the start – two runners had broken away from the pack. Fanie Matshipa (1h 01m 17s) and Frans Chauke (1h 02m 48s) were followed in quick succession by Fusi Nhlapo (1h 10m 28s), Brian Zondi (1h 04m 30s), and Magnus Michelsson (1h 04m 48s). Four minutes later the big names stormed through in a huge group.

Matshipa retained the lead, passing Drummond, at halfway, in 2h 39m 31s with an 18-second advantage over Chauke. These two built a substantial lead of eight minutes over third placed Leboko Noto, and ten minutes over the main group.

On the tough section to Cato Ridge, Matshipa fell out of contention as the flying Chauke swept past at a speed that raised questions whether the Up Record would survive the day. He went through Cato Ridge in 3h 41m 12s, with Noto next in 3h 44m 18s. A very reduced pack trailed by in 3h 47m.

Over the gentle, undulating climb to Umlaas Road, the real race commenced. Initiated by a Brian Zondi surge, with only Oleg Kharitonv and Jaroslaw Janicki responding, the three went past the highest point together in 4h 25m 08s.

Kharitonov (5h 07m 52s) was leading at the crest of Polly Shortts, and when Zondi (5h 08m 55s) and Janicki (5h 10m 13s) followed, it apperared that the top three places had been decided.

However, that was not to be. Janicki faded (to eventually finish 6th) and Kotov put in one of his signature finishing bursts to storm through while others wilted.

Kharitonov sailed, untroubled up Polly’s and held a comfortable two-minute lead as he crossed the finish line in Alexandra Park.

RESULT

1stOleg KharitonovRussia5h 35m 19s
2ndBrian ZondiSouth Africa5h 37m 32s
3rdVladimir KotovBelarus5h 40m 56s
4thGrigory MurzinRussia5h 41m 26s
5thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 41m 43s
6thJaroslaw JanickiPoland5h 42m 06s
7thAndrew KeleheSouth Africa5h 44m 20s
8thMncedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 44m 28s
9thFrans ChaukeSouth Africa5h 46m 01s
10thLeboka NotoLesotho5h 47m 29s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stVladimir Kotov (48)Belarus5h 40m 56s
2ndAndrew Kalehe (41)South Africa5h 44m 20s
3rdChristopher Mabengeza (40)South Africa6h 00m 06s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stPeter Camenzind (55)Switzerland

6h 18m 37s

2ndAubrey Watson (54)South Africa6h 41m 39s
3rdCornet Matomane (54)South Africa6h 44m 22s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJohannes Mosehla (64)South Africa8h 19m 43s
2ndCalie Beneke (70)South Africa8h 25m 44s
3rdFrancois Hofmeyr (64)South Africa8h 37m 40s

THE WOMENS RACE

The foreign presence was hammered home with devastating effect. The first five Gold Medals went to visiting runners; four Russians and Germany’s Maria Bak, in fourth place. South Africans finished in positions 6 to 10. A definitive pounding and… Olesya Nurgalieva didn’t run.

By the top of Cowie’s Hill, the four leading contenders had already made their intentions known. Elena Nurgalieva, Marina Bychkova and Tatyana Zhirkova all went through in 1h 14m 55s, with Maria Bak (1h 15m 46s) and Marina Myshlyanova (1h 16m 57s) following. Other than swapping positions intermittently among themselves, they retained the top places through to the finish.

Passing through Drummond in 3h 06m 24s, the position was Nurgalieva, Zhirkova and Bychkova with just strides separating them. Myshlyanova was fourth in 3h 10m 52s and Bak, fifth (3h 14m 19s). The leading trio’s time at the halfway mark was fast, but not exceptional.

Nurgalieva and Zhirkova went ahead, lifting the pace considerally, during the run to Cato Ridge, passing through together in 4h 08m 57s. If the pace was maintained, the existing Up Record would be in jeopardy. Then followed Bychkova (4h 49m 23s), Myshlyanova (4h 20m 10s) and Bak (4h 22m 26s).

When the quintet went past the checkpoint at Umlaas Road, the top five places had been finally decided; the only changes being the time gaps between them but, significantly, a new record was imminent.

Bychkova hung on valiantly but eventually, she could not deny Nurgalieva another win and a new Best Time of 6h 09m 24s.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia

6h 09m 24s

New Best Time Up

2ndMarina BychkovaRussia6h 12m 58s
3rdTatyana ZhirkovaRussia6h 27m 21s
4thMaria BakGermany6h 31m 07s
5thMarina MyshlyanovaRussia6h 38m 51s
6thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 41m 32s
7thYolande MacleanSouth Africa6h 47m 03s
8thRiana van NiekerkSouth Africa7h 04m 37s
9thMadeleen OttoSouth Africa7h 17m 08s
10thGrace De OliveiraSouth Africa7h 24m 11s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMaria Bak (47)Germany6h 31m 07s
2ndMarina Myshlyanova (40)Russia6h 38m 51s
3rdGrace De Oliveira (44)South Africa7h 24m 11s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stRae Bisschoff (53)South Africa

7h 34m 25s New Best Time Up

2ndStyntjie Prins (52)South Africa7h 50m 07s
3rdLinda Potgieter (53)South Africa8h 07m 40s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stThea Kruger (62)South Africa

9h 27m 29s New Best Time Up

2ndHazel Quilliam (61)South Africa9h 40m 48s
3rdJenny Allebone (62)South Africa9h 59m 51s

2007 Down (82nd Race)

 DateSunday, 17 June
 WeatherVery cold at start. Mild winter sunshine all day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/28
 DBN10/23
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.300 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.708 km/hr (3m 35s /km)
 Women14.479 km/hr (4m 09s /km)
 Entries12006
 Starters11147
 Finishers – Total10051
 Men8288
 Women1763
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward10
 Silver553
 Bill Rowan2021
 Bronze4646
 Vic Clapham2801
 % Finishers / Starters90.2


THE MENS RACE

Chilly, but not extreme cold, early morning weather greeted more than 11 000 runners for what turned out to be a scorching performance on the road.

Once the field had set off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, the pace up front was blistering, and it would have been understandable if vast patches of melted tar were found pooled on the road, behind the flying feet of Russian, Leonid Shvetsov.

Leonid, it was rumoured, was participating, not merely to win, but with the express aim of breaking the Down Record. In the end, he not only did that, he annihilated it; removing 3m 18s from the 21-year-old record held by Bruce Fordyce.

From the gun, Shvetsov set the pace and dictated the terms for the morning’s proceedings. Some top names went with him as the procession left the city on the ascent up Polly Shortts… Grigory Murzin, Leboko Noto, Sipho Ngomane, Fusi Nhlapo, Mncedisi Mkhize, Oleg Kharitonov and other lesser, but still very able lights, were prominent.

The pace, however, was such that the lead group became less and less populated as the kilometres, literally, flew past.

As Shevetsov ran into Hillcrest, Ngubane and Noto were the sole survivors of the savage pace. With Winston Park approaching, Shetsov found himself alone at the sharp end of the race, and for every one of the final thirty kilometres, he averaged 3m 30s; a pace that saw him enter Kingsmead Stadium almost ten minutes ahead of his nearest rival.

Of the chasers, Mkhize almost lasted the best and seemed to have the Silver Medal in his grasp but, disappointingly, a charging Murzin caught, and passed, him on the climb to Tollgate.

RESULT

1stLeonid ShvetsovRussia

5h 20m 41s New Best Time Down

2ndGrigory MurzinRussia5h 30m 12s
3rdMncedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 32m 50s
4thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 33m 48s
5thLeboka NotoLesotho5h 35m 27s
6thOleg KharitonovRussia5h 39m 54s
7thStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 40m 11s
8thSipho NgobaneSouth Africa5h 45m 21s
9thLucas NonyanaSouth Africa5h 47m 32s
10thGodfrey SesenyamotseSouth Africa5h 48m 18s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMohala Mohloli (46)Lesotho5h 57m 56s
2ndChristopher Mabengeza (41)South Africa5h 58m 16s
3rdVladimir Kotov (49)Belarus5h 58m 25s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stAubrey Watson (55)South Africa6h 39m 23s
2ndJeremiah Ngwenya (54)South Africa6h 40m 26s
3rdBogdan Barewski (53)Poland6h 51m 47s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stHannes Meyer (60)South Africa7h 48m 36s
2ndJohannes Mosehla (65)South Africa7h 57m 11s
3rdCalie Beneke (71)South Africa8h 02m 14s

THE WOMENS RACE

It will be another Russian stampede, the media predicted.

It didn’t turn out that way, in pure athletic terms, because, as Durban came nearer, it developed into a slow, tactical and, seemingly, pre-arranged affair. Russian runners filled five of the top six positions. Farwa Mentoor, South Africa’s best performer over the previous ten years, again prevented a total clean sweep by the foreigners. In any other period, Mentoor would have been a superb, and deserved, multi-winner and a wonderful champion.

It would be correct to assume that the Nurgalieva twins, Elena and Olesya, had the race well under control long before the start. Also in the line-up, was perennial Gold Medallist, Marina Bychkova, as well as a number of other Russians who would not be here if they were not top performers. Three-time winner, Maria Bak of Germany was also among the starters and she would go on to earn her tenth Gold Medal.

From the outset, it was a procession. The Nurgalievas simply ran and ran without a challenge from any of the other contenders. When Olesya entered Kingsmead Stadium, she had a mere 29-second advantage over Elena but, together, they finished eleven minutes ahead of Marina Biktigirova who came through to capture third position.

RESULT

1stOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 10m 03s
2ndElena NurgalievaRussia6h 10m 32s
3rdMadina BiktigirovaRussia6h 21m 55s
4thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 24m 30s
5thMarina MyshlyanovaRussia6h 25m 18s
6thAlena VinitskayaRussia6h 28m 43s
7thYolande MacleanSouth Africa6h 29m 47s
8thMaria BakGermany6h 33m 48s
9thAdinda KrugerSouth Africa6h 38m 31s
10thGrace De OliveiraSouth Africa6h 57m 29s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMadina Biktigirova (42)Russia6m 21m 55s
2ndMarina Myshlyanova (41)Russia6h 25m 18s
3rdMaria Bak (48)Germany6h 33m 48s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stWendy Fitzmaurice (53)South Africa

7h 33m 28s

2ndRae Bisschoff (53)South Africa7h 41m 53s
3rdElaine Greenblatt (58)South Africa7h 59m 47s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stTina Torpy (62)Australia8h 49m 55s
2ndPenny Visser (60)South Africa8h 54m 04s
3rdMaria Bernardino (60)Brazil9h 36m 42s

2008 Up (83rd Race)

 DateSunday, 13 June
 WeatherCool and mild at start. Mild sunshine with localised cloud cover in parts.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB7/27
 DBN10/27
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Oval
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance86.940 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.060 km/hr (3m 44s /km)
 Women13.925 km/hr (4m 18s /km)
 Entries11189
 Starters10330
 Finishers – Total8626
 Men7214
 Women1412
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward4
 Silver415
 Bill Rowan1548
 Bronze3958
 Vic Clapham2683
 % Finishers / Starters83.5


THE MENS RACE

Is there anyone who can stop Shvetsov?

That was the question asked by everyone in the days leading up to race-day. After his breathtaking Down Record in 2007, Leonid Shvetsov was, from the day his entry arrived in the Comrades office, assumed to be the victor.

Local hopes rested on the shoulders of Mncedisi Mkhize, Johan Oosthuizen, Willie Mtolo, Claude Moshiywa, and Andrew Kelehe. All were outstanding performers and multiple Gold Medallists, but did they have that special something, that would unsettle Shvetsov?

The field left Durban in perfect, balmy weather which later migrated to ideal running conditions. Shvetsov utilised them to the full.

Local hopes were raised when the first ten runners at Cowie’s Hill were all South Africans. Shvetsov was nowhere to be seen. A good omen, perhaps,

Professor Mollen (his name; not a title) led the field up Field’s Hill. Close on his heels was Prodigal Khumalo. Over the gentle undulations leading into Hillcrest, Shvetsov, with Vladimir Kotov not too far behind, eased his way into the top ten.

Botha’s Hill proved to be the limit of Mollen’s run. First Khumalo went past and, moments later near Kearsney College, when Charles Tijane and Shvetsov caught him, he dropped to a walk and, subsequently, out of contention. Khumalo hung on grimly but on the descent into Drummond, Tijane overtook him and led through the midway point, followed by Khumalo, Shvetsov and Mabule Raphotle.

Always the backbreaker, Inchanga proved so for Tijane. He was forced to walk the final few steps. He held on until Harrison where Shvetsov and Raphotle both went past. Exiting Harrison, Shvetsov surged. Raphotle responded but it was short-lived.

Now in the lead, and assured of victory, Shvetsov set off for the finish with little but the Up Record in mind. While he strode unimpeded towards Pietermaritzburg, changes were taking place in his wake.

A resurgent Jaroslaw Janicki and Stephen Muzhingi were working their way through the top positions. Despite powerful finishes by both, Shvetsov was out of reach. He stopped the watches in Alexandra Park in 5h 24m 47s, a scintilating new Best Time; nearly fourteen minutes ahead of Janicki, with Muzhingi a further minute adrift.

RESULT

1stLeonid Shvetsov *Russia

5h 24m 49s

New Best Time Up

2ndJaroslaw JanickiPoland5h 38m 29s
3rdStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 39m 40s
4thOleg KharitonovRussia5h 42m 03s
5thGrigory MurzinRussia5h 43m 07s
6thHarmans MokgadiSouth Africa5h 47m 10s
7thMncedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 48m 18s
8thVladimir KotovBelarus5h 48m 42s
9thJohan OosthuizenSouth Africa5h 50m 52s
10thWillie MtoloSouth Africa5h 53m 36s

* First Sub-5:25 Up Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJaroslaw Janicki (41)Poland5h 38m 29s
2ndOleg Kharitonov (40)Russia5h 42m 03s
3rdWillie Mtolo (44)South Africa5h 53m 36s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stVladimir Kotov (50)Belarus

5h 48m 42s New Best Time Up

2ndAubrey Watson (56)South Africa6h 36m 32s
3rdZama Witvoet (51)South Africa7h 01m 05s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stDaniel Hlongane (60)South Africa

8h 10m 28s

2ndElias Hlungwane (63)South Africa8h 49m 30s
3rdFrancois Hofmeyr (66)South Africa8h 56m 18s

THE WOMENS RACE

The winner was almost a forgone conclusion. It would be a Russian visitor. The only, minor, doubt was which of the Nurgalieva twins, Olesya – the defending Up champion – or Elena, would have her name engraved on the trophy later in the day. A Russian shut-out of the top positions was further forecast.

The twins, as is their perennial strategy, went straight to the front and were leading, as Westville approached, when disaster struck. Elena tripped, stumbled and fell, gashing her left knee as she went down. Olesya slowed to wait for her sister while a makeshift dressing was applied without too much time being lost.

The Nurgalievas still held the lead on Cowie’s Hill where Tatyana Zhirkova was only strides behind. Of the South Africans, Farwa Mentoor, Grace De Oliveira and Riana van Niekerk were well placed.

Running into Hillcrest, the dressing came off Elena’s knee and she seemed somewhat distressed. Zhirkova surged with Botha’s Hill in view, joining the twins at the head of the field. Then Elena fell again. She looked in serious trouble as Zhirkova assumed the lead.

Zhirkova led through Drummond with the sisters trailing by a few strides. The lead changed frequently between them up Inchanga, through Harrison, Cato Ridge and Camperdown where the three were still together. Exiting Camperdown, the Nurgalievas surged: and it was decisive.

As they moved towards Pietermaritzburg, despite falling twice, Elena appeared the stronger. On the big climbs up to the capital city, their victory was assured. Zhirkova was never challenged for third place and two other Russians, Marina Myshlyanova and Marina Bychkova took fourth and fifth positions.

Riana van Niekerk was the first South African home in 6h 43m 31s.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia6h 14m 37s
2ndOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 15m 52s
3rdTatyana ZhirkovaRussia6h 17m 45s
4thMarina MyshlyanovaRussia6h 30m 49s
5thMarina BychkovaRussia6h 38m 01s
6thRiana van NiekerkSouth Africa6h 43m 31s
7thMaria BakGermany6h 53m 32s
8thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 59m 40s
9thLesley Train AustinSouth Africa7h 02m 08s
10thCarol MercerSouth Africa7h 09m 37s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMarina Myshlyanova (42)Russia6h 30m 49s
2ndMaria Bak (49)Germany6h 53m 32s
3rdCarol Mercer (45)South Africa7h 09m 37s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stWendy Fitzmaurice (54)South Africa

8h 16m 08s

2ndLindsey Watkeys (50)South Africa8h 49m 18s
3rdAnnatjie Botes (50)South Africa8h 52m 49s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stMaria Bernardino (61)Brazil9h 46m 23s
2ndGina Little (63)England10h 06m 59
3rdPamela Osborn (67)South Africa10h 45m 30

2009 Down (84th Race)

 DateSunday, 24 May
 WeatherCool and cloudy early morning. Pleasantly warm with soft breeze mid afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB11/27
 DBN15/27
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.170 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.542 km/hr (3m 38s /km)
 Women14.375 km/hr (4m 10s /km)
 Entries12952
 Starters11345
 Finishers – Total10005
 Men8256
 Women1749
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward11
 Silver548
 Bill Rowan1934
 Bronze4704
 Vic Clapham2788
 % Finishers / Starters88.2


THE MENS RACE

When Leonid Shvetsov lined up with 13 000 others on race-day he was the hottest favourite since Arhtur Newton in the late 20s. So he should have been. In the previous two years, he had established new Best Times for both the Up and Down Run that appeared to be years ahead of the abilities of the current generation.

It would be a mammoth task… or need a well conceived, and executed, plan to topple him.

Teammates, Collen Makaza and Samuel Pazanga, led the Durban-bound stream of runners out of the city at a cracking pace, reaching Camperdown in under 1h 30m. Regarded, ostensibly, as TV glory-seekers, they were part of a carefully contrived strategy to shield teammate, Stephen Muzhingi, while drawing Shvetsov into an early, energy-sapping chase, long before the final stage of the race arrived.

Makaza maintained his punishing pace and arrived at Drummond in an astonishing 2h 35m, more than nine minutes ahead of the main group in which Shvetsov was running near the front. Concealed in the group was Muzhingi who was fully aware of the action ahead and playing a very patient role, waiting for the moment when he would be unleashed.

On the descent of Inchanga, Zimbabwean, Marko Mambo set off after Makaza, taking Shvetsov with him, at a speed that was designed to take the sting out of the Russian’s renowned finishing kick.

Meanwhile, Charles Tijane, who had been in the main pack all morning, caught, and passed, Makaza going down Field’s Hill but he was already tiring as Shvetsov appeared poised to strike for the kill through Pinetown. Tijane slowed to a walk immediately before Cowie’s Hill and Shvetsov stormed into the lead, eighteen kilometers from Kingsmead.

For the spectators, it was all over. The king was in pole position… with an open playing field before him.

The first phase of the plan had been set. Muzhingi trailed Shvetsov by a mere seventy seconds when he crested Cowie’s. He was given the message… and fired the afterburners. Shvetsov, feeling the effects of his extreme chase down Inchanga, twenty-five kilometers back, was, at this stage, showing signs that indicated all was not well as Muzhingi cut his lead by more than fifty metres every kilometer. When he challenged Shvetsov on the climb to 45th Cutting, eight kilometers from home, the Russian had no reply. The margin of ten minutes at the end indicates the degree of damage done before halfway. A brave Tijane failed by seventy-one seconds to catch the struggling Shvetsov in the run-in.

RESULT

1stStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe

5h 23m 27s

2ndLeonid ShvetsovRussia5h 33m 10s
3rdCharles TjianeSouth Africa5h 34m 21s
4thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 36m 17s
5thLucas NonyanaSouth Africa5h 39m 29s
6thMncedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 41m 14s
7thBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa5h 41m 52s
8thPeter MolapoSouth Africa5h 42m 25s
9thBethuel NetshitenzheSouth Africa5h 43m 35s
10thHarmans MokgadiSouth Africa5h 44m 49s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLeonid Shvetsov (40)Russia5h 33m 10s
2ndMagnus Michelsson (40)Australia6h 00m 38s
3rdMohala Mohloli (48)Lesotho6h 03m 53s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stVladimir Kotov (51)Belarus

6h 18m 51s

2ndAubrey Watson (57)South Africa6h 27m 32s
3rdElias Letlape (50)South Africa6h 36m 16s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stMichael Lunga (61)South Africa

7h 35m 27s

2ndJohannes Mosehla (67)South Africa7h 59m 48s
3rdBoitumelo Matsose (67)South Africa8h 05m 32s

THE WOMENS RACE

Another Russian clean-sweep was predicted and that is precisely what happened. The top three positions ended the same as in 2008 with the exception that the Nurgalieva twins decided to swap places.

The Women’s race had, in the past few years, become very predictable with a familiar group regularly claiming the major honours.

The Nurgalieva sisters, adopting their standard strategy, went to the front from the gun and stayed there.

Passing the Camperdown checkpoint, they were among a huge group, mainly men, with a lead of twenty places – but only three seconds – over Tatyana Zhirkova.

Running untroubled, they alternately collected all the available hotspot prizes on offer and by the time they entered Durban, Olesya had a narrow lead over Elena. She maintained the lead and finished at Kingsmead Stadium in the relatively slow time of 6h 12m 12s. Elena finished a minute later with Zhirkova a further two minutes back.

RESULT

1stOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 12m 12s
2ndElena NurgalievaRussia6h 13m 14s
3rdTatyana ZhirkovaRussia6h 15m 03s
4thMarina MyshlyanovaRussia6h 30m 42s
5thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 45m 33s
6thLesley AustinSouth Africa7h 01m 07s
7thMarina BychkovaRussia7h 03m 24s
8thLindsay van AswegenSouth Africa7h 08m 55s
9thBelinda WaghornSouth Africa7h 09m 36s
10thKashmira ParbhooSouth Africa7h 16m 13s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMarina Myshlyanova (42)Russia6h 30m 42s
2ndLindsay van Aswegen (40)South Africa7h 08m 55s
3rdBerdine Smit (44)South Africa7h 28m 09s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stWendy Fitzmaurice (55)South Africa

7h 57m 25s

2ndVal Watson (53)South Africa8h 32m 10s
3rdJuliette Savini (51)South Africa8h 42m 50s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJan Phelan (60)South Africa9h 15m 25s
2ndPenny Visser (62)South Africa9h 35m 37s
3rdPamela Osborn (68)South Africa9h 45m 52s

2010 Down (85th Race)

 DateSunday, 30 May
 WeatherCloudy early morning, warming to hot and cloudless at midday.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/21
 DBN15/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.208 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.283 km/hr (3m 41s /km)
 Women14.360 km/hr (4m 11s /km)
 Entries23567
 Starters16482
 Finishers – Total14338
 Men11210
 Women3128
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward12
 Silver599
 Bill Rowan2304
 Bronze6563
 Vic Clapham4840
 % Finishers / Starters87.0


THE MENS RACE

Stephen Muzhingi’s demolition of Leonid Shvetsov in 2009 prompted the question “Has the era of foreign domination ended?”

When the field of nearly 16 500 left the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, in perfect running weather at 5:30, by 11 o’clock the answer would be known.

Leading the field on its journey to Durban was the usual group of top standard marathon performers whose sole objective was the lure of the hotspot prizes on offer.

Behind them two groups, which contained all the main contenders, developed. Stephen Muzhingi was the pace-setter in the first group that included Peter Muthubi, Charles Tjiane and Lucas Nonyana. The following group had Vladimir Kotov as the driver. Hotspot chaser, Wellington Chidodo was timed through Drummond at 2h 37m 15s after which he soon faded to nowhere.

Tjiane, who had broken away from the main group, went through halfway with an advantage of eight minutes over the Muzhingi group. This was, perhaps, a wake-up call to those behind who probably realised that it was Tjiane who, in 2009, led all the way to Pinetown and was caught, as he tired, on the run-in to the finish, to eventually take third place. Maybe this was the year for him to last all the way.

Muzhingi, Claude Moshiywa, Bethuel Netshifhefhe and Fanie Matshipa set off in pursuit of the leader. Unlike last year, Tjiane unexpectedly faded and was walking as he neared Winston Park, but his lead was so great that the Muzhingi quartet finally reeled him in at Kloof.

Unknown to everyone, though, Ludwick Mamabolo and Bongmusa Mthembu, both lost in the main pack through halfway, were turning in a storming run over the final quarter of the race.

Moshiywa accelerated on the big drop down Field’s Hill where, firstly Netshifhefhe, and then Muzhingi drifted off the pace. The crowd at Kingsmead went into raptures on hearing that a South African was leading the race through Pinetown.

Moments later the raptures were silenced when the big screen at Kingsmead showed Moshiywa walking towards the foot of Cowies Hill. Muzhingi had recovered and went into the lead and stayed there, crossing the finish line more than six minutes before Mamabolo arrived, with Mtembu another two minutes adrift.

Returning to the question “Has the Russian strangle hold been broken?”

The first Russian home was Grigory Murzin in 21st place.

Apart from Muzhingi (Zimbabwe) and Noto (Lesotho, 9th) the remaining Gold medals fell into South African hands.

In positions 11 to 20, Prodigal Khumalo (Zimbabwe) finished 11th with South Africans filling out the rest.

RESULT

1stStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 29m 01s
2ndLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa5h 35m 29s
3rdBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa5h 37m 49s
4thFanie MatshipaSouth Africa5h 39m 53s
5thFusi NhlapoSouth Africa5h 40m 26s
6thClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa5h 43m 04s
7thPetros SosiboSouth Africa5h 45m 58s
8thPeter MolapoSouth Africa5h 46m 19s
9thLeboka NotoLesotho5h 48m 45s
10thPeter MuthubiSouth Africa5h 49m 10s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stPetros Sosibo (40)South Africa5h 45m 58s
2ndGrigory Murzin (40)Russia5h 59m 08s
3rdElias Mabane (41)South Africa6h 09m 57s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stVladimir Kotov (52)Belarus

5h 51m 38s New Best Time Down

2ndEloi De Oliveira (52)South Africa6h 36m 33s
3rdAubrey Watson (58)South Africa6h 40m 56s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJan Meyer (60)South Africa8h 04m 01s
2ndFreddy Khashiri (63)Zimbabwe8h 04m 59s
3rdRobert Edouard-Betsy (61)South Africa8h 06m 52s

THE WOMENS RACE

While great joy flowed from the result of the Men’s Race, there was little joy for local supporters in the Women’s Race with visitors taking seven of the Gold medals; five of them – including the top three positions – going to Russia. Again it was Farwa Mentoor who led the local challenge; finishing fifth.

Mentoor was indisputably the top South African woman of the decade and, in all probability, the greatest ever. It is unfortunate that her peak – she earned nine Golds from nine starts – arrived during the wrong decade.

The race, as a spectacle was a disappointment, as it appeared that the Nurgalieva twins would, again, have things all their own way. They once again adopted their proven tactic of going to the front from there gun and staying there. At Camperdown, twenty-six kilometers into the race, they already held a four-minute lead over Marina Myshlyanova and that was how it remained the entire way into Durban. When they entered Kingsmead Stadium, the contrived result gave Elena a one-second victory over Olesya, the distance back to Myshlyanova had stretched to thirteen minutes.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia6h 13m 04s
2ndOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 13m 05s
3rdMarina MyshlyanovaRussia6h 26m 03s
4thKami SemickUSA6h 32m 55s
5thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 38m 41s
6thLizzy HawkerEngland6h 39m 43s
7thIrina AntropovaRussia6h 44m 27s
8thLindsay van AswegenSouth Africa6h 46m 52s
9thAdinda KrugerSouth Africa6h 51m 15s
10thAnna PichtovaRussia6h 51m 34s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stMarina Myshlyanova (43)Russia6h 26m 03s
2ndKami Semick (43)USA6h 32m 55s
3rdLindsay van Aswegen (41)South Africa6h 46m 52s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stAngela Sadler (50)England

7h 50m 05s

2ndWendy Fitzmaurice (56)South Africa8h 11m 05s
3rdMarie Wolmarans (51)South Africa8h 12m 43s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJan Phelan (61)South Africa9h 07m 57s
2ndCarrol Cronk (60)South Africa9h 18m 30s
3rdMaria Bernardino (62)Brazil9h 38m 05s

2011 Up (86th Race)

 DateSunday, 29 May
 WeatherMild morning. Warm sunshine, but cooling to cold late afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB3/21
 DBN9/22
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Oval
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance86.940 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.218 km/hr (3m 42s /km)
 Women14.047 km/hr (4m 16s /km)
 Entries19591
 Starters12648
 Finishers – Total11054
 Men8870
 Women2184
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward4
 Silver445
 Bill Rowan1715
 Bronze5250
 Vic Clapham3620
 % Finishers / Starters87.4


THE MENS RACE

Could Stephen Muzhingi become the first man to score a hat trick since Bruce Fordyce in 1983?

From the moment the gun sent the field away from the Durban City Hall, the pace was furious with the customary hotspot hunters to the fore. Wellington Chidodo and Samuel Pazanga were way out in front when they reached the first hotspot in Pinetown. Muzhingi was in the following group in which very few big names went with him. Fanie Matshipa and Butiki Jantjies were there, but the group was already five minutes behind the leading trio. The serious contenders, Bongmusa Mthembu, Fusi Nhlapo and Claude Moshiywa appeared to be playing a waiting game, hanging back at this early stage.

Pazanga left his companion and moved well clear as he accelerated up Field’s Hill. Also running very strongly, and moving ahead of the Muzhingi group was Point Chaza. He caught an exhausted Pazanga going up Botha’s Hill to lead through Drummond in a fast 2h 39m. Next through was Eltas Mabane in 2h 44m 34s with Muzhingi, looking comfortable, following in 2h 46m.

Inchanga is always the catalyst. Whoever comes over the top looking untroubled, is usually thereabouts when the dash for the line commences. When Muzhingi summited the climb, only Matshipa and Lesotho novice, Teboho Sello, where at his side. Chaza, meanwhile had further increased his lead. This was certainly the reason for the sudden injection of pace. Sello soon fell away when the chase commenced and, after more than 3h 30m on the clock, the flying duo hauled in Chaza along Harrison Flats.

Matshipa was moving more freely as they closed in on Pietermaritzburg and looked set to strike at any moment. But it was not to be. Despite his misleadingly uneconomical style, Muzhingi kicked on the climb up Polly Shortts. Matshipa could not respond. Muzhingi went away from him to score a deserved hat trick.

RESULT

1stStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe

5h 32m 46s

2ndFanie MatshipaSouth Africa5h 34m 30s
3rdClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa5h 42m 06s
4thJonas BuudSweden5h 42m 45s
5thGift KeleheSouth Africa5h 44m 00s
6thChasara MasiyatsvaZimbabwe5h 44m 34s
7thLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa5h 50m 18s
8thCharles TjianeSouth Africa5h 50m 47s
9thBrian ZondiSouth Africa5h 51m 09s
10thMncedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 51m 18s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stElias Mabane (42)South Africa6h 00m 50s
2ndButiki Jantjies (40)South Africa6h 05m 55s
3rdRichard Dlamimi (41)South Africa6h 08m 49s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stVladimir Kotov (53)Belarus6h 24m 24s
2ndEloi De Oliveira (53)South Africa6h 39m 25s
3rdStuart McColl (51)South Africa6h 46m 34s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stBernd Juckel (61)Germany7h 23m 10s
2ndKeith Mckay (61)Australia8h 08m 59s
3rdFreddy Khashiri (64)Zimbabwe8h 15m 56s

THE WOMENS RACE

It was the Nurgalieva show again. And again they adopted their standard strategy; going to the front from the gun… and staying there… while the rest raced for the Bronze medal.

The only difference was that this year it would be a lot closer and they would, finally, have to run hard for their victory. They led through the checkpoint at Pinetown with a string of unknown visitors – Kami Semick, from the USA, and Lizzy Hawker and Eleanor Greenwood from England – not too far adrift. They climbed Field’s Hill with ease but passing through Kloof, at the top of the hill, Elena was bowled over by a runner from behind. Rising, with blood streaming from both knees as she did a few years before, she carried on and soon drew level with her sister.

They went through Drummond on record pace in 3h 04m, with Elena 2 strides ahead of Olesya. Hawker followed four minutes later. As it does so often, Inchanga plays a major role in the final standings and going up the hill, the first chinks in the Nurgalieva armour appeared. They were followed closely by Hawker, who was overtaken by Semick, before the summit arrived.

Despite the near record pace to halfway, and perhaps because of it, all prospects of a new record disappeared during the second half of the race. The twins hung on while Semick tried desperately to reduce the distance between them. The lead was, in the end, just too great.

Elena breasted the tape twenty-five seconds ahead of Olesya, while Semick failed by less than two minutes to annex the Silver Medal.

Once again, it was Farwa Mentoor to lead home the local hopes, finishing fifth. Like Gordon Baker in the Mens Race during the 60s and 70s, she is undoubtedly the best ever runner, unfortunatel, destined never to win the world’s greatest ultra.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia6h 24m 11s
2ndOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 24m 36s
3rdKami SemickUSA6h 26m 25s
4thEleanor GreenwoodEngland6h 32m 47s
5thFarwa MentoorSouth Africa6h 35m 50s
6thIrina AntropovaRussia6h 42m 08s
7thLizzy HawkerEngland6h 48m 29s
8thAdinda KrugerSouth Africa6h 49m 02s
9thKerry KoenSouth Africa6h 56m 21s
10thRiana van NiekerkSouth Africa6h 56m 39s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stKami Semick (44)USA6h 26m 25s
2ndMichelle Kellock (40)South Africa7h 27m 28s
3rdLucie Hardiman (40)Australia7h 28m 01s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stSue Harrisberg (51)South Africa

8h 06m 29s

2ndVal Watson (55)South Africa8h 36m 02s
3rdJuliette Savini (53)South Africa8h 36m 25s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stElaine Greenblatt (62)South Africa9h 33m 02s
2ndMaria Bernardino (63)Brazil9h 42m 38s
3rdTina Torpy (66)Australia9h 53m 03s

2012 Down (87th Race)

 DateSunday, 3 June
 WeatherCold at start. Mild to warm with scattered cloud in parts. Cool pleasant breeze early afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/22
 DBN13/24
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.208 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.182 km/hr (3m 42s /km)
 Women14.587 km/hr (4m 07s /km)
 Entries19545
 Starters16613
 Finishers – Total11887
 Men9553
 Women2334
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward21
 Silver617
 Bill Rowan2021
 Bronze5352
 Vic Clapham3856
 % Finishers / Starters71.6


THE MENS RACE

It was expected to be a shoot-out from the moment the first shot was fired at 5:30 that morning. No prisoners were going to be taken; no mercy was anticipated from any of the protagonists. The slightest sign of weakness would be exploited and the vanquished left withering, forlornly on the roadside.

All the elements were in place for an expected classic scrap… Muzhingi vs Shvetsov.

Stephen Muzhingi from Zimbabwe; defending champion… with a hat trick of victories in the previous three years.

Leonid Shvetsov from Russia; back-to-back Up and Down Best Times, in 2007 and 2008, made him the fastest man ever in either direction.

The anticipation was palpable… hanging heavily on the air, it could be felt pressing down on your shoulders. In the distance, a cock was heard crowing… a gunshot echoed across the city… and a huge cheer erupted from the masses that waited patiently for the bloodbath that was imminent.

There were other major players waiting anxiously in the wings in the pre-dawn chill. If the two big guns misfired, they were sure to pounce. The heavy artillery, running alongside Muzhingi and Shvetsov in the early stages, carried names such as Ludwick Mamabolo, Claude Moshiywa, Gift Kelehe, Petros Sosibo, Fusi Nhlapo and Bongmusa Mthembu. That array of talent, as it drifted out of Pietermaritzburg, was capable of turning any expert predictions upside down.

Once out of the city, the lead group, which included all the main contenders, remained in close contact, despite swapping positions within itself, over the first half of the race. Climbing out of Drummond, Mamabolo strode to the front. A few minor challenges were mounted but were easily repulsed. Mthembu gradually worked his way past the Gold Medal contenders, moving into second position on the ascent of Cowie’s Hill. The Best Time for the Down Run was not in danger and Mamabolo, running a tactical, controlled pace, retained a 100-second lead over Mthembu while the rest of the chasers steadily dropped further behind.

RESULT

1stLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa

5h 31m 03s

2ndBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa5h 32m 42s
3rdLeboka NotoLesotho5h 33m 31s
4thMarko MamboZimbabwe5h 33m 40s
5thLeonid ShvetsovRussia5h 35m 20s
6thAdoro LephetesangLesotho5h 38m 05s
7thStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 38m 06s
8thGift KeleheSouth Africa5h 38m 39s
9thClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa5h 39m 11s
10thPetros SosiboSouth Africa5h 40m 37s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLeboko Noto (41)Lesotho5h 33m 31s
2ndMarko Mambo (41)Zimbabwe5h 33m 40s
3rdLeonid Shvetsov (43)Russia5h 35m 20s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stVladimir Kotov (54)Belarus

5h 48m 12s New Best Time Down

2ndShaun Meiklejohn (51)South Africa6h 33m 54s
3rdStuart McColl (52))South Africa6h 47m 05s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stPeter Camenzind (61)Switzerland

6h 52m 08s New Best Time Down

2ndBernd Juckel (62)Germany7h 08m 33s
3rdFreddy Khashiri (64)Zimbabwe7h 38m 33s

THE WOMENS RACE

The foreign juggernaut was expected to continue, with the East Europeans, in the form of the Russian contingent, leading the charge.

When the Gold Medals were, subsequently, allocated a Russian quartet had claimed four of the ten on offer.

The twin threat posed by the Nurgalieva sisters, however, was blunted when Olesya, who had shortly before given birth to a daughter, could not run. Knowledgeable opinion soon speculated that, without her twin sister at hand, Elena might not be the force that she was in recent years.

That theory was blown away almost from the moment the field set off for the coast. Elena went to front, and stayed there, and broke the tape at Kingsmead Stadium with her fastest time for the Down Run. Her 6h 07m 12s secured her 7th victory in the ten years since she ran, and won, as a novice in 2003.

She was, however, pushed to her limit by Eleanor Greenwood, of Great Britain. This was, no doubt, a contributory factor for Nurgalieva’s fast time and, despite a concerted push towards the death, Greenwood failed by little more than three hundred metres to reel in the flying winner.

Such was the pace of the two front-runners; the remaining chasers were never in contention. Perennial Gold Medalist, Marina Zhalybina – who collected her eleventh Gold – trailed in more than 22 minutes behind the runner-up.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia6h 07m 12s
2ndEleanor GreenwoodEngland6h 08m 24s
3rdMarina BychkovaRussia6h 30m 54s
4thJoasia ZakrzewskiScotland6h 33m 41s
5thDevon YankoUSA6h 39m 59s
6thKerry KoenSouth Africa6h 45m 45s
7thIrina AntropovaRussia6h 47m 20s
8thNatalia VolginaRussia6h 51m 07s
9thMelanie van RooyenSouth Africa6h 52m 36s
10thJulanie BassonSouth Africa7h 00m 46s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stEmma Gooderham (41)England7h 01m 00s
2ndMichelle Mee (40)South Africa7h 26m 14s
3rdCarmen Voget (40)South Africa7h 36m 45s

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stKarin Galpin (50)England

8h 09m 25s

2ndVal Watson (56)South Africa8h 16m 28s
3rdJulie Shadwell (50)South Africa8h 20m 56s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stNorah Doherty (63)South Africa10h 02m 23
2ndBarbro Nilsson (63)Sweden10h 14m 24
3rdMaria Bernardino (65)Brazil10h 24m 41
 DateSunday, 2 June
 WeatherMild at start with strong breeze. Very hot later with hot gusting wind the entire day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB15/30
 DBN16/27
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Oval
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance86.863 km

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.692 km/hr (3m 49s /km)
 Women13.460 km/hr (4m 27s /km)
 Entries19907
 Starters18578
 Finishers – Total10232
 Men8271
 Women1961
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward3
 Silver305
 Bill Rowan1374
 Bronze4417
 Vic Clapham4113
 % Finishers / Starters55.1


THE MENS RACE

The heat and wind combined to make running conditions the second most difficult in the 88-year history of the Comrades Marathon. Only in 1965, when the rain bucketed down for the entire day, were the contestants faced with a tougher challenge.

It has certainly been hotter in some years and the wind has blown more forcefully in others, but the combined effects, this year, suppressed anticipated performances at all levels throughout the field.

The major concern facing the echelon of top contenders, however, was not the weather. The real problem was that there were only ten Gold Medals on offer.

There were twelve or thirteen men who were all aspirant claimants to these few precious metal discs.

Justin Chitake, Charles Soza and William Chinyanga had established the lead through Pinetown. They were followed closely by Claude Moshiywa, Ludwick Mamabolo, Marko Mambo and Mike Fokoroni. Not too far adrift of this quartet was Moses Njodzi and David Gatebe. Approaching Hillcrest, it was clear that Chitake had over-extended himself and he surrendered the lead to Gatebe and Njodzi who seemed to be running at a speed that, in the conditions, was unwise. Gatebe submitted before halfway. Njodzi was timed through Drummond in a very fast 2h 40m 02s but he, too, capitulated to the Moshiywa group – which was, itself, also in a state of disintegration – while walking on the climb up Inchanga.

Going over the top, the lead group comprised Moshiywa, Fokoroni, Johannes Kekana and Rufus Photo but, at short intervals, on the roller-coaster section to Cato Ridge, Photo, and then Fokoroni, dropped off the pace, leaving Moshiywa and Kekana to contest the lead to Pietermaritzburg.

The big hills into the city were, however, the final arbiters. Sweden’s Jonas Buud and Lesotho’s Mpesela Ntlosoeu were, meantime storming through the remnants of the early pace-setters. Both hauled in Kekana on Polly Shortts and held on to take the Silver and Bronze Medallions. But Moshiywa was much too far out of reach.

RESULT

1stClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa

5h 32m 09s

2ndJonas BuudSweden5h 41m 21s
3rdMpesela NtlosoeuLesotho5h 43m 38s
4thLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa5h 45m 49s
5thJohannes KekanaSouth Africa5h 46m 27s
6thHenry MoyoMalawi5h 46m 52s
7thJoseph MphuthiSouth Africa5h 48m 00s
8thMike FokoroniZimbabwe5h 50m 11s
9thRufus PhotoSouth Africa5h 51m 52s
10thStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 52m 38s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJohannes Kekana (41)South Africa5h 46m 27s
2ndHenry Moyo (40)Malawi5h 46m 52s
3rdEphraim Xaba (41)South Africa6h 05m 26s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stShaun Meiklejohn (52)South Africa

6h 46m 43s

2ndStuart McColl (53)South Africa6h 57m 53s
3rdEdward Sibanda (54)South Africa7h 22m 19s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stCornet Matomane (61)South Africa

7h 57m 16s

2ndBonolo Mofokeng (61)South Africa8h 34m 28s
3rdFrans Moraba (61)South Africa8h 50m 34s

THE WOMENS RACE

It seemed as if there was no way of stopping it. The Russian steamroller steamed through again. The Nurgalieva twins were back… with a vengeance, despite there being other top performers in 2012 Runner-Up, Eleanor Greenwood, and regular Gold Medalist, Farwa Mentoor, in the line-up. Either was capable of causing an upset and taking line-honours.

The twins set out from the start, seemingly, to break the opposition. They were never in any kind of trouble and led from gun to tape.

Passing through halfway at Drummond, where they held a 9-minute advantage over South African novice, Charne Bosman, it appeared they were aiming at a new record, despite the uncompromising weather.

Over the second half, maybe because of the weather, they slowed considerably; subsequently recording their slowest-ever Comrades times. Fellow Russian, Irina Antropova, came through strongly, at the death, to finish third.

Elena Nurgalieva recorded a fourth successive win and Olesya was runner-up for the third time in the last four years. If it was not for the birth of her child during 2012, it might have been four in a row.

Bosman soldiered on but the distance, ultimately, defeated her and she also experienced the extreme disappointment of losing fourth position at the final moment; being overtaken in the home straight and finished fifth.

RESULT

1stElena NurgalievaRussia6h 27m 09s
2ndOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 28m 07s
3rdIrina AntropovaRussia6h 44m 36s
4thJoasia ZakrzewskiScotland6h 53m 29s
5thCharne BosmanSouth Africa6h 53m 35s
6thMarina BychkovaRussia6h 56m 55s
7thHolly RushEngland7h 04m 21s
8thMelanie van RooyenSouth Africa7h 08m 09s
9thKerry KoenSouth Africa7h 15m 07s
10thJulanie BassonSouth Africa7h 21m 02s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCarien Visser (45)South Africa7h 27m 23s
2ndBelinda Waghorn (40)South Africa7h 28m 38s
3rdUrsula Turck (41)South Africa7h 54m 21s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stJane Mudau (50)South Africa

8h 06m 44s

2ndMari Bruwer (50)South Africa8h 32m 26s
3rdVal Watson (57)South Africa8h 46m 19s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stGloudien Spies (60)South Africa10h 18m 27
2ndPamela Rasmussen (60)South Africa10h 37m 23
3rdPatricia Shaw (60)South Africa10h 38m 03

2014 Down (89th Race)

 DateSunday, 1 June
 WeatherMild cloudless morning. Very hot at midday.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB9/30
 DBN11/30
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.208 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.304 km/hr (3m 41s /km)
 Women14.162 km/hr (4m 14s /km)
 Entries20104
 Starters14693
 Finishers – Total12037
 Men9597
 Women2440
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward13
 Silver494
 Bill Rowan1810
 Bronze5121
 Vic Clapham4579
 % Finishers / Starters81.9


THE MENS RACE

In 1979 and 1980 Bruce Fordyce finished 3rd and 2nd… and we know what happened after that.

In the build-up to race-day someone, or everyone, overlooked the two previous year’s results. Bongmusa Mthembu had ‘done a Fordyce’ in 2012 and 2013 and in the pre-race hype, his name was barely mentioned when ‘those in the know’ made their forecasts. The talk was all about Mike Fokoroni, Ludwick Mamabolo, Prodigal Khumalo and Marko Mambo.

In warm pleasant weather, all the early running was done by two rabbits who were never going to be around when the real race started. They were after the hotspot money and nothing more. They led the main group through halfway at Drummond by 6 minutes.

A massive group of thirty, which included all those who were destined to feature in the cut-and-thrust, two-and-a-half hours later, on the approach to Durban, passed through Drummond in 2h 42m. Within minutes, the rabbits were swallowed up.

Entering Hillcrest, Mambo made his break and his flowing, elegant style indicated that this might be his day. It wasn’t. His hamstring seized on the drop down Field’s Hill… and he never went any further. Rufus Photo went to the front as they exited the hill. He was followed through Pinetown by three-time winner, Stephen Muzhingi, Mamabolo, Gift Kelehe and Mthembu.

With Cowies Hill looming, Mthembu went past those around him and set his sights on Photo. A few strides into the last major climb of the day, Photo went backwards, leaving Mthembu alone out in front; a position from where he consolidated his supremacy and moved further out of reach with every step. Mamabolo and Kelehe moved into the Silver and Bronze Medal slots, but the flying Mthembu was gone; running alone into Kingsmead Stadium, putting gaps of five and six minutes between him and his two chasers.

RESULT

1stBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa

5h 28m 34s

2ndLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa5h 33m 14s
3rdGift KeleheSouth Africa5h 34m 39s
4thStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 35m 18s
5thRufus PhotoSouth Africa5h 35m 30s
6thMnsedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 36m 06s
7thJonas BuudSweden5h 38m 17s
8thMokwalakwala MmanokonSouth Africa5h 39m 29s
9thProdigal KhumaloZimbabwe5h 39m 36s
10thLatudi MakofaneSouth Africa5h 40m 41s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stJonas Buud (40)Sweden5h 38m 17s
2ndLeboko Noto (43)Lesotho5h 54m 51s
3rdBethuel Netshitenzhe (42)South Africa5h 56m 47s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stShaun Meiklejohn (53)South Africa

6h 39m 15s

2ndReform Ndlovu(52)South Africa6h 45m 44s
3rdVladimir Kotov (56)Belarus6h 47m 20s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stPeter Erasmus (61)South Africa

8h 08m 36s

2ndAlmon Zibuse (63)South Africa8h 36m 59s
3rdBuks Swanepoel (61)South Africa8h 38m 10s

THE WOMENS RACE

Was it going to be another one-two for the Russians?

Everyone in the media felt that was the way it would likely pan out when the field closed in on Durban shortly after 12:30 on race-day, although 2012 runner-up, Eleanor Greenwood was given, at best, only a very outside chance.

It certainly appeared to be heading in that direction when the race got under. The Nurgalieva sisters went straight to the front and seemed bent on destroying the rest of the contenders who trailed forlornly in their wake.

They powered through halfway in 3h 3m having put more than four minutes between themselves and Greenwood and fifteen minutes ahead of Charne Bosman, the leading South African.

From that point, it merely became more depressing for the rest of the field as the Nurgalievas drew ever further ahead. So fast were they running, over the short, taxing trip to the crest of Botha’s Hill, the gap to Greenwood stretched to 8m 29s.

As the weather warmed up, so did the action behind the flying leaders. Bosman surrendered in Pinetown, while Zola Budd came into the frame only to falter and allowing Caroline Wostmann to take up the South African challenge.

Perhaps their murderous early pace did the damage because, going through Westville, first Olesya, then Elena, revealed that they were in serious trouble. Walks became frequent… looking over the shoulder… body language that all was not well. Roadside spectators told Greenwood that the twins were in trouble. At Mayville, 7 kilometres from home, Greenwood shifted up a gear into overdrive. Passing through Tollgate, she saw the lead vehicle in the distance.

With just three kilometres to run, Greenwood hit the front.

The Russian juggernaut had, finally, been subdued.

RESULT

1stEleanor GreenwoodEngland6h 18m 15s
2ndElena NurgalievaRussia6h 23m 18s
3rdOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 24m 51s
4thIrina AntropovaRussia6h 34m 08s
5thJo MeekEngland6h 47m 02s
6thCaroline WostmannSouth Africa6h 51m 43s
7thZola PieterseUSA6h 55m 55s
8thFrida SödermarkSweden6h 57m 33
9thJulanie BassonSouth Africa7h 02m 50s
10thSalome CooperSouth Africa7h 06m 03s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stZola Pieterse (48)USA6h 55m 55s
2ndTina Major (40)Australia7h 12m 04s
3rdLesley Austin (40)South Africa7h 15m 55s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stMotlatsi Mohlamonyane (51)South Africa

8h 30m 27s

2ndJane Mudau (51)South Africa8h 33m 26s
3rdRita van Wyk (51)South Africa8h 39m 09s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJacqueline Millett (61)England9h 57m 34s
2ndPatricia Shaw (61)South Africa9h 57m 52s
3rdGloudien Spies (61)South Africa10h 33m 08

2015 Up (90th Race)

 DateSunday, 31 May
 WeatherMild at start. Warming to hot late morning to mid afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/26
 DBN16/26
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueAlexandra Park Oval
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance87.720 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.545 km/hr (3m 52s /km)
 Women14.134 km/hr (4m 15s /km)
 Entries22402
 Starters16517
 Finishers – Total12799
 Men10295
 Women2504
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward
 Silver404
 Bill Rowan1671
 Bronze5441
 Vic Clapham5263
 % Finishers / Starters77.5


THE MENS RACE

There was no clear favourite this year. Any one of a highly talented half-dozen could produce the performance that would take him to line honours.

On a balmy Durban morning, one could have been forgiven for thinking that summer was around the corner… yet it was still a few weeks short of mid-winter.

Soon after the start, a huge group, of nearly a hundred, formed behind the two early leaders, Gilbert Mutandiro and Thobani Chagwe. The speed that these two were running, indicated that they were never in the race proper. They were, in fact, out of contention long before halfway.

The main group, in which former winners Bongmusa Mthembu, Claude Moshiywa, Stephen Muzhingi and Ludwick Mamabolo were prominent, ran through Drummond in 2h 50m.

Inchanga, always a catalyst when the accelerators were depressed, soon initiated the disintegration as the no-hopers fell away and the real contenders emerged at the front. Once over the summit, the serious racing began with eight men left to do battle into Pietermaritzburg. Mthembu, Moshiywa, Muzhingi and Mamabolo were joined by Gift Kelehe, Lebohang Monyele and Hatiwande Nyamande, both from Lesotho, and Ethiopian, Mohammed Husien.

Monyele tried to break away with a few intermittent surges but Husien responded to every attempt and immediately after Camperdown, the Ethiopian became the first North African to lead a Comrades Marathon. A short distance behind, Kelehe made the move that, with nearly 24 kilometers still to run, saw him wrest the lead from Husien and ultimately carry him to a comfortable victory by almost 8 minutes. Husien hung on desperately to his second position, denying the determined drive by Nyamande, getting home 2 minutes ahead of the runner from Lesotho.

RESULT

1stGift KeleheSouth Africa

5h 38m 36s

2ndMohammed HusienEthiopia5h 46m 14s
3rdHatiwande NyamandeZimbabwe5h 48m 19s
4thLebohang MonyeleLesotho5h 52m 32s
5thTebeho SelloLesotho5h 54m 03s
6thJoseph MphuthiSouth Africa5h 54m 29s
7thClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa5h 55m 17s
8thStephen MuzhingiZimbabwe5h 56m 36s
9thThuso MosieaSouth Africa5h 59m 08s
10thVasily LarkinRussia6h 00m 56s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stClaude Moshiywa (40)South Africa5h 55m 17s
2ndJohannes Kekana (43)South Africa6h 24m 04s
3rdJudas Ntuli (44)South Africa6h 28m 53s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stShaun Meikljohn (54)South Africa

6h 39m 56s

2ndStuart McColl (55)South Africa6h 45m 19s
3rdLazarus Seroka (50)South Africa6h 48m 28s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stFrancis Mukuka (60)Zambia

7h 49m 14s

2ndNicholas Dlamini (60)South Africa8h 14m 23s
3rdAlmon Zibuse (64)South Africa8h 18m 46s

THE WOMENS RACE

Seventeen years is a long time.

Who can remember Rae Bischoff when she won the 1998 Up Run, ironically, from two Russian women who were both in the vanguard of the foreign invasion that was to include four Russians, two Germans and a lone Brit for all of that seventeen-year drought in which South Africa yearned for a home victory.

The Nurgalieva twins were among the starters that filed out of Durban. So was a university lecturer, a 32-year-old mother of two who was only able to run and train for the Comrades outside of working hours and home duties. Caroline Wostmann had, in the past few years, crept almost unnoticed into the reckoning. Was she the catalyst destined to wrench the title away from the invaders?

As the huge field plunged into the pre-dawn gloom, after passing under start banner, the next six hours would reveal the answer.

Adopting their proven success strategy, the Nurgalievas attacked immediately. Surprisingly, so did former Gold Medallist, Yolande Maclean, who held a short lead, after 16 kilometres, at the crest of Cowies Hill, but surrendered it soon after . Wostmann, running unhurried, trailed by fifty-one seconds as she commenced the drop into Pinetown. Running steadily, she caught, and overtook the Nurgalievas on the ascent of Botha’s Hill where she immediately lost it when she stopped to walk. After a few strides, she commenced running again and stormed passed them and built a lead of 1m 37s through the midpoint at Drummond.

Across the exposed hilltops to Pietermaritzburg, Wostmann simply ran away from the field while the Nurgalieva twins fell away, losing their position to Charne Bosman who came through to finish 21 minutes behind Wostmann.

The course, this year, was nearly 900 metres longer than that of previous Up Runs; the result of road works in central Pinetown

Wostmann pursued this walk-run strategy a few more times during the morning. It was, doubtless, a pre-planned tactic. She finished less than three minutes adrift of the Best Time for the Up Run. One wonders, if it was not for the extra distance and… if she had run the entire way… what time she would have recorded.

RESULT

1stCaroline WostmannSouth Africa6h 12m 22s
2ndCharne BosmanSouth Africa6h 33m 24s
3rdElena NurgalievaRussia6h 40m 36s
4thOlesya NurgalievaRussia6h 41m 18s
5thNina PodnebesnovaRussia6h 41m 48s
6thEleanor GreenwoodEngland6h 44m 03s
7thEmmerentia RautenbachSouth Africa6h 45m 22s
8thJoasia ZakrzewskiScotland7h 00m 45s
9thSimona StaicuHungary7h 01m 14s
10thYolande MacleanSouth Africa7h 01m 49s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stSimona Staicu (44)Hungary7h 01m 14s
2ndLesley Austin (41)South Africa7h 09m 08s
3rdAdele Waldron (41)South Africa7h 37m 19s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLelanie van Zyl (50)South Africa

8h 19m 18s

2ndJane Mudau (52)South Africa8h 33m 19s
3rdVal Watson (59)South Africa8h 35m 57s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stNancy Will (62)South Africa

8h 53m 31s New Best Time Up

2ndLinda Icely (63)South Africa10h 33m 19
3rdIrmgard Uhlig (62)Germany10h 33m 35

2016 Down (91st Race)

 DateSunday, 29 May
 WeatherCool at start. Mild to warm sunshine throughout the day.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB6/27
 DBN12/25
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueKingsmead Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance89.208 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.830 km/hr (3m 34s /km)
 Women13.882 km/hr (4m 19s /km)
 Entries21569
 Starters16807
 Finishers – Total14433
 Men11474
 Women2959
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward16
 Silver607
 Bill Rowan2248
 Bronze6415
 Vic Clapham5127
 % Finishers / Starters85.8


THE MENS RACE

With the finish still 44 kilometres away, one aspect of the race was certain. It was not who would be handed the Mayoral Baton, as the race leader, upon entering Kingsmead Stadium. The vexing question was ‘would the Down Record be broken?’

In the end, the record was not broken… it was destroyed… shattered… trashed.

David Gatebe lowered the previous best, set by Russian, Leonid Shvetsov, by 2m 22s; an inordinate result in an age when records are broken by fractions of a second and, in doing so, he set the bar at a level that may prove to be many years ahead of the next generation of aspirant winners.

Once the city had been left behind, a large group, in which all the big names were present, had already assembled in the vanguard, for the dash across the rollercoaster section between the top of Polly Shortts, through Camperdown and Cato Ridge to the crest of Inchanga. The lead had been changing by the minute as the relentless pace continued down the hill to the halfway mark at Drummond. With three previous winners, Ludwick Mamabolo, Bongmusa Mthembu and Claude Moshiywa just strides behind the leader, Bernard Dandadzi, in the lead group through the midpoint, the only certainty was that anyone could win.

Gatebe ran, almost unnoticed, outside the top fifty as Inchanga loomed, but as he went over the top, he pressed the accelerator and went through the checkpoint in seventh position; 1m 45s adrift of the leader. Within two kilometers, he had moved into the lead and from that moment, the race was over. Such was his dominance, as he ran further away from his chief rivals with every stride, the ‘real race’ turned into the fight for the Silver Medal.

Spectators, at the finish in Durban, sat mesmerised in front of the big screen. Striding unchallenged through Hillcrest, the question at the finish was still ‘will he break the record?’ That question changed as Gatebe exited Field’s Hill and ran into Pinetown. It was now ‘by how much will he beat it?’

In little more than an hour, the question was answered. The record was ripped apart; a performance that, in the years ahead, is likely to be recognised as one of the great Comrades performances.

The fight for second place was a bitter struggle that remained unresolved until the final run into the city when Mamabolo broke away, finishing a shade more than two minutes ahead of Mthembu.

RESULT

1stDavid Gatebe *South Africa

5h 18m 19s New Best Time Down

2ndLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa5h 24m 05s
3rdBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa5h 26m 39s
4thMike FokoroniZimbabwe5h 35m 09s
5thRufus PhotoSouth Africa5h 35m 40s
6thClaude MoshiywaSouth Africa5h 36m 25s
7thSiphiwe NdlelaSouth Africa5h 36m 56s
8thMax KingUSA5h 37m 27s
9thCharles TijaneSouth Africa5h 37m 40s
10thMncedisi MkhizeSouth Africa5h 38m 34s

* First Sub-5:20 Down Run

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stClaude Moshiywa (41)South Africa5h 36m 25s
2ndCharles Tjiane (41)South Africa5h 37m 40s
3rdMarko Mambo (44)Zimbabwe5h 45m 08s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stLazarus Seroka (51)South Africa6h 42m 47s
2ndShaun Meiklejohn (55)South Africa6h 43m 29s
3rdPienas Magashule (53)South Africa6h 58m 33s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stJohan Nel (62)South Africa8h 07m 41s
2ndShalom Levi (61)Israel8h 18m 21s
3rdAlmon Zibuse (65)South Africa8h 25m 21s

THE WOMENS RACE

There could only be one possible winner.

Caroline Wostmann’s near Up Record in 2015, on a course nearly 900 metres longer than the normal race route – the result of road construction work in Pinetown – and her back-to-back victories in the Two Oceans, made her one of the hottest favourites in a decade.

Despite the unquestioned, and proven, class of those she would be up against – women like Colleen de Reuck and Charne Bosman, the 2015 runner-up – the cognoscenti were adamant; Wostmann had to fail, rather than another having to run way above their known ability, to beat her.

Unlike the men’s race, where the traditional strategy is, for the fancied runners, to hang back and then attack from behind over the closing miles; the women’s race usually sees the leading contenders showing prominently in front, from the outset.

Once the scramble after the start thinned out, Wostmann, always an aggressive front-runner, led the procession out of Pietermaritzburg with Bosman trailing in an ever-lengthening second place. Wostmann’s overwhelming dominance reflected by a lead of 4m 11s, over Bosman, through halfway at Drummond, led spectators at the finish to believe that the winner was already known. This belief was further strengthened when her lead at Pinetown – 20 kilometres from Kingsmead – had stretched to 11m 26s. No one could possibly whittle away more than 30 seconds per kilometer, on the run-in, to cause a major upset; not with a smiling Wostmann flowing so freely.

Cowies Hill, the last major obstacle, loomed and, in the blink of an eye, the complexion of the race changed.

Wostmann was walking up the hill… cramp… the distance-runners number one enemy. She was in trouble, walking and jogging in a painful effort to keep moving. Bosman, on the other hand, was closing, although at Sherwood, a mere 7 kilometres from the finish, she trailed by 8m 23s, a margin that many maintained was still safe for the struggling leader.

Then disaster struck for Wostmann. On the approach to the city centre, in an altercation with a motorcycle-mounted traffic officer, she was knocked to the ground. She struggled to her feet and, on wobbly legs, continued towards Kingsmead.

A few hundred metres further on, Bosman, now in full flight, cruised past. At the finish, Wostmann revealed what a true champion she is. Admitting that the motorcycle incident was a setback, she acknowledged that, although she was still in the lead at the time, she was already beaten and that the mishap had no effect on the final finishing order.

Bosman ran, triumphantly, onto the Kingsmead turf; a clear winner in 6h 25m 55s, slightly less than five minutes ahead of Wostmann.

In the closing stages, away from the television cameras, and oblivious of the drama ahead, Swede, Kajsa Berg, and American, Sarah Bard, contested the Bronze Medal with Berg succeeding by 3m 31s.

RESULT

1stCharne BosmanSouth Africa6h 25m 55s
2ndCaroline WostmannSouth Africa6h 30m 44s
3rdKajsa BergSweden6h 39m 04s
4thSarah BardUSA6h 42m 35s
5thYolande MacleanSouth Africa6h 43m 24s
6thKerry-Ann MarshallSouth Africa6h 48m 51s
7thColleen De ReuckSouth Africa6h 50m 21s
8thFikile MbuthumaSouth Africa6h 56m 32s
9thJulanie BassonSouth Africa6h 58m 10s
10thSalome CooperSouth Africa7h 01m 02s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCharne Bosman (40)South Africa6h 25m 55s
2ndJulanie Basson (41)South Africa6h 58m 10s
3rdSalome Cooper (40)South Africa7h 01m 02s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stColleen De Reuck (52)South Africa

6h 50m 21s

New Best Time Down

2ndRicarda Bethke (52)Germany8h 13m 02s
3rdTia Jones (50)Australia8h 14m 21s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stVal Watson (60)South Africa8h 38m 13s
2ndBlanche Moila (60)South Africa9h 12m 25s
3rdNancy Will (63)South Africa9h 31m 00s

2017 Up (92nd Race)

 DateSunday, 4 June
 WeatherMild at start. Warm sunny day with light cloud in parts.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/23
 DBN11/27
 Start Venue/TimeDurban City Hall, West Street / 5:30
 Finish VenueScottsville Racecourse
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance86.730 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men15.509 km/hr (3m 52s /km)
 Women13.428 km/hr (4m 28s /km)
 Entries21494
 Starters17031
 Finishers – Total13851
 Men11151
 Women2700
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward8
 Silver433
 Bill Rowan1922
 Bronze6236
 Vic Clapham5232
 % Finishers / Starters81.3


THE MENS RACE

In the modern era, predicting the winner of the Comrades Marathon is more difficult than selecting the first six numbers to be drawn from the drum in the national lottery. The galaxy of potential winners that assemble on the start line every year, makes a mockery of pre-race predictions.

The stampede out of Durban provided adequate confirmation that any runner could emerge as the one to beat on the day. This was further confirmed by an apparent shift in tactics, particularly among the ‘big’ names. In past years, the TV runners were permitted to go ahead and, ultimately, be swallowed up as the race progressed. That strategy no longer seems to be in vogue. The ‘big’ names prefer to remain in closer contact with the early pacesetters.

First through Pinetown, as the mass of runners swept off the foot of Cowie’s Hill, was Charles Dibate and Mosongo Mokoatsi, together in 1h 12m 25s, with Charles Segalo next in 1h 12m 58s. Following the three leaders, in 1h 13m 15s, was a group of 25, in which all the fancied runners were interspersed. Prominent among them, were former winners Stephen Muzhingi, David Gatebe, Bongmusa Mthembu, Gift Kelehe and Ludwick Mamabolo. With less than a quarter of the distance completed, an epic battle was developing.

Field’s Hill was taken with comparative ease. Dibate still held a slender lead as he went through Winston Park in 1h 57m 11s. Segalo and Marko Mambo were next in 1h 57m 54s, but right on their heels, trailing by 2 seconds was a pack of 12 chasers who, themselves, were covered by only 2 seconds.

Across the hills to the halfway point at Drummond, Segalo found the pace too hot and drifted out of contention, leaving Mambo alone in 2nd place, while Timothy Munzhelele was making a determined surge near the top of the field. The lead positions at Drummond were Dibate (2h 47m 29s), Mambo (2h 49m 07s) and Munzhelele (2h 49m 14s). A mere second behind, in joint 4th position, were all the main contenders, who were destined to contest the major medals, including Mthembu, Nyamande, Mike Fokoroni, Muzhingi, Kalehe and Gatebe.

Gatebe raised the bar, considerably, going up Inchanga and, when the field checked in at Cato Ridge, he had moved into 2nd place (3h 43m 27s) behind a fading Dibate (3h 40m 48s), who still clung, tenaciously, to a diminishing lead. Five metres adrift, in joint 3rd place, the big names were positioning themselves for the final shoot-out. Muzhingi, Nymande, Kelehe and Mamabolo were all, strategically, placed to strike. This group swept past Gatebe and Dibate on the approach to Umlaas Road where the order was Mthembu and Kelehe running side by side (4h 21m 36s), Nyamande (4h 21m 37s) and Mamabolo (4h 22m 09s).

With two major hills looming, and little more than seconds separating the first four, the outcome was in the balance.

Crossing the Mpusheni Stream, Mthembu struck. On Ashburton Hill, the group stretched into a single line as the chasers endeavoured to match Mthembu’s injection of pace and, when the crest of Polly Shortt’s was reached, the finishing order had been settled. Mthembu went over Polly’s in 5h 07m 32s. He was followed by Nyamande (5h 08m 44s) and Kelehe (5h 10m 13s).

The flying Mthembu increased his lead over final few kilometers and entered the finish arena, at the Scottsville Racecourse, to record his second victory.

RESULT

1stBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa

5h 35m 34s

2ndHatiwande NyamandeZimbabwe5h 38m 48s
3rdGift KeleheSouth Africa5h 41m 48s
4thLudwick MamaboloSouth Africa5h 42m 40s
5thCharles TijaneSouth Africa5h 45m 26s
6thSiphiwe NdlelaSouth Africa5h 45m 57s
7thTeboho SelloLesotho5h 47m 02s
8thProdigal KhumaloZimbabwe5h 47m 11s
9thSteven WayEngland5h 49m 40s
10thFritjof FagerlundSweden5h 49m 54s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stLudwick Mamabolo (40)South Africa5h 42m 40s
2ndCharles Tjiane (42)South Africa5h 45m 26s
3rdSteven Way (42)England5h 49m 40s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stReginald Ngobese (51)South Africa6h 46m 07s
2ndGeorge Mooi (51)South Africa7h 00m 25s
3rdRonald Shibirib (51)South Africa7h 01m 39s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stDavid von Senden (61)Australia7h 52m 11s
2ndJosiah Makoro (50)South Africa7h 58m 14s
3rdErrol Shear (61)South Africa8h 07m 32s

THE WOMENS RACE

With South African women victorious in the previous two Comrades Marathons (Caroline Wostmann – 2015 Up – and Charne Bosman – 2016 Down), sentiment was growing that the foreign stranglehold, over the previous 10 to 12 years, was over.

Local hopes, naturally, rested heavily on the shoulders of Wostmann and Bosman. With no acknowledged top performers from abroad in the line-up, another local victory was anticipated. The announcement by Wostmann, shortly before race day, that an injury prevented her from defending her Up title, left Bosman as the outright favourite.

First to show, as the field passed through Pinetown, was Camille Herron (USA) in (1h 18m 24s). She had built a reasonable lead over Jasmin Nunige (Switzerland – 1h 22m 51s). The rest of the top ten positions were Bosman (1h 23m 20s), Sarah Bard (USA) and Coleen De Reuck together (1h 23m 22s), Danette Smith (1h 23m 24s), Alexandra Morozova (Russia – 1h 23m 25s), Stephanie Smith (1h 23m 49s), Devon Yanko (USA – 1h 25m 11s) and Gerda Steyn (1h 25m 42s).

Herron ran untroubled up Field’s Hill and reached Winston Park in (2h 07m 55s), increasing her lead to nearly 7 minutes from Bosman (2h 14m 38s), who had moved into 2nd place. Nunige (2h 14m 42s) was lying 3rd with Morozova (2h 14m 54s) in 4th place. De Reuck followed a few seconds later in 2h 15m 07s.

Herron maintained her 7-minute buffer, over the hilly section, to Drummond and led through the Valley of a Thousand Hills in 3h 07m 23s. Nunige (3h 14m 32s) had reclaimed 2nd place, with Morozova 3rd in 3h 14m 38s. Bosman (3h 14m 57s) and De Reuck (3h 16m 25s) were next through the checkpoint.

On the climb up Inchanga, and across the hills to Cato Ridge, Morozova put in a storming run. At Cato Ridge, she had moved into 2nd position. The order at the Subway was Herron (4h 10m 11s), Morozova (4h 16m 55s), Nunige (4h 18m 26s), Bosman (4h 18m 35s) and De Reuck (4h 23m 27s).

As Umlaas Road approached, Herron’s lead over Morozova was 6 minutes. Bosman was back in 3rd place, a further 3 minutes in arrears. Steyn, who had run conservatively from the start, through Pinetown and over Inchanga, had shifted up a gear and overhauled many ahead of her, came past in 4th place.

The big test now lay ahead; Ashburton and Polly Shortt’s Hills in quick succession. On these two monster obstacles, Herron maintained her pace, but Morozova was closing in. When she went over the top of Polly’s, she was less than 5 minutes behind Herron, who was timed at the top of the hill in 5h 54m 00s. Bosman was 3rd in 6h 05m 34s.

With the finish drawing ever closer, it was clear that Morozova’s gallant dash would not succeed. The distance to Herron was just too great.

Herron crossed the line at the Scottsville Racecourse, a worthy victrix, in 6h 27m 35s. She was followed by Morozova, Bosman and Steyn.

RESULT

1stCamille HerronUSA6h 27m 35s
2ndAlexandra MorozovaRussia6h 31m 45s
3rdCharne BosmanSouth Africa6h 39m 51s
4thGerda SteynSouth Africa6h 45m 45s
5thJasmine NunigeSwitzerland6h 46m 21s
6thSarah BardUSA6h 49m 30s
7thColleen De ReuckSouth Africa6h 55m 36s
8thDinette SmithSouth Africa6h 58m 38s
9thStephanie SmithSouth Africa7h 00m 30s
10thDevon YankoUSA7h 05m 55s

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

1stCharne Bosman (41)South Africa6h 39m 51s
2ndJasmine Nunige (43)Switzerland6h 46m 21s
3rdSalome Cooper (41)South Africa7h 22m 30s


MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

1stColleen De Reuck (53)South Africa

6h 55m 36s

New Best Time Up

2ndTia Jones (51)Australia7h 56m 57s
3rdJane Mudau (54)South Africa8h 33m 51s

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

1stVal Watson (61)South Africa9h 24m 15s
2ndLynne Semple (60)South Africa9h 53m 08s
3rdBlanche Moila (61)South Africa9h 58m 24s

2018 Down (93rd Race)

 DateSunday, 10 June
 WeatherCold at start. Bright early morning sunshine, warming to mild, becoming overcast at midday. Muted sunshine late afternoon.

 Temperature – Min/ Max:

 
 PMB8/21
 DBN15/23
 Start Venue/TimePietermaritzburg City Hall / 5:30
 Finish VenueMoses Mabhida Stadium
 Time Limit12 Hours
 Official Distance90.184 kms

 Winner’s Average Speed:

 
 Men16.571 km/hr (3m 37s /km)
 Women14.623 km/hr (4m 06s /km)
 Entries21272
 Starters19047
 Finishers – Total16482
 Men13110
 Women3372
 Medals – Gold20
 Wally Hayward10
 Silver588
 Bill Rowan2495
 Bronze7453
 Vic Clapham5916
 % Finishers / Starters86.5


THE MENS RACE

“It’s a two-horse race” opined the cognoscenti. “Gatebe or Mthembu? It has to be one of that pair. No one else is in with a realistic chance.”

Can Gatebe reproduce his fabulous 2016 Down Run best time performance? Can defending 2017 champion, Mthembu join the elite ranks of those with a third victory? Those were the vexing questions that were about to be resolved.

Race strategy appears to be undergoing a major change from the accepted tactics of the Eighties and Nineties when the ‘big names’ were content to sit back and watch the race develop before striking decisively for the final onslaught.

The only similarity with those bygone times is that the huge stampede out of the starting city, by the no-hopers, continues. However, the charge from the start now contains a new element. The ‘big names’ don’t allow the early pacemakers get too far ahead; they now go with them.

When the huge field of 19000 stormed out of Pietermaritzburg, the lead group was unable to break free from the top contenders. On the surge down Polly Shortt’s, a sole runner, Khoarahlane Seutoali from Lesotho, slowly edged away from the packed field and held a slender advantage at the first checkpoint at the Lion Park turn-off; sixteen kilometres from the start.

He passed the checkpoint in 57m 29s; a mere 15 seconds ahead of the avalanche that followed in 57m 44s. In the next 16 seconds, 43 runners stormed through. The chasing group included nine runners who would emerge as Gold Medallists a little more than four-and-a-half hours later. The soul Gold Medallist not in the lead batch was Teboho Sello who trailed by 66 seconds.

The fourteen-kilometre stretch to Cato Ridge developed into a wait-and-see exercise for the real contenders, while a few unknown runners made their presence known. Richard Mavuso led the field through the Cato Ridge subway in 1h 50m 13s. Then followed Thandokwakhe Ngcobo and Zimbabwean, Marko Mambo in 1h 50m 33s. They were followed by a small group comprising Calvin Matekola, Bongmusa Mthembu, Philan Nkomo and Charles Tjiane (all 1h 50m 34s) with Graham Malinga (1h 50m 35s), Joseph Mphuthi (1h 50m 36s) and Edward Mothibi (1h 50m 37s) closing out a congested first ten.

Mavuso hung on gamely across the hills to the midpoint at Drummond passing the checkpoint in 2h 41m 27s with slim lead of 23 seconds over Mike Fokoroni (2h 41m 50s) who had moved into contention on the drop into the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Close behind, in a procession with runners just strides apart, came Mambo and Mothibi (2h 41m 51s), Mphuthi, David Gatebe and Ethiopian, Kabede Dinke together (2h 41m 52s), Mthembu (2h 41m 53s), Sello (2h 41m 54s) and Gordon Lasetedi (2h 41m 55s). Many other perennial top performers had assembled within strides of the lead group. The closely-packed, congested field promised a thrilling second-half dash into Durban.

On the climb to Alveston, it became clear that Mavuso’s challenge was over. As he faded, the chasing pack swarmed past and as the Winston Park checkpoint approached, it became clear that the ‘big guns’ had positioned themselves for the final gambit. The heavy artillery was about to be unleashed.

Going through Winston Park in 3h 31m 07s, Mambo, looking impressive, had moved into a tenuous lead. He was followed by the quartet Mthembu, Mphuthi, Mothibi and Gatebe (all 3h 32m 10s) with Sello and Dinke a stride back in 3h 32m 11s. Lesetedi (3h 32m 20s), the improving Gift Kelehe (3h 32m 23s) and Fokoroni (3h 32m 53s), drifting back, completed the first ten.

The shoot-out commenced, as it often has in the past, on the monster drop down Field’s Hill, on the approaches to Pinetown. The first to be greeted by the massive crowd in Pinetown was the threesome of Gatebe, Mthembu and Mothibi. They passed the Crompton Street intersection together in 4h 09m 50s. Next came Mambo (4h 10m 11s), Mphuthi (4h 10m 20s), Sello (4h 12m 35s) and Lesetedi (4h 13m 14s). The Englishman, Steven Way (4h 14m 58s) made a definitive move down Field’s; entering the Gold Medal brigade. He was followed by Kelehe (4h 15m 37s) and a game Fokoroni (4h 15m 57s) who was clearly struggling to remain in the top ten. Just outside the Gold Medal positions, Nkosinathi Duma, moving effortlessly, was next through in 4h 18m 46s.

As the Armada sailed into Durban, past the Mayville checkpoint, with a shade over 30 minutes running ahead of them, all the final Gold Medallists had assembled themselves in the top ten places. All ten were clearly ‘on the move’ and heading the charge through Mayville was a fired-up Mthembu in 4h 53m 32s, followed by Mothibi (4h 58m 13s), Mphuthi (4h 59m 26s), Mambo (5h 00m 39s), the flying Way (5h 01m 50s), Gatebe (5h 02m 38s), Lesetedi (5h 03m 00s), Sello (5h 05m 11s), Kelehe (5h 08m 32s) and Duma (5h 08m 38s). Leading the pack, en route to the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Mthembu showed his class as a true champion. With just 8 kilometres remaining, a mammoth effort would be required by his chasers to reel him in.

The rapturous applause he encountered along the final few hundred metres, to Moses Mabhida Stadium, erupted into a continuous roll of thunder as he entered the new finish arena to complete a superb performance for his third victory.

RESULT

Current Best Time : 5h 18m 19s

David Gatebe – 2016

1stBongmusa MthembuSouth Africa

5h 26m 34s

2ndJoseph MphuthiSouth Africa5h 35m 09s
3rdSteven WayEngland5h 35m 27s
4thEdward MothibiSouth Africa5h 36m 32s
5thMarko MamboZimbabwe5h 37m 49s
6thGordon LesetediSouth Africa5h 39m 32s
7thTeboho SelloLesotho5h 42m 21s
8thDavid GatebeSouth Africa5h 42m 43s
9thGift KeleheSouth Africa5h 46m 50s
10thNkosinathi DumaSouth Africa5h 47m 09s

 

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

Current Best Time : 5h 27m 22s

Vladimir Kotov (Berlarus) – 2001

1stJoseph Mphuthi (41)South Africa

5h 35m 09s

2ndSteven Way (43)England5h 35m 27s
3rdMarko Mambo (46)Zimbabwe5h 37m 49s

 

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

Current Best Time : 5h 48m 12s

Vladimir Kotov (Belarus) – 2012

1stRonald Shibiri (52)South Africa

6h 33m 42s

2ndSolomon Khumalo (52)South Africa6h 39m 41s
3rdGeorge Mooi (51)South Africa6h 41m 26s

 

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

Current Best Time : 6h 52m 08s

Peter Camenzind (Switzerland) – 2012

1stDavid Von Senden (62)Australia

7h 37m 40s

2ndErrol Shear (61)South Africa7h 37m 56s
3rdFrancis Mukuka (63)Zambia7h 57m 24s

 

GUNGA DIN TROPHY

Current Team Best Time : 22h 19m 29s

Liberty Nike Athletic Club – 2003

First Mens TeamTotal Time
Nedbank Running Club GN24h 36m 29s
Edward Mothibi5h 36m 32s
Professa Mthethwa5h 57m 11s
Sam Munyai6h 09m 17s
Lovers Hlatshwayo6h 53m 29s

 

ARTHUR NEWTON MEMORIAL TROPHY
Second Mens TeamTotal Time
Nedbank Running Club KZN26h 11m 50s
Thanda Mthembu6h 26m 08s
Nkosinathi Mthalane6h 26m 08s
Xolani Bunge6h 32m 01s
Albert Phungula6h 47m 33s

 

VIC CLAPHAM MEMORIAL TROPHY

Current Team Best Time : 25h 27m 48s

Rand Athletic Club – 1986

First Veteran Mens TeamTotal Time
Nedbank Running Club KZN27h 43m 17s
Richard Dlamini6h 30m 26s
Zenzele Ngwazi6h 38m 21s
Nicholas Gumede7h 14m 25s
Sipho Majola7h 20m 05s

 

NO TROPHY
First Elite Mens TeamTotal Time
Entsika Athletics Club CG23h 18m 15s
Gordon Lesetedi5h 39m 32s
David Gatebe5h 42m 43s
Gift Kelehe5h 46m 50s
Siya Mqambeli6h 09m 10s

 

HARDY BALLINGTON TROPHY

Current Best Time : 5h 26m 29s

Leonid Shvetsov (Russia) – 2001

First Novice – MenTime
Edward Mothibi5h 36m 32s

 

SOUTH AFRICAN LEGION TROPHY

Current Best Time : 5h 27m 22s

Vladimir Kotov (Belarus) – 2001

First Veteran ManTime
Joseph Mphuthi5h 35m 09s

 

PREMIER’S TROPHY

Current Best Time : 5h 26m 39s

Bongmusa Mthembu – 2016

First KZN ManTime
Bongmusa Mthembu

5h 26m 34s

New Best Time Down


THE WOMENS RACE

Disappointment ruled in the days leading up to race day.

In the middle of May, former winner, Caroline Wostmann, announced that a persistent injury was not responding to treatment and that, reluctantly, she could not risk running.

Then, a week before race day, defending champion, 2017 winner, Camille Heron of the USA, advised that an injury forced her to withdraw from the race.

This news threw the race wide open. It certainly offered opportunities to Alexandra Morozova of Russia and local hope, Charne Bosman, second and third respectively in 2017, to claim the laurels. Gerda Steyn, fourth in 2017, was regarded as having an outside chance.

The competitiveness of the women’s race was clearly gaining momentum and race strategy was changing. In past years, the main contenders were markedly superior, with the result that positions were established early on and very few changes occurred during the remainder of the race.

That changed dramatically this year. The race developed along lines similar to the strategies of the men’s race with the potential Gold Medallists remaining in close contention, early on, and keeping a watchful eye on moves by their major opponents.

Charne Bosman, led the charge out of Pietermaritzburg, but she was never allowed to venture too far ahead. She reached the Lion Park turn-off in 1h 05m 13s; a lead of a minute over Gerda Steyn (1h 06m 22s), with the Russian, Alexandra Morozova next (1h 06m 32s). Following the leading three were Nina Zarina of Russia (1h 06m 33s), Tanith Maxwell (1h 06m 52s), Ann Ashworth (1h 07m 03s), Carla Molinaro of England (1h 07m 57s), American, Sarah Bard (1h 08m 16s), Tendaye Tibane (1h 08m 32s) with Monica Kativhu of Zimbabwe (1h 08m 33s) in tenth position.

The unknown Zarina drew level with Bosman a kilometre before Cato Ridge, passing through the village together in 2h 07m 16s. Morozova (2h 07m 17s) and Steyn (2h 07m 18s) were next through. Mere metres separated the leading quartet, Then, in close order were Ashworth (2h 08m 22s) and Maxwell (2h 08m 24s). The first ten were closed with Molinaro (2h 10m 50s), Bard (2h 12m 23s), Yoland McLean (2h 14m 03s) and Devon Yanko of the USA (2h 14m 29s).

Shortly after Cato Ridge, Zarina revealed her intentions with a determined surge and led the field into Drummond at the halfway mark, arriving in 3h 05m 59s. Bosman appeared uncomfortable as she approached the midpoint with Morozova (3h 06m 12s), Steyn (3h 06m 25s) and Ashworth (3h 06m 33s) going through Drummond ahead of her. Bosman was clocked at (3h 06m 41s), with Maxwell (3h 06m 42s) on her heels. The trip between Cato Ridge and Drummond appeared to have troubled most of the pursuers. An appreciable gap had opened before the next group arrived. Next through were Molinaro (3h 13m 12s), Bard (3h 14m 42s), Yanko (3h 16m 11s) and Sophia Sundberg, from Sweden (3h 16m 45s).

With the race now moving into the critical second half, the main contenders were maneuvering themselves into strategic strike mode, while the pretender’s first signs of weakness were surfacing. Over the difficult hilly section to Winston Park, Zarina lost ground as the pace picked up. Ashworth made a surprise early attack and reached the checkpoint in 4h 01m 25s with Steyn and Morozova passing together in 4h 02m 07s. Bosman was holding on in 4th place in 4h 04m 53s with Maxwell five metres adrift in 4h 04m 55s. Zarina, struggling, had fallen back to 6th position, passing by in 4h 08m 52s, but her race was clearly over. She would soon fade away to eventually finish in 22nd place. Chasing Zarina through Winston Park, at regular intervals, came Molinaro (4h 16m 03s), Bard (4h 17m 17s), the improving Sundberg (4h 18m 15s), Yanko (4h 20m 13s) and McLean (4h 20m 20s).

Dropping down Field’s Hill, Morozova trod on the accelerator, drew away from Steyn and, as she came off the bottom of the hill heading into Pinetown, went ahead of Ashworth.

The order at the Crompton Street checkpoint was

1st Morozova 4h 45m 39s

2nd Ashworth 4h 45m 41s

3rd Steyn 4h 46m 31s

4th Maxwell 4h 49m 39s

5th Bosman 4h 53m 08s

6th Zarina 5h 05m 56s

7th Sundberg 5h 05m 58s

8th Molinaro 5h 06m 30s

9th Bard 5h 07m 55s

10th Yanko 5h 09m 43s

Unnoticed at this late stage, Salome Cooper was running a stormer; slicing through those ahead of her as Durban appeared on the distant horizon. Entering the city, Ashworth moved into top gear and put 3 minutes between herself and Steyn by the time she reached Mayville in 5h 35m 11s. Steyn was next in 3h 38m 03s. Morozova was holding steady in 3rd place in 3h 39m 47s. Then followed Maxwell (5h 42m 30s), Bosman (5h 51m 47s), Sundberg (6h 04m 15s), Molinaro (6h 07m 11s), Yanko (6h 07m 25s), Bard (6h 08m 21s) with Cooper, making her first appearance among the Gold Medallists, in 6h 10m 13s.

Over the final 8 kilometres there was no stopping Ashworth. She stormed away from her pursuers, entering the finish in 6h 10m 04s, three-and-a-half minutes ahead of Steyn. Cooper’s valiant late effort, however, cost her dearly as she was overtaken by McLean three kilometres from the finish.

RESULT

Current Best Time : 5h 54m 43s

Frith van der Merwe – 1989

1stAnn AshworthSouth Africa

6h 10m 04s

2ndGerda SteynSouth Africa6h 15m 34s
3rdAlexandra MorozovaRussia6h 20m 21s
4thTanith MaxwellSouth Africa6h 20m 35s
5thCharne BosmanSouth Africa6h 33m 08s
6thSophia SundbergSweden6h 45m 24s
7thDevon YankoUSA6h 47m 44s
8thSarah BardUSA6h 49m 05s
9thCarla MolinaroEngland6h 50m 31s
10thYolande McLeanSouth Africa6h 52m 16s

 

VETERANS (AGE 40 – 49)

Current Best Time : 6h 18m 33s

Maria Bak (Germany) – 2003

1stTanith Maxwell (42)South Africa

6h 20m 35s

2ndCharne Bosman (42)South Africa6h 33m 08s
3rdYolande McLean (40)South Africa6h 52m 16s

 

MASTERS (AGE 50 – 59)

Current Best Time : 6h 50m 21s

Colleen De Reuck – 2016

1stJana Trojan (50)South Africa

8h 17m 49s

2ndJane Mudau (55)South Africa8h 19m 13s
3rdJulie Shadwell (56)South Africa8h 43m 23s

 

GRANDMASTERS (AGE 60 +)

Current Best Time : 8h 24m 00s

Jenny Allebone – 2005

1stElizabeth Waywell (60)Canada

8h 12m 36s

New Best Time Down

2ndVal Watson (62)South Africa9h 14m 08s
3rdAdri van Jaarsveld (61)South Africa9h 40m 06s

 

COMRADES MARATHON ASSOCIATION SHIELD

Current Team Best Time : 27h 50m 03s

Born 2 Run Atletic Club – 2016

First Womens Team

Total Time

KPMG Running Club AGN31h 44m 57s
Franza Landman7h 30m 41s
Lesego Hlako7h 52m 52s
Michelle Stassen8h 10m 17s
Marcelle Coetzee8h 11m 07s

 

75th ANNIVERSARY SHIELD

Current Team Best Time : 31h 37m 53s

Durbanville Athletic Club – 2001

First Veteran Womens Team

Total Time

Rand Athletic Club34h 17m 51s
Martine Baker7h 52m 16s
Nicki Ryder8h 37m 30s
Claire Anderson8h 52m 32s
Tracey Akeroyd8h 55m 33s

 

NO TROPHY
First Elite Womens Team

Total Time

Massmart Athletics Club CG28h 08m 41s
Ann Ashworth6h 10m 04s
Mia Morrison7h 16m 01s
Enie Manzini7h 21m 03s
Nandi Zaloumis7h 21m 33s

 

SOUTH AFRICAN LEGION TROPHY

Current Best Time : 6h 18m 33s

Maria Bak (Germany) – 2001

First Veteran Woman

Time

Tanith Maxwell6h 20m 35s

 

PREMIER’S TROPHY

Current Best Time : 6h 45m 45s

Kerry Koen – 2012

First KZN Woman

Time

Fikile Mbuthuma6h 54m 36s

MISCELLANEOUS TROPHIES

FOUNDER’S TROPHY
Oldest Finisher

Age on Race Day

Time
Alf Burgess7911h 57m 41s

 

MASTERTON-SMITH MEMORIAL TROPHY
Youngest Finisher

Date of Birth

Age on Race DayTime
Ruan Britz30 Apr 199820y 42d11h 57m 13s

 

GERALDINE WATSON TROPHY
Last Runner to Finish

Time

Lunga Roshe12h 00m 00s

1975 – THE GOLDEN JUBILEE

1975 was a momentous year in the history of the Comrades Marathon. Apart from this year marking the Golden Jubilee, the 50th running of this world classic long distance race, it was also noteworthy for the introduction of a number of innovations and indeed a substantial character change in the race.

For the first time in its long history the event was officially opened this year to runners of all race groups and to women competitors. Prior to 1975 Natal and South African Athletic Association rules prohibited women competing with men, juniors with seniors and except with government approval, blacks competing with whites. One of the obstacles to opening the race to all runners had been of one of purely organisational consideration and that was the possibility of a huge increase in the number of competitors to unmanageable proportions. The organizers, then the athletic club Collegians Harriers, were mindful of the need to transform the Comrades into a truly international event, attracting runners from all over the world, but were also anxious not to eliminate the real spirit and true meaning of the race and led committee spokesman, Bert Bendzulla to comment This spirit is not to be found among the champions, but among the many hundreds of ordinary people who run not to win, but just to complete, in the allotted time, one of the worlds toughest challenges.

1975 also saw the introduction of a field limit of 1 500 runners (since abandoned) and the necessity for runners to prove qualifying times. Thus it was that after computerised pruning of 1 686 entrants to the required 1 500 there were 18 non-white runners and two women and the fear of a huge influx of runners did not materialise. These two groups of disadvantaged runners are as much pioneers and heroes of the Comrades Marathon as those whose exploits have been sung and documented though the history of the race and their perseverance and courage in competing without any official recognition is deserving of recognition.

The first unofficial black runner to run the Comrades Marathon was one Robert Mtshali, who ran in 1935 completing the race in the creditable time of 9 hr 30 min. Councillor V.L.Shearer gave him a small presentation. Others were to follow, but not for many years. Just prior to World War 2 a separate event known as the Suncrush Marathon, was organised exclusively for black runners, but the allure was still to run the Comrades Marathon.

The first black runner to win an official Comrades Marathon medal was Vincent Rakabaele, who in 1975 finished in 20th position in a time of 6 hr 27 min. He ran again in 1976 and 1975 finishing 4th and 8th and sparking speculation as to whether he would be the first black winner of the race, but this was not to be.

It was Sam Tshabalala who ran into the history books in 1989 when he won the down run in a time of 5 hr 35min 51 sec. This time would have secured him further wins in subsequent years, but this was sadly not to be. Sam was seriously injured in a motor accident in 1991. After the most remarkable and courageous fight-back Sam returned to again attempt Comrades in 1992, when he finished in the excellent time of 6 hr 23 min to secure a silver medal. He has continued running, achieving another 3 silver medals and is always greeted with a rousing welcome at the finish. In March of 1998 Sam was awarded the prestigious Platinum Medal by the Comrades Marathon Association in recognition of his contribution to the Comrades Marathon.

Another black winner was to follow in 1992 when Jetman Msutu was declared the winner after he had finished second to Charl Mattheus who was unfortunately disqualified.

Perhaps the best remembered of the emerging black runners was Hoseah Tjale, affectionately known in the running world as Hoss. In the 1980 event, after having run conservatively in the first half thus conserving his strength for the closing stages, he was leading the race at a crucial stage and looked a possible first black winner. He eventually finished 6th. In the next few years Hoss provided Comrades King Bruce Fordyce with possibly the stiffest challenge from any black runner, scoring two 2nd and two 3rd places. He completed a total of 13 Comrades with 9 golds and 4 silvers, a truly sterling performance.

Women runners entered the ranks of official status along with the opening of the event to all races in 1975, but here also there had been a handful of women who had tackled the grueling event without recognition. The first was Frances Hayward in 1923. She finished in a time of 11 hr 35 min in 28th position. (In the early days the time limit was 12 hours).

It was not until 1931 that another brave lady made an appearance at the start and that was Geraldine Watson, a Durban schoolteacher. She had done only 6 weeks of training and commented after the race that she had nearly given up at Kloof. She finished in a little over 11 hours. She ran again in 1932 and became the first woman to complete both an up and a down run. Halfway up Polly Shorts she went to her helper and said I feel my toe has come off in my shoe, the only sympathy she got was Well I am not going to take your shoe off so carry on Her finishing time was 11 hr 56 min. In 1933 she ran her 3rd consecutive Comrades, but this year put in 6 months of training and finished in 9 hr 31 min. Geraldine Watson participated in nearly every Comrades Marathon as spectator, competitor, helper and attendant since the 1920s. Sadly she died in 1975, the Golden Jubilee Year which marked the opening of the race to women. She donated the trophy for the last runner to finish, the Geraldine Watson Trophy.

Others who ran in the unofficial years were the well-known ultra distance runner, Mavis Hutchinson, who completed 7 Comrades. She ran for the first time in 1965 and again the following year, becoming the second women after Geraldine Watson to complete an up and a down run. Her first run inspired Maureen Holland who watched her run past in Pinetown, to attempt the race herself in 1966. Maureen went on to run a total of six Comrades and had the distinction of holding the best time for the women runners when in 1971 she completed the course in 8 hr 32 min. When asked what could possibly induce runners like herself to submit to such a grueling test as Comrades without official recognition, she replied that the training was so enjoyable, the people were so nice and that the personal satisfaction of finishing the race was inspiration enough.

Lettie Van Zyl was another who ran unofficially from 1973, and later secured 3 consecutive wins in 1976,77 and 78. Maureen Holland recalls that Lettie was an enthusiastic campaigner for the acceptance of women as official runners and was a great encouragement to others. Lettie presented Maureen with one of her own medals, engraved with Maureens name and 1971 time, a great sporting gesture.

In 1967 while waiting for her husband Tony to finish his training session at Alexandra Park, Elizabeth Cavanagh decided on an impulse to give running a go. She was still in her mid thirties and had never taken part in any sport before. She bought a tracksuit and a pair of Tigers and her running career began. She ran her first Comrades in 1970, finishing with 10 minutes to spare. She ran again in 71, 72, and 73 and in 1975 became the first women in Comrades history to earn a finishers medal. Betty has secured her Green Number by completing 10 Comrades.

These are some of the people who have made a contribution to Comrades Marathon, accepting not only the challenge of the worlds toughest road race, but also the added hurdle of having to compete as unofficial runners and complete the course to attain nothing more than personal satisfaction, an inspiringly commendable effort in the true spirit of Comrades.

 

1975 VINCENT RAKABAELE

1979 ALAN ROBB

1983 BRUCE FORDYCE

1984 LINDSAY WEIGHT

1989 FRITH VAN DER MERWE

Past Comrades Winners

COMRADES RECORDS

 Down/Up RunRecord holderCountryYearTime
MenDownDavid GatebeSouth Africa20165:18:19
 UpLeonid ShvetsovRussia20085:24:49
Women DownFrith van der MerweSouth Africa19895:54:43
 UpGerda SteynSouth Africa20195:58:53

MOST WINS

Men’s Champion Wins CountryWomen’s ChampionWinsCountry
Bruce Fordyce9South AfricaElena Nurgalieva8Russia
Arthur Newton5South AfricaLettie van Zyl3South Africa
Hardy Ballington5South AfricaHelen Lucre3South Africa
Wally Hayward5South AfricaFrith van der Merwe3South Africa
Jack Mekler5South AfricaMaria Bak3Germany
Alan Robb4South Africa   

MOST MEDALS

Medal holderMedalsAchieved in
Barry Holland472019
Louis Massyn472019
Dave Rogers452013
Vic Boston432019
Mike Cowling422019
Wietsche Van Der Westhuizen422019
Zwelitsha Gono422019
Alan Robb422015
Dave Lowe422015
Clive Crawley422000
Tommy Neitski412017
David Williams412015
Johan Van Eeden402018
Boysie Van Staden402017
Shaun Wood402017
Riel Hugo402008
Kenny Craig401998

COMRADES MEDALS

Athletes currently have 12 hours to complete the course, extended from 11 hours in 2003. There are a number of cut-off points along the routes which runners must reach by a prescribed time or be forced to retire from the race. A runner who has successfully completed nine marathons wears a yellow number, while those who have completed ten races wear a green number, permanently allocated to the runner for all future races.

Medals are awarded to all runners completing the course in under 12 hours.

MEDALS CURRENTLY AWARDED 

  • Gold medals: The first 10 men and women.
  • Wally Hayward medals (men) – silver-centred circled by gold ring: 11th position to sub 6hrs 00min.
  • Isavel Roche-Kelly medals (women) – silver-centred circled by gold ring: 11th position to sub 7hrs 30min.
  • Silver medals (men): 6hrs 00min 01sec to sub 7hrs 30min.
  • Bill Rowan medals – bronze-centred circled by silver ring: 7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min.
  • Robert Mtshali medals – titanium: 9hrs to sub 10hrs 00min.
  • Bronze medals: 10hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min.
  • Vic Clapham medals – copper: 11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min.

Prior to 2000, only gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded. The Bill Rowan medal was introduced in 2000 and named after the winner of the first Comrades Marathon in 1921. The time limit for this medal was inspired by Rowan’s winning time in 1921 of 8hrs 59min. A new copper medal, the Vic Clapham medal named after the race founder, was added in 2003. This medal coincided with the increase in the time allocation for completing the event from sub 11hrs to sub 12hrs. The Wally Hayward medal, named after five-time winner Wally Hayward, was added in 2007 for runners finishing in under 6hrs.

GREEN NUMBER

There is a lot of prestige associated with a Comrades Marathon Green Number. As a result, many athletes aim to complete at least 10 races, which is evident as a clear peak in the distribution of medal counts.[20] The introduction of the back-to-back medal (for running your first and second races in succession) resulted in another peak for athletes with 2 medals.

 

 

1975 VINCENT RAKABAELE

1979 ALAN ROBB

1983 BRUCE FORDYCE

MEDALS SINCE 1921

1921

A SILVER MEDAL which was awarded to all finishers

1931

The GOLD MEDAL awarded to the first 6 men.

1972

10 GOLD MEDALS, SILVER Sub 7:30, BRONZE Sub 11:00.
ImageImageImage

2000

The BILL ROWAN for a time from 7:30 to Sub 9:00 Hrs.

2003

The VIC CLAPHAM MEDAL for finishing  11:00 to Sub 12:00 Hrs.

2007

The WALLY HAYWARD MEDAL. Do not finish in the top 10 yet within 6 hours.
Image

Image

Image

2019

The ROBERT MTSHALI MEDAL is for finishers  9 to Sub 10 Hours.

2019

The ISAVEL ROCHE-KELLY MEDAL (women only). Do not finish in the top 10 yet within 7h 30min.

 

ImageImage 
11921-bill-rowan
1921 BILL ROWAN
arthur-newton
1923 ARTHUR NEWTON
wally-hayward
1930 WALLY HAYWARD
ballington
1933 HARDY BALLINGTON