May the spirit of the Comrades be with you

2015-05-20 06:00

VERY soon the pounding of running shoes will signal the start of the 2015 Comrades Marathon, when thousands of athletes brave the journey from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.

There won’t be the likes of Jackie Mekler, Manie Kuhn, Bruce Fordyce or Alan Robb in the field, but the amount of training that today’s athlete­ undergoes to get into condition for this race is staggering. Many run up to four standard marathons and do a number of training runs during the week as well as gym work. In the early days, the training schedule was tame and only the most dedicated runner trained in earnest.

Jimmy Pershouse, a provincial baseballer and league cricketer had a go at the Comrades with very little training. Running down the then Durban Road, on his way to the finish­ at Collegians Club, he spied a woman watering her garden. Jimmy­ jumped the small fence and ran into the water spray. The woman­ was lost for words, but realising that it was Comrades day, continued to spray Jimmy until he had cooled down. There were many others who completed the race with very little training.

The cut-off time of 5pm was always a tearjerker as runners tried desperately to cross the tape before the gun went off.

Mick Winn, a Comrades stalwart who had 20 medals and earned great respect in the Comrades Association in various important positions, had the task one year of firing the pistol to signal the end of the race.

He took up his position long before the prescribed time for this was a special moment for him. He was there to greet his son who was competing for the first time. As the youngster strode towards the finish, Mick had his arms ready for a bear hug to welcome him home. There were a few tears shed by the crowd.

This year’s up run will be a special Comrades for me. I will be waiting somewhere near the finish hoping to cheer my daughter Allyson home. It will be a great moment for me. To all the thousands running this year, may the spirit of the Comrades be with you all as you tackle the greatest ultra-distance marathon in the world.



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