Clem Sunter

The ultimate comrade

2011-01-19 10:30

There I was walking along Tyrone Avenue in Parkview, Johannesburg at around 7am on Sunday morning – doing my bit to keep my weight down. Who should pass me but Bruce Fordyce whom I have met off and on since the 1980s, when he was becoming a nine-time winner of the Comrades Marathon.

I always remember watching him on television running up some hill towards the end of the race and giving Bob de la Motte a friendly tap on the shoulder as he passed him. Bob himself was a magnificent ultra long-distance runner who now lives in Perth, Australia. He is also a really nice guy.

I used to play the odd game of cricket for a club called The Clangers. They had an annual dinner for which I was the cabaret with my guitar. One year, Bruce was the guest speaker but it wasn’t his speech that was memorable. It was the way he downed a cocktail called a Depth Charge which basically consists of a pint of beer with a shot of vodka or, in his case, Crème de Menthe. He was the life and soul of the party because his formidable intellect is accompanied by a wonderful sense of humour.

However, returning to our recent encounter, he made a point to me which resonated with my philosophy of life. He said that the older you get, the more you realise that it is what you do for other people that changes your own quality of life. I know that Bruce is associated with numerous charitable causes and that he undertakes them with great enthusiasm and in the process motivates the people involved in the cause to go the extra mile. We agreed that in your later years it is much better to have those experiences to look back upon than the amount of money you have managed to accumulate.

With that thought hanging in the air, he set off up the road that goes past the Westcliff Hotel; he was running like a spring chicken. I followed at a more sedate pace with my old-fashioned Walkman playing "Give a little bit" by Supertramp. How appropriate for the ideas we had exchanged.

In the end, we are all comrades. While some of us need a bigger helping hand than others, we all occasionally need a helping hand. Nobody goes through life without scars. All you have to realise is that when you do something for somebody else, he or she feels the same sense of appreciation that you feel when the person does it for you.

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