Burgess breaks his word to become oldest Comrades finisher

2018-06-12 12:08
Alf Burgess   (79) collects his trophy for being the oldest finisher of Sunday’s Comrades Marathon at a prize-giving function in Durban on Monday.

Alf Burgess (79) collects his trophy for being the oldest finisher of Sunday’s Comrades Marathon at a prize-giving function in Durban on Monday. (CMA)

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There is no stopping Alf Burgess.

Eighteen years ago, the veteran runner told his wife that he would not punish his body in the gruelling Comrades Marathon again, but the energetic 79-year-old was forced to break his word and proved to be the oldest finisher of Sunday’s race.

The Gauteng-born Durban resident was still full of life and given a standing ovation when called to collect his award during the Comrades prize-giving function at a beachfront hotel on Monday morning.

“I told my wife, June, 18 years ago that I would not do the race again, but I just had to come back,” Burgess said. “I felt good until the last part of the race. My first target was 11 hours, but that became 11-and-a-half and, then with 50 minutes left to the cut-off, I had to complete the last five kilometres in just 50 minutes. I almost did not make it.”

He finished just two minutes and 19 seconds before the final gun.

“I was cramping and things, but I had to do 10 minutes per kilometre for the last five kilometres to make the cut-off. It was really tough, but the crowd carried me home.

“During that time, people on the side of the road kept saying to me ‘you can do it, you can do it’ and that really helped me finish,” he said.

It was the 17th finish from 19 entries for this old friend of Comrades legend Wally Hayward.

“I was born in Germiston and later came to know Wally. I knew him for many years. Much later, we moved to Kloof in Durban and I did this latest race as a member of Hillcrest Villagers.

“My son, Robert, has done the Comrades three times and my brother, Patrick, has done it once, but they have stopped running it.”

To prepare for Sunday’s big challenge, Burgess covered 1 360 kilometres over 102 days of training, but he might think twice about running again next year.

His advice to those thinking of tackling the ultra-marathon in future?

“You must prepare well.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  comrades marathon

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