Comrades 2018: #RealComradesChampion Post Mortem


I wrote a number of human interest runner stories in the build-up to this year’s Comrades. If you want to know how each one did, the epilogue to each story is below.

In the order that they were published:

Jeremy Knox

Quick Recap: Ran as a novice in 2017 and made the cut-off by 5 minutes after a couple of roadside snoozes and a lot of vomiting.

Jeremy had a great run – he, “loved every minute” and earned his ‘Back to Back’ medal in style with a big negative split and solid 10:39:58 finish. Jeremy raised about R5000 for St Bernard’s Hospice and is now training to run his first Washie 100 miler in July. Why the Washie? According to Jermey, “It’s a bucket list thing. Stay in South Africa, you have to run Comrades. Stay in East London, you have to run Washie!”

Jeremy relaxes with his family at the bottom of Botha’s Hill.

Danie de Wet

Quick Recap: Danie is a six-time Comrades finisher who got skewered 3.5km underground in 2015. After miracle surgery, he lost a kidney but kept his life. In 2018 he was back for his seventh medal.

Danie’s was the first result I checked when I got home after Comrades. I was so happy to see got his medal with an 11:30:37.

Danie has been battling the flu since the race but is already looking forward to Comrades 2019. He is planning to do some motivational speaking at running clubs and was invited back to Milpark Hospital by the surgeon who saved his life (Professor Kenneth Boffard) to receive a special Recovery Award. In turn he donated his medal to the surgery team.

I am thinking of starting an “Obscure Comrades Records” page. If anyone knows of a one-kidneyed runner with a better time that Danie’s 11:30 please let me know!

Danie donates his 2018 Comrades medal to the team who saved his life.

Aside: Fastest Comrades With One Kidney

I asked the question above about “one-kidneyed Comrades runners” and Winsome Meyer responded, “My late brother-in-law, Kevin Meyer (Green Number 570) completed 15 Comrades despite losing a kidney in a motorbike accident in his teens. His best times were in 1980 and 1981, both 6h36m! He had a very bad foot also from the accident and was missing most of his big toe.”

A moustached Kevin Meyer (running in black and yellow Stella colours) on the way to another silver in Comrades ’78.

Kevin ran 15 Comrades between 1972 and 1991. He achieved 6 silvers and has another unique record in that his Up and Down personal bests are both exactly 6:36:00!

A Comrades history to be proud of.

Sadly, Kevin is another statistic of the dangers of cycling on South Africa’s roads – he was killed in 2006 cycling home after a long group ride. RIP Kevin Meyer.

Johann Kotzé (& Rupin Mehta)

Quick Recap: Finish line drama from the last down run in 2016 complete with camaraderie, companionship and comical cramping – but unfortunately no medals. Rupin’s comradeship led to a Spirit of Comrades award. In 2017, by chance they met up again but this time it was all smiles at the finish.

Johann got his first down medal with a 10:23:24 but didn’t bump into Rupin this year (who finished with 10:54:13 for a 6th medal).

Interestingly Johann got his Back to Back medal – worth noting that if you DNF on your first attempt, you still qualify as long as runs two and three are consecutive finishes.

Johann is one of the very few people who earned a Back to Back medal the third time he crossed the finish line.

Heather Walden

Quick Recap: Mom of three who emigrated to Switzerland and did most of her training solo. Aiming to get a silver medal in 2018.

Heather finished as 34th lady with a time of 7:45:12. She had some stomach problems in the second half (she went into the porterloo and her silver went out of the window). The good news is that the porterloos are still relatively fresh when you run as fast as she does!

However, she was still over the moon to get a 20minute PB and finish under 8-hours for the first time. She also loved her time back in South Africa and told me that, “Although I didn’t get that silver medal, I feel like I left Durban with so much more!”.

She bumped into many old running friends on the day and even found one to cross the finish line with.

Berlin Marathon is up next for her where she is aiming for a marathon PB.

Heather gets her first sub-8 finish.

Devlin Lakay

Quick Recap: Devlin suffers with a debilitating chronic auto-immune disease called Lupus which makes ultra running incredibly difficult.

Lupus flared-up a month before Comrades, resulting in Devlin only being able to run one 10km the month before Comrades (definitely not the best tapering strategy).

Unfortunately, Devlin narrowly missed the final on route cut-off in Mayville. He’s still happy to have run 82km – the furthest he’s ever gone and it’s “highly likely” that he’ll be joining us again next year.

Darren Webb

Quick Recap: Darren is a former drug addict who found the road to recovery on a running track whilst in rehab.

Darren powered through for a 9:58:11. He was incredibly happy to finish his first Comrades in under 10 hours although admits the last 5km were “absolute hell”.

His Facebook status sums up his achievement best, “F@$k a duck…… I did it. This recovering drug addict just ran 90.184km in 9h58m11s. Just over a year ago I couldn’t even run a bath let alone run 5kms!”

His best moment? Hearing his daughters tell him how proud they were of their dad.

Darren shows off his bling.

Lauren Rayne (& JTOF Team)

Quick Recap: Lauren is a ‘couch to Comrades’ runner. She missed the Two Oceans cut-off this Easter and was “definitely out of Comrades”. However, a chance encounter on the flight home after being seated next to former Comrades champ, Caroline Wöstmann, inspired her to get to the start.

This time Lauren finished 10 minutes the right side of cut-off in 11:49:38. She was “super chuffed” to become a Comrades finisher and is “100000%” certain that she’ll be back next year for a Back to Back medal.

Thinking about running Comrades next year for the first time? Check out this quote from Lauren, “I smiled from start to finish and LOVED every single second. The vibe, the spirit, the sense of ‘team’ amongst complete strangers was a once in a life time experience that I will treasure forever. Comrades 2018 sits right up there with the best days of my life.”

All smiles heading into Durban.

The whole Just The One Foundation (JTOF) crew did really well. Her brother, Stuart Fraser, finished just 8 minutes ahead of her. Ben Jackson narrowly missed a Bill Rowan with 9:01:55 (should have shaved you head Ben – streamlining would have knocked a couple of minutes off your time).

However, the star of their team was Neil Massey with 7:03:18. On top of this, Neil smashed the Durban Ironman 70.3 the weekend before Comrades (his half-marathon run time was 80 minutes and he finished 5th overall 4:35:52 to qualify for the World Champs in September).

Not a bad Comrades time the week after coming fifth at IronMan 70.3.

The JTOF team raised R65,000 for charity which will help to cover one year’s schooling for two high-aptitude, underprivileged learners. The JTOF team will continue to participate in endurance events to raise money for their educational charity – they are trying hard to find some corporate partners so if you’re reading this and are looking to work with a great crowd of people check them out!

READ: The Full Real Comrades Champions Stories

Xolani Luvuno (& Hein Venter)

Quick Recap: A One-legged cancer survivor, former convict and recovering drug addict completes comrades on crutches. he is given a special dispensation to start five hours early with his ‘father’, hein Venter, the man who saved him from a life on the streets. As per the agreement with CMA before the race he does not get an official finish. However this proves an unpopular decision with the runners and fans, causing a social media uproar.

Xolani’s story was different to the rest because it was written after the race.

READ: Heroes Deserve Medals

The point as to whether or not he should get a medal is moot. He did get a 2018 medal – albeit “accidentally” (as one of the volunteers handing out medals did now know he was not supposed to get one). Having acquired a medal, Xolani wasn’t giving it back (I wouldn’t either) and as far as I know it has not been repossessed.

An official finish under a new special category for physically challenged athletes would still be a really nice touch – and a fitting conclusion to this amazing story. The response from Comrades to my “status update” question, “The CMA Board & its Heritage & Traditions Committee will be looking into this.” I expect that Xolani and Hein are shoo-ins for a 2018 Spirit of Comrades Award.

Hein owns a perfume company and offered all his employees the incentive of R15,000 if they ran and completed Comrades. What did Xolani do with his money? He donated it to the Ethembeni School of course.

Xolani has entered the tough but lovely Voet of Afrika Marathon in October (one of my all-time favourite marathons) and is also planning to do a full IronMan.

When I saw Xolani at 82km he put a smile back on my face and a spring back into my step.

Afterward: The Spirit of Comrades Awards

“The Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Award is presented to a maximum of three people per annum in recognition of individuals who are esteemed to embody the “Spirit of Comrades”.

The criteria are fairly wide but as a guideline, the following factors may be considered:

  • The candidate will have run the Comrades Marathon, most probably on numerous occasions.
  • The candidate may in some way be associated as an integral player in the history of the Comrades Marathon.
  • Most importantly the candidate may have exhibited a particular act of selflessness, sacrifice, courage or perseverance in a particular race or over a period of years.
  • You will be able to nominate your candidate for the Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Awards by completing this nomination form.”

If you think any of these stories deserves a nomination or have one of your own, please consider completing the linked form below and send it back to the CMA by 31 July to nominate your #RealComradesChampion for a Spirit of Comrades Award.

2018 Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Nomination Form

My personal picks are Xolani, Hein, Danie and Darren and I will be putting in a nomination for each of them.

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One Reply to “Comrades 2018: #RealComradesChampion Post Mortem”

  1. Crazy how you connect people Stu.
    I’ve ran a few Marathon’s with Jonathon Kaplan. Love him, best ref ever.
    Now you write up about Lauren, and we ran C together till Drummond.
    I love our running Society. Thx for being such a positive influence on running.
    Come do Washie

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