Remember those who are second

2014-05-24 00:00

IN the world of sport, it’s said that those who come second don’t count and are not remembered. It’s about the winners — they are the ones spoken of in time to come.

That has a particular truth to it and the Comrades Marathon is no exception. The average spectator will know that Bruce Fordyce is the king of the race and that Alan Robb, Wally Hayward, Arthur Newton, Jackie Mekler, Hardy Ballington, Dave Bagshaw, Vladimir Kotov, Dimitri Grishine and Stephen Muzhingi have dominated through the years, but looking back on the names engraved on the Anderson Trophy for the second man home, one cannot help but feel for some of those who have come so close.

In the twenties, Harry Phillips was runner-up three times, before notching his only win in 1926, when he promptly announced his retirement having achieved his dream.

While Ballington took the thirties by the scruff of the neck, his greatest rival was Bill Cochrane, who was second to him in 1933/34, before winning for the first time in 1935. Amazingly, Cochrane returned to the first spot 11 years later, winning the first post-war race in 1946, when only eight runners finished the up run.

Perhaps the unluckiest runners are Reg Allison and Allen Boyce. Allison was second on four occasions in the forties and fifties. He finally won in 1949, with blisters preventing him setting what would then have been a record time.

Boyce was second in 1937/38 and 1939, and won in 1940, in what remains the biggest victory margin of 1:50,28. He returned to the runner-up slot in 1956.

Double winner Gerald Wash bagged three second places, while five-time winner Jackie Mekler was second on two occasions. Dave Box came close to glory with second in 1969 and 1970, while Gordon Shaw’s two second spots were eight years apart.

The great Johnny Halberstadt failed to add a Comrades win to his many running accolades, coming close in 1979 when cramp allowed Piet Vorster to claim the honours, and 1981 saw him finish second to Fordyce, as his domination of the race began.

One of Fordyce’s closest rivals was Hoseah Tjale, who surely would have won the race had he not been around when Fordyce was at his best. His annual tussles in the eighties with Fordyce are part of Comrades history. He was one place away from victory in 1985 and 1990.

Mark Page, Charl Mattheus, Oleg Kharitonov, Willie Mtolo and Jaroslaw Janicki all have two second places, while Nick Bester, Bob de la Motte and Manie Kuhn have three. Kuhn was always a threat in his best years, and is the winner of the closest finish, beating friend Tommy Malone by one second in 1967, in his only win.

De la Motte matched Fordyce in all but finishing power in the mid-eighties. Fordyce said De la Motte was “the most ferociously determined athlete I ever met”.

Hundred of characters adorn the colourful history of the Comrades, but spare a thought for those who come second. Do good guys come second? In the Comrades, they certainly do.

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