Comrades a family affair

2010-05-22 00:00

THE first black woman to run the Comrades Marathon will run the race for the 22nd time this year, with her husband and two of her daughters.

In 1980 Pietermaritzburg’s Olive Anthony, now 58, made Comrades history as the first black woman to run the prestigious race. Women were permitted entry to the race a mere five years before in 1975.

Again, in 1983, she shocked the running world — and her doctor — by running and completing the race while she was three months pregnant.

Anthony swore her 21st run would be her last, but when her daughter, Olivia (now 26) decided to run her first race this year, she thought it only fit she run alongside the daughter she carried during her 1983 race.

“Except this time, she’s going to carry me! I’ll be counting on her to pull me through,” Anthony laughed.

“And technically it will be Olivia’s second race,” joked Anthony’s husband, Alex (60). “She ran with her mom in 1983 already!”

Her family are close knit, and Anthony said they have always banded together in the sport of running. Her daughter Vernal Augustus (36) said running has always been a special time for her family. This will be Augustus’s sixth Comrades.

“Races are usually on Sundays, which are family days. We get to run together and spend the time together as a family; it has always been a special time,” she said.

Olive Anthony said that while the race remains largely unchanged, preparing for Comrades over the years has become more difficult.

“It’s not safe for me to go out and run alone myself anymore, in previous years I had the freedom to do that. Our home, Woodlands, has experienced electricity cuts, which makes the streets dark and dangerous,” she said.

The family have trained together under the watchful eye of their patriarch. “I’ll be the driver, making sure everyone keeps going,” said Alex Anthony.

Both Olive and Alex agreed running this race with two of their children will be special for them as parents.

“And if I run this one well, I think that will be it,” Olive said.

“People expect me to keep going, but things change, life goes on and I am getting older,” she said.

Despite the joy of running together with her family, Augustus expressed sadness at the lack of recognition her mother has received as the first black woman to complete the race.

“My mother isn’t one for the limelight, but she is a local Pietermaritzburg woman who achieved something incredible. Often we hear about the first black man to finish, but never about my mother. She is an extraordinary woman who deserves the credit,” she said.

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