1926 - 1929

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1926 Up (6th Race)
Date Monday, 24 May
Weather Cold at start, warming to oppressively hot late morning to early afternoon.
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Alexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
Time Limit 12 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries Unknown
Starters 24
Finishers – Total 14
Men 14
Silver 14
% Finishers / Starters 58.3

THE MENS RACE

Prospects for the race were somewhat gloomy. The entry list shrunk to the smallest yet.

Within the last 12 months, Arthur Newton had left South Africa and settled in Rhodesia. His entry, however, arrived at the last minute. Harry Phillips was reputedly in top condition, but Newton remained the firm favourite.

As was his custom, Phillips went straight into the lead, which he steadily increased across the hills through Pinetown and Hillcrest, reaching Drummond in 3h 14m. Newton had worked his way into second position at this stage, passing through in 3h 24m 30s. The three Sutton brothers were all showing prominently with Ronnie lying third in 3h 41m 30s.

Newton was still the crowd’s favourite, despite being 10 minutes in arrears at halfway. Over Inchanga, across Harrison and towards Cato Ridge, Phillips hung on tenaciously, while Newton started making a slight dent in Phillips’ lead. But it was too late. Phillips, smiling to the spectators as he strode along the road adjacent to Umsunduzi River, crossed the finish line marginally less than 5 minutes before Newton. Ronnie Sutton held on to third place but it was another 67 minutes before he appeared. After realising his ambition of winning, Phillips announced his retirement. He never ran the Comrades Marathon again.

RESULT

1st Harry Phillips * South Africa

6h 57m 46s

New Best Time Up

2nd Arthur Newton Rhodesia 7h 02m 00s
3rd Ronnie Sutton South Africa 8h 09m 00s
4th Felix Henriksen South Africa 8h 13m 05s
5th Winston Sutton South Africa 8h 17m 00s
6th R.N. Wratten South Africa 8h 24m 30s
7th H.S. Sowden South Africa 9h 08m 20s
8th T.L. Warwick South Africa 9h 52m 00s
9th Frank Munnery South Africa 10h 07m 30s
10th W.G. Coulson South Africa 10h 25m 08s

* Harry Phillips had represented South Africa in the Marathon at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris where he finished in 19th position in 3h 07m 13s.

1927 Down (7th Race)
Date Tuesday, 24 May
Weather Mild to warm by late morning.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Track Ground
Time Limit 12 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries 43
Starters 41
Finishers – Total 21
Men 21
Silver 21
% Finishers / Starters 51.2

THE MENS RACE

With Harry Phillips having retired, Arthur Newton was the odds-on favourite to register a fifth win. It would not be easy, however, because the three Sutton brothers, Ronnie, Winston and Frank, who had performed with exception the previous year, were in the line of runners strung loosely across Commercial Road outside the City Hall.

When the 41 starters set out in the pre-dawn light, Newton, perhaps with reducing his Best Time for the Down Run, set two years earlier, in mind, uncharacteristically went into an early lead. He was shadowed by the South African Marathon champion, Willie Steytler.  Newton reached Camperdown in 1h 03m with Steytler just 30 seconds behind. The pair had built a massive lead of 40 minutes before the three Suttons clocked in.

Over the fast section to Cato Ridge, Newton lost his normal effortless action. He seemed to be in trouble and fell away badly as Steytler swept passed him after exiting Cato Ridge. Going through Harrison, he enjoyed a lead of more than a mile over Newton.

Spectators at Drummond were surprised to see Steytler leading through halfway in 2h 58m, with a lead of more than 6 minutes over Newton. A mere 40 seconds later, Ronnie Sutton arrived. Winston and Frank Sutton were next through in 3h 15m 45s.

On the railway bridge, immediately after Drummond, Ronnie Sutton took second position from a struggling, Newton and before long, he was the new leader when he overtook Steytler, who retired at the top of Botha’s Hill, suffering from a painful toe joint. Newton, meanwhile was recovering from the bad patch that had plagued him for 8 miles, and was starting to make inroads into Sutton’s lead. While Newton was coming back, Sutton was having problems with his calf muscles, stopping for regular massages. His lead at Hillcrest was down to 2 minutes. By Gillitts, Newton was back in the lead and running untroubled. Ronnie Sutton fell away rapidly and when Newton entered Pinetown in 5h 08m 30s, he had a lead of 10 minutes over Frank Sutton who, having overtaken Ronnie, was left to chase Newton home.

The chase was futile, however, because Newton, in full stride, was never going to be caught. He increased his lead from Pinetown and entered the Track Ground 35 minutes ahead of Frank Sutton who had a further 37-minute advantage over his brother, Winston.

The day was a remarkable 2nd, 3rd and 4th place success for the Sutton family when an exhausted Ronnie finished in 8h 13m 32s.

After his 5th victory, Arthur Newton disappeared from the Comrades scene. He remains one of the Greats produced by the race.

RESULT

1st Arthur Newton Rhodesia

6h 40m 56s

2nd Frank Sutton South Africa 7h 15m 55s
3rd Winston Sutton South Africa 7h 52m 06s
4th Ronnie Sutton South Africa 8h 13m 32s
4th Nigel Walker South Africa 8h 30m 18s
6th S.C. Erwin South Africa 8h 45m 05s
7th Frank Hayes South Africa 8h 45m 26s
8th F. C. Watkins South Africa 9h 18m 00s
9th W.J Marlow South Africa 9h 58m 53s
10th W.G. Coulson South Africa 10h 00m 00s
1928 Up (8th Race)
Date Thursday, 24 May
Weather Cold early morning. Sweltering heat from late morning to mid afternoon.
Start Venue/Time Durban City Hall / 6:00
Finish Venue Alexandra Park Athletic and Cycle Track (The Duck Pond)
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 54 M
Entries 38
Starters 34
Finishers – Total 13
Men 13
Silver 13
% Finishers / Starters 38.2

THE MENS RACE

The improvement in performances in recent years led to a reduction of the time limit, from 12 to 11 hours, for earning a finisher’s medal.

With the departure of Arthur Newton, and the retirement of Harry Phillips, the race was clearly an open affair. The Sutton family, on the strength of their outstanding result in 1927, were expected to put in a strong challenge when the race got under way on a cold morning.

Fred Cole led the runners out of Durban at a brisk pace. He was still leading at Hillcrest (2h 35m) with Ronnie Sutton trailing 2 minutes behind, and Charlie Strassburg another 5 minutes adrift. The pace dropped significantly on Botha’s Hill where Sutton took the lead for a brief while. Cole was back in front soon after, and led through Drummond in 3h 41m 25s, which remains the slowest leading time to Drummond in the history of the race. The Suttons, Frank (3h 47m) and Winston (3h 49m), were next through.

The early morning chill had turned into sweltering heat. Feeling the effect, Cole and Ronnie fell back and Frank went into the lead, which he never surrendered. He led by 4 minutes at Camperdown (5h 34m) and gradually increased it as he approached Pietermaritzburg. Felix Henriksen, from Bulawayo, was next through in 5h 41m.

The Suttons were exhausted at this stage but they both managed to hang on and Frank beat Ronnie by 8 minutes when he finished in 7h 49m 07s) to complete a remarkable family one-two finish as a follow-up to their 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in 1927.

RESULT

1st Frank Sutton * South Africa

7h 49m 07s

2nd Ronnie Sutton South Africa 7h 57m 17s
3rd Felix Henriksen Rhodesia 8h 09m 12s
4th Frank Munnery South Africa 8h 39m 46s
5th L.G. Cary-Smith South Africa 9h 03m 13s
6th Frank Hayes South Africa 9h 16m 00s
7th H. Triegaardt South Africa 9h 58m 10s
8th Archie Cary-Smith South Africa 10h 25m 18s
9th Norman Nightscales ** South Africa 10h 37m 23s
10th Rubin Shapiro South Africa 10h 41m 16s

* Drowned when the troopship the Nova Scotia was torpedoed and sunk off the Natal coast near Durban near the end of World War II.

** Killed in action, in 1941, during an ill-fated Royal Navy convoy to Russia.

1929 Down (9th Race)
Date Friday, 24 May
Weather Warm with cool breeze later.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg CityHall / 6:00
Finish Venue Track Ground
Time Limit 11 Hours
Approx. Distance 56 M
Entries Unknown
Starters 29
Finishers – Total 19
Men 19
Silver 19
% Finishers / Starters 65.5

THE MENS RACE

After their success in 1927 and 1928, the Sutton brothers disappeared from the Comrades scene, leaving the race without a recognised favourite.

Four miles out of the city, the runners left the tar and strode onto the dusty road to Durban. On the undulating section to Umlaas Road, Archie Cary-Smith went to the front, reaching the village in 1h 32m. He was followed by Rubin Shapiro, Willie Steytler, Skilly du Bois, Frank Munnery and Albert Marie who passed through together in 1h 35m.

Cary-Smith led the race through Camperdown and Cato Ridge, which he reached in 2h 7m. du Bois was next to arrive (2h 13m) with Marie following in 2h 15m. Cary-Smith, running untroubled, passed through Drummond in 3h 19m 45s. Marie had moved up into 2nd place (3h 26m) with the unknown novice, Darrell Dale, surprisingly passing through the checkpoint in 3h 29m.

On the roller-coaster climb to Botha’s Hill, Dale went ahead of Marie who was sorely troubled with cramp. Dale set off after Cary-Smith and cut into his lead rapidly. The unchanging gait of Cary-Smith took a turn for the worse when fatigue caught up with him as he approached Hillcrest; having led for almost 30 miles. Dale overtook him as they entered Gillitts and led by 15 seconds going past the old railway station. He quickly built a substantial lead and by Kloof, from where the road was tarred all the way to Durban, the fading Cary-Smith trailed him by 13 minutes.

With the distance between himself and the rest of the field stretching with each stride, Dale reached Pinetown in 5h 51m. Cary-Smith’s race was over as following runners went past him at regular intervals. First, it was Fred Wallace and then Marie. Dale was starting to take strain as he approached Durban and was reduced to a short walk down Berea Road. He held on, however, and breasted the tape in 7h 52m 01s. It remains the second slowest winning time in the history of the race.     

RESULT

1st Darrell Dale South Africa

7h 52m 01s

2nd Fred Wallace South Africa 8h 10m 17s
3rd Albert Marie South Africa 8h 17m 31s
4th Skilly du Bois South Africa 8h 19m 26s
5th Willie Steytler South Africa 8h 39m 51s
6th Archie Cary-Smith South Africa 8h 53m 12s
7th Jack Savage South Africa 8h 53m 55s
8th Nigel Walker South Africa 8h 54m 59s
9th Bill Savage South Africa 9h 00m 30s
10th Frank Munnery South Africa 9h 40m 49s