The Comrades Marathon is a lot like a nasty big brother that sadistically bullies, torments and tortures his weaker siblings. As one of those weaker siblings, I’ve received more than my fair share of merciless moers, violent lammies and vicious donkey klaps at the annual family reunion between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. I feel this entitles me to have an opinion and say what I like about Comrades – and occasionally I repay my serial brutalisation with a playful retort or gentle jab of my own (before running away, slowly). That is the God-given right of a ‘family’ member*.
* For example, one of the article ideas on my backlog is ’10 Things I Hate about Comrades’ but the list of things has grown so long it may in fact form the content of my first full-length book.
However, when someone outside the ‘family’ callously condescends your brutal big brother, all past grievances are forgotten, all past sins are forgiven, and all the scars and bruises from past battles become prized signs of affection. When someone outside the circle of trust insults a member of one’s household, the correct response is to immediately – and without hesitation – take up arms (or in the case of Comrades, legs) to defend the family honour. That is exactly what happened recently when the insolent, ill-informed and ignorant American ultra runner Jim Walmsley condescended Comrades with a reckless remark. Continue reading “Drug Running at Comrades (and discrediting American ignorance)”
It is the middle of October 2018 and entries have just opened for next year’s Comrades Marathon. The entries are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Runners, particularly those from lower income groups, raise concerns that all 25,000 entries will be sold before they get paid at the end of the month and have the funds to enter.
After seeing several social media posts from anxious athletes, I decided to do a small good deed aligned with the spirit of Comrades: Offer an interest free, trust-based loan to five Comrades runners. I’d pay for their entry and they can pay me back when they have the money to do so. This is the story of what happened…
There is no human alive who loves the Comrades Marathon more than Dave Jack. He’s had had a six-decade long love affair with the race – and his unbridled passion shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Dave’s run it 14 times, done live reports on the event for Radio 702 for 18 years driving alongside the race leaders, stadium announcing and prize-giving MCing for over a decade. He’s served on the Comrade Organising Committee (the forerunner to the Comrades Marathon Association) and is one of the very few people to have earned a ‘running’ Green Number (for 10 finishes) and well as a ‘serving’ Green Name (for 10 years or more in service of the race).
Dave told me, “I’ve done everything there is to do at Comrades except win the race!” Well, actually that’s not quite true – and that is why I am writing this article. But the story of how Dave Jack won the 2018 ladies race takes some explaining and requires a detailed backstory – so here goes…
On a cool spring morning in September 2016, Dani Smith pulled into the Engen Service Station in Woodmead. He was looking forward to filling up quickly and getting back home after visiting his local garden nursery. Dani Smith is a Comrades runner – and was easy to identify as such because, like most of his ilk, he proudly wore his Comrades race shirt as standard weekend attire. Continue reading “Fuelling the Comrades Gold Rush (The story of Charles Mkhonto)”
At the age of nine, Jackie Mekler was placed in an orphanage. This marked the end of his happy childhood – and the orphanage was where he remained until getting expelled at the age of 16. Jackie Mekler was a caged bird who hated the rules, regulations and discipline within the institution. On the 26th of December 1945, a diminutive 13-year-old boy bunked out of the orphanage to go for his first run. As his mop of bright ginger hair bobbed up and down Valley Street in Johannesburg, Jackie Mekler had finally found the means to escape the constrictions, constraints and controls that had been thrust upon him. “My frustration led me to explore ways of loosening the shackles of confinement. The best and easiest way was to start running.”
[Marathon #213 / Unique Marathon #122 / 31 March 2019]
The Real Gijimas Ultra Marathon traverses 50 kilometres of rural Eastern Cape countryside through countless villages between Zwelitsha and Mdantsane. Every village needs an idiot and the following candidates applied for the vacant VIPs (Village Idiot Positions) on the last weekend of March: Bulela Sidloyi, Ernest de la Querro, Jacques Coetzer, Jeremy Knox, Nkul’leko Ntuli, Richard Birch, Stuart Mann and Zolani Twani.
There is a unique vibe running in South Africa’s townships, it’s a special experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Nowhere is this truer than in the Eastern Cape where the original township running club, The Real Gijimas, make their distinctive maroon mark seen – and their characteristic choruses heard – all across the province.
[Marathon #211 / Unique Marathon #121 / 23 March 2019]
It pays to have friends who are more persistent than you are. Last year the Great East Marathon was a new addition to the running calendar – but was cancelled without so much as a race flyer going out. I’ve been writingmonthlyarticlesdetailing all South African marathons and try to make contact with race directors to confirm details but, after half a dozen emails and phone calls went unanswered, I assumed that the sun had already set on the Great East Marathon in 2019.
I was therefore very surprised when my friend, Julian Karp, gave me a call to ask if I wanted to join him running the Great East Marathon. Julian likes to run two marathons a weekend and, since this was the only marathon listed on Saturday 23 March, he doggedly hunted the organisers down – his tenacity paying off with confirmation that “the marathon is definitely on”. Continue reading “Great East Marathon (The Kruger Park run)”
[Marathon #210 / Unique Marathon #120 / 17 March 2019]
In cinema there are many ‘trilogies’ but just one set of three is known as ‘The Trilogy’ – a term which is of course reserved for the original three Star Wars movies. ‘The Trilogy’ movies are universally appreciated as timeless classics. They offer an exciting visual extravaganza from the very first scene to the closing credits, are stuffed full of interesting characters and continuously stimulate your ocular nerves with scintillating special effects in spectacular settings – in fact they provide such a riveting ride that you can revisit them once a year and never get bored.
If I was forced to only run marathons in one region of South Africa but allowed to pick the place, it would be an easy choice – the Garden Route. Having run ten Knysna Forest Marathons and completing the Outeniqua Marathon last year, I was really looking forward to concluding the marathon running ‘Trilogy’ with Knysna Heads. With a spring in my step and eager anticipation in my legs, I arrived at OR Tambo airport for the flight to George. Continue reading “Knysna Heads Marathon (The Return of the Jetty)”