It all started at the age of thirteen, I stood along the road to watch my Dad run the Comrades Marathon* – it was 1967.
Primary school at Amanzimtoti had cross country, which I was fair at, going to ‘regionals’ and coming short at Provincial
level. My weight had its own mind, and soon I was broader than most at my age, and it was here that my father sent
me all the way to Bloemfontein, Grey College, where I was a hostel boy until standard eight. By then my parents
relocated to the Free State.
Dad kept running, however no official races, except for the one Glen Half Marathon that he and I finished together,
but he ran Naval Hill every day of his life. The day he stopped, was the day he heard he had cancer. Six weeks later
he passed away, just he and I in the room!
It was 1987 and he was 78 years old.
1988 I lined up for my first Comrades Marathon, a Down Run, finishing time a respectable 10 hours 12 minutes and some seconds.
My first ‘running buddy’ was Edward Trebble or ‘Steady Eddie’ as the runners called him. He had the ability to keep
a pace throughout a long run. His first half splits replicated the second half splits, while his knowledge of each Comrades Hill
was mind boggling!
‘Steady Eddie’ introduced me to all the aspects of road running especially Ultra Running; keeping of a logbook, running
programs, carbo loading, Vaseline, nipple stress and the ability to ‘run through the wall!’
Together we completed a handful of Comrades, the Lepon Iron-man and the Washi 100 miler, then he moved on when
transferred with his work, and I found myself without a running buddy and the club we started, mushrooming to 500 members.
Overwhelming it was, and the beginning of the decline or road running clubs as we knew them. Petty politics and ‘self’
stuck its ugly head out and our beautiful sport of road running was not the same.
It was the start of ‘running groups’ and the non-affiliation to running clubs, many a running club member was only there in
name to be able take part in Comrades, Two Oceans and the like. There was a distinct difference between ‘running group’
and ‘running club’, often running groups even had their own logos and t-shirts made.
One of these groups, was ‘the pink ladies’ a group of about twenty females who trained together and ran Comrades
and Two Oceans together.
With our normal life becoming a ‘new normal’, I suspect that the small running groups of five or six, will become
commonplace while large running clubs just might disappear altogether!
Social running like the Park Run* could be spread out over different days to accommodate ‘social distancing’
and the Virgin Active* treadmills the new running surface!
Back in 1987 road running was amazingly simple indeed, and it could become quite simple again!