1980 - 1985

1980 - 1985: The Golden Era

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THE COMRADES ENTERS THE GOLDEN AGE. OUR GOLDEN HERO - BRUCE FORDYCE

 

If ever an historian would look back on this great race, there is little doubt that the Comrades Marathon entered its most exciting age during this decade. It would be difficult to analyze just why the race become so popular in the 1980's There is no one singular factor. It was a happy and serendipitous mixture of a number of things. Certainly the media played its part. The race was beamed into homes across South Africa. The TV coverage had become very good even by world standards, given the logistical problems over such long distances. People made it an annual ritual to sit in front of the 'Box" at 06h00 on the 31st of May, Republic day, each year and watch the epic. Most watched till the last man home struggled across the line 90 kilometers away.

But that was not the only factor. South Africa was being increasingly isolated, the world started to ignore South Africa in the '70's.In the 80's the world community turned it's back on the country. This had a profound effect on a sport-loving nation, and Comrades was no exception.

There too was a hero, a blond, longhaired running machine that seemed to epitomize everything that was good, everything that we wished for ourselves. Bruce Fordyce, up-start in the early part of the decade, the one who dared challenge Robb, became a house hold word by the end of the eighty's.

The Comrades enjoyed all this, thanks to this favorable mixture unprecedented growth in numbers and unprecedented media coverage. Regardless of what the rest of the world thought of us, the Comrades did become the biggest, the best and the most interesting ultra marathon challenge in the world.

By the time entries closed for the 60th anniversary run in 1980, there were 4700 entrants plus. Interest was high for this race. Halberstadt, perhaps the most talented runners South Africa has ever produced was an entrant. Now more subdued than the previous year, was still a firm favorite, he had turned in some stunning performance in his build-up to the race. A blistering 2:12 marathon in Durban and an easy victory in the Korki Marathon had even the likes of Robb showing respect.  " I don’t' say I'll win, but anyone who finishes ahead of me will have run the race of his life"

Robb, perhaps more than anyone was the blue-eyed boy of Comrades. Shy self-effacing quiet and tough. He had become a household name and was looking to become one of the Comrades Greats. Certainly a win in the 1980 race would put him firmly on that road. Where Halberstadt had the speed and the flair, Robb had the experience. To Alan Robb there was another man on the danger list; this was a lean and trim looking Bruce Fordyce. He was third in the 1979 race, and this 24-year-old Wits Student was coolly confidant, and keeping a low profile.

The defending champion, Piet Vorster was there as well, he saw the 1980 race as probably his last. A paralyzing injury after his 1979 win put him out of training for months. Hospitalized, on crutches and hardly able to move his legs, it was discovered that is hips were out of alignment, but with the use of shoe wedges, we was able to line up at the start.

In 1980, for the first time in the long history of the race, cars were totally banned from the entire route. Indeed the debate around this issue had raged for many a decade, but now, with the size of the field it was the only reasonable compromise. This was a measure taken to ensure the future of the race.

With all the usual pomp and ceremony now part of the long standing traditions of the race, the usual crèche of novices led the charge out of Maritzburg on a chilly late autumn morning. And as the sun rose out of the Umgeni Valley on the left as the human river flowed on it's way to the Coast, it was left to those early leaders to sort them selves out while the real contenders watched each other further back.

Lawrence Hlope took the lead early on and amid the huge crowds, standing on the side of the road led the 1980 Comrades through Cato Ridge, the main challenge at that stage was only a few minutes behind. By the time he reached Inchanga, the cracks began to show, and Dion Holtzhousen, 16th in the previous year, began to make an impression.

Soon Hlope was overhauled, and by the time the leader group reached Drummond, the order was Holtzhausen, then a fading Hlope, followed by Geoff Bacon, Hosea Tjale  and Alan Robb. A little further back was Halberstadt and still further back was Fordyce, nicely placed and under no psychological pressure.

By the time the leaders passed the gates of Kersney College, the lanky springbok star, Geoff Bacon was in the lead, with Tjale second and Dion Holtzhausen third. The day was not yet done, and the changes in lead not finished, for at Hillcrest Village, Hosea Tjale made his move on Bacon, and Holtzhausen began to fall out of contention, Then came Robb, only a minute behind, with the mercurial Halberstadt only 30 seconds behind Robb.

In Kloof, Tjale had established a commanding lead, and he was setting a blistering pace,. So much so, it seemed that the record might well have been in danger. The excitement was intense, Robb started putting on the pressure, had overhauled Bacon. Halberstadt was looking tired and his challenge began to weaken. By the time the leaders reached Pinetown, Holtzhauzen was gone, as was Bacon and finally, the big surprise, Halberstadt was out of the race.

Through Pinetown it was still Tjale looking strong, but it was on the testing Cowies Hill that there was more drama. Tjale suddenly seemed to weaken, and now Robb, who had been nibbling away at the lead began to close. It all happened on Huntley's Hill, with the view of the Durban Skyline ahead ,Tjale dramatically stopped, clutching his thigh and Robb forged ahead.

Up 45th Cutting, following in Alan Robb's wake was first Malcolm Ball and then Bruce Fordyce, both now  had overtaken an ailing Tjale. This looked like the Robb of old and an adoring public cheered their hero in as he ran to Kingsmead.

Robb did not have an easy time of it though. He knew that Ball and Fordyce were not far behind. At the Botanic gardens, not far from the finish, Robb passed with Ball barley a minute behind, and Fordyce now desperately trying to haul in Ball. In the end, arms raised with the mayor's message in hand, the Comrades favorite, Alan Robb crossed the line to continuous applause, thus clinching his fourth win.

A battle royal was taking place just outside the stadium for second place, and entering the stadium, fisting the air, it was Bruce Fordyce, sporting a floppy hat, that came home a happy second, and Malcolm Ball having conceded the battle, a mere kilometer from the end at The Old Fort Road, followed the small "Wits Blitz" student home and finished only 14 seconds behind.

The brave challenge of Hosea Tjale evaporated on that day, but he kept going and finished a creditable 6th in 5:50:12. For his four great wins, Alan Robb was later awarded Springbok Colours. Could this great runner, holder of record, run himself into the history books and join Newton, Ballington, Hayward and Mekler as a legend? The 1981 Comrades from Durban to Maritzburg would provide that answer..

Long before the race the Press and pundits were beginning to speculate. "Robb again" and "Few can match the Fordyce finish" were some of the banner headlines. And then of course there was Halberstadt. . Both Robb and Fordyce sent their entries in early, clearly sending the signal that they meant business, and Halberstadt kept everyone guessing, but at the last moment, his entry was received, this was surely going to be a classic battle.

By the time the countdown began for the race on Monday 1 June 1981, ever-popular Alan Robb was not in proper condition to win the race. He, as with some entrants, had succumbed to what all runners' fear, the last minute bad cold. Having spent many months off the road after a serious Achilles tendon injury, and with an army call-up, Alan was not in top shape. So the pressure shifted to Halberstadt and Fordyce. Both were in top form, neither had ever won the race and the field was wide open.

Halberstadt had learned a thing or two about Ultra-distance running, and was the faster of the two. Fordyce had shown good judgement in the tackling of Comrades, and his progress up the field had been impressive.

Above the general hubbub in the enormous field, Max Trimbourne's famous cockcrow could be heard. The crow, now taped for posterity would now, thanks to some-one's foresight, live forever.

Going up the first major test on the "up" run, Fields Hill it was 31-year old Mkize, a brick layer from Ixopo. Following closely behind was a fairly big bunch that had Dancing Dave Wright, Johnny Halberstadt, Robb, bacon and Tony Abbott. Fordyce was a few minutes adrift at this stage, but was looking quite relaxed, running along with club mate Jax Snyman.

At Drummond, it was still Mkize that was out ahead. The race was fiercely contested though, and only ten minutes separated the first twenty places at the half way checkpoint. Halberstadt was playing it cautious this time, and was more that seven minutes behind is 1979 record to halfway. Clearly he had learned something over his last Comrades attempt.

Over the Inchanga Bank the group ran, still with Mkize in front, and by the time he ran past the Inchanga Mission School, he was still in front. There was great excitement as the local population turned out and gave vocal support to the leader. There were black power salutes, "Amandla" "Awethu" and "Usuthu" and Mkizi spurred on by the reception fairly sped off into the distance. Fordyce, wearing a black armband in protest of the Republic Day Celebrations was also welcomed warmly on this stretch of the course, and he started to make his move.

By the time the leaders reached Cato Ridge, Mkize was hanging doggedly onto his lead, and was chased by Halberstadt and Fordyce. On the stretch between Cato Ridge and Camperdown, the Mikizi challenge was all but spent, and the duo of Fordyce and Halberstadt sped past. And now, the knot of top runners unraveled and it came down to the two Johannesburg runners. For these two, the time had come, now who was the best? Halberstadt suddenly swept past Fordyce, tactical ploy, or was this the break for the finish. Fordyce had to decide. He weighed up the options. Fordyce chose to close the gap, and soon took the lead from Halberstadt. There were still 25 kilometers to go of difficult terrain. For the first time in his life, Fordyce moved into the lead at the highest point of the course, Umlaas Road. For him to be out front with so much distance still to cover was "unnerving". But as Halberstadt's foot falls faded, Fordyce's confidence grew.

Fordyce had made his break, he now surged ahead, and with 19 kilometres he was already 2 mins 15 secs ahead of halberstadt. Polly Shorts, that breaker of winner dreams came and went, and by the time Fordyce floated to the top, he was in command, and five minutes ahead of Halberstadt. And now with the record well within his grasp, Bruce Fordyce flew over the last part of the course. He was given an enormous welcome when he ran into the stadium that day, seven and a half minutes ahead of Vorster's record. Fordyce stopped the clock at 5:37:28 as he crossed the line he raised his arms in victory, the mayor's message in the right hand and on his left arm his black armband in protest.

Halberstadt ran in eight minutes adrift of the new champ and the gutsy black runner who led the race for so long, Mkize, came in a commendable fourth in a time of 5:53:29.

Up until the 1981 event, the race was organised by the Collegians Harriers Club, but now with the race reaching overwhelming proportions, a new Association was formed to handle a monumental task of ensuring the race's future. If  the Comrades Marathon were to grow and thrive, the organising would have to become world class without compromise. This formidable task was that of the newly formed Comrades Marathon Association, headed up by the seasoned campaigner, and organiser Mick Winn. It was to be under his guidance that the race would truly enter its golden age.

All the early speculation around the 1982 race pointed to an exciting race. Vernon Jones and other cognoscenti were punting a second Fordyce win. But Robb was back in contention, was fit and wanted to join the Greates. "It is not the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog" commented Jones, tipping the diminutive Wits athlete Fordyce for a win. Robb on the other hand was fit, he was the winner of three down runs and was the record holder of the down run. Fordyce was the record holder of the "Up" and was confident since his win the previous year. Fordyce was sill weary of Robb and had great respect for the man.

The morning was cold and wet, as the runners set off to Durban. By the time the leaders reached Umlass road, it was still cold and miserable. There was a fairly large leader bunch with both Robb and Fordyce handily placed.

At Drummond the crowds were smaller than usual, thanks to the inclement weather, and it was Nyembe who led the leader group through, with Robb, Fordyce, Fraser, Wright and others in close attention.

The clouds started to break up as did the leading pack. Robb and Fordyce had made their intentions clear, but there were others, notably Fraser and Abbott who were not going to let the two get away. By the time the runners reached Botha's there were six runners in the lead pack, so hotly contested was the race on that day.

Robb then broke, and with his penchant for down hills, took Fordyce and Nyembe with him. They hurtled down the long curving hill together until near the foot a worried Nyembe gave way to the other two, leaving them to their exclusive, personal duel. Robb and Fordyce, two great runners, were Comrades marathon exponents, champions with a very healthy respect for each other. It was now for them a battle of tactics, of testing surges and pace changes.

On the back of Hillcrest ridge, with 33 kilometres to go, Fordyce forged to the front, but Robb quickly responded. This was an intense affair, Fordyce was doing everything he could to shake off a relentless Robb. At foolhardy pace the two raced through Gillits and on to Kloof. Near the top of Field's Hill, Fordyce put in another mighty surge, this time Robb had no answer, crying quits he had to let Fordyce go. By the time Fordyce reached the bottom of the hill he was 150 meters ahead.

Into Pinetown, Fordyce was very much in the drivers seat, and by the time he reached Cowies Hill at the end of the main Pinetown road, he was four minutes ahead of a dejected looking Alan Robb. The archaeological Master's student, was well clear of any rival and headed to Durban, having upset the applecart buy leaving a toiling Robb in his wake. To continuous cheers Fordyce forced his way into the city down the long decent into Durban. “I was going so slowly that it was embarrassing” said a tired Fordyce. To a rousing welcome Fordyce won his second Comrades in an impressive 5:34:22, just slightly more than five minutes off Alan Robb’s record.

Robb was toiling and had slipped back to fourth place behind Fraser and Abbot, the tough pair from Hillcrest Villagers. But Robb, always the tough competitor, came back, and re-vitalised staged a final surge in Berea Road, overhauled the pair and finished second to a rousing applause from an adoring crowd. Robb was almost seven minutes adrift of the victor, and less than a minute ahead of Graham Fraser.  Tony Abbot was fourth, and was immediately asked by an announcer by the SABC, “Tony, last year you were third, What happened?” Exhausted, he replied laconically, “I came fourth”.

By his own admission, the 1982 race would always go down in Fordyce’s book as the toughest. He was very aware of the stature of Alan Robb. Understandably disappointed, quiet, modest Alan Robb said “ coming down Fields Hill I tried to hang in but by thighs were playing up” Thus closed a fierce battle in the history of the Comrades, one that would go down as a classic.

The Comrades Marathon had become used to solving challenging problems, in 1983, it was a severe drought that provided the Comrades Marathon Association with a difficult task. The race had grown to enormous proportions, and to be sure, the amount of water consumed on the day was very large indeed. In the 1982 race over a quarter of a million liters of water was consumed and there was an expected 25% increase in the 1983 field. Severe water restrictions were in place throughout the natal region, and this placed pressure on the organisers.

The Natal Provincial Administration was helpful, and the race was to go ahead anyway, but as a measure, the 1983 run was to be supplied de-salinated water from Durban. Six desalination plants were set up on the beachfront in Durban, and a dairy agreed to fill 30 000 bottles with the purified water. From Cape Town, in the winter rainfall area, 1500 kilometres away, 72 000 liters of fresh water was offered as a gesture of goodwill by the municipality.

Entries for the 1983 “Up” race topped 6 600. Among those entrants was the grand old man of Comrades, Liege Boulle, who now at 74, was in the hunt for his 39th medal, in this the golden anniversary of his first attempt. When he first ran in 1933, he came 32nd in 9:11:39, in a field of 85 competitors. Now half a century later he had included five standard marathons in preparation for the 1983 race.

Bruce Fordyce, no doubt was looking for a hat trick, Alan Robb still looking for the elusive fifth medal. Bruce Fordyce viewed Gordon Shaw as a danger man for the race. Fourth in 1975, Shaw was back, had put in a lot of training, and was looking very fit.

From the gun, Shaw was to always be a factor, and hung around the front runners as they went over Cowies Hill. By the time the leaders reached the mighty Field’s Hill, it was Gordon Shaw, Piet Vorster, the 1979 winner and the Hillcrest duo, Abbot and Fraser. Two minutes adrift was Alan Robb and Dave Anderson and even further back, nearly three quarters of a kilometer, was Bruce Fordyce, and Tony Dearling.

Early in the race, clearly, Alan Robb was not going to have a good day. He had to put off a fair amount of training due to blood poisoning earlier that year, and now the strain was beginning to show. At the foot of the two kilometer Botha’s Hill, Piet Vorster and Gordon Shaw were leading the race with Colin Goosen shadowing them. Behind them some 300 meters back was Fordyce, looking quite relaxed with Hosea Tjale running with him, with his distinctive, awkward style.

By the time the pack reached Drummond, the surprise leader was Goosen, with Vorster and Shaw chasing. Fordyce was still keeping 300 meters astern with his shadow in the person of Tjale. Dearling was now well off the pace. Robb, running his tenth Comrades, seven with golds, was fully a kilometer behind the leaders.

The history of the race will show many dramatic changes take place on the punishing hill out side of Drummond on the “Up” run. That is Inchanga. By then Shaw had broken away and was in the lead, Vorster and Goosen got left in the rush, meanwhile Fraser was staging a recovery. Now with Robb out of contention, Tjale was dancing to the Fordyce tune. By the time the leaders approached Cato Ridge, Fordyce began to close on Shaw. Tjale was clearly using Fordyce as his pace-maker and stuck with him as he made his surge. Meanwhile, the earlier leader, Colin Goosen was beginning to slip back and seemingly out of contention.

It happened between Cato ridge and Camperdown, that Shaw found the pace too exacting and began to weaken, By this stage, Tjale was off the bus and the race was given to Fordyce, now running up front like the breeze, blond hair flowing, with the style and grace of a finely trained athlete. On Polly Shorts, escorted now by a mass of motor cycles and press vehicles, Fordyce ran, although slowly, up the final barrier to victory. Cresting the top, he punched the air, with a clenched fist he raced off to the expectant crowds in the stadium. Fordyce ran into the stadium and crossed the line in another record breaking time. A hat trick of wins, he stopped the clock in 5:30:12.

If the honors for winning went to Fordyce that day, the honors for courage belonged to Colin Goosen. As the youngest, at 23 years old, the last and most unexpected of the 1983 gold medallists. For it took him nearly three minutes to circuit the final 500 metres in the Jan Smuts Stadium. At the entrance of the stadium, he knew he had the last gold medal, but dramatically, his legs buckled and gave way under him. He pummeled his legs in a desperate effort to restore their strength, Slowly he got up and teetered through the mass of spectators, to within 30 metres of the finishing line, his legs became jelly once again and he went down again, his legs would not hold him. The crowd was now a throbbing wave of sound, as he weighed up his options, He looked back, and there was no challenger in sight for the final gold, and ahead of him was 30 metres left. And so Colin Goosen crawled for his gold on all fours, there was hardly a dry eye in the house that witnessed such courage. Colin Goosen crossed the line that day tenth in 6:02:14, but he has left an indelibly print of the spirit of the race forever.

Happily, the old man of the road, Liege Boulle finished the race with ten minutes to spare. This brought his tally of medals to an incredable 39. He also won the Founders Trophy that day, this for the oldest competitor to finish. Boulle had won the trophy on seven occasions, the last five in succession.

Political life in the eighties was repressive by any standard. The results will show that Andrew Boraine was a finisher on that day in a credable time of 9hr44. What the raesults do not tell, is that this 24-year-old athlete was the “banned” former president of NUSAS, a sutdent organisation viewed by the government as subverssive. Boraine had to get permission from the Minister of Law and Order to compete in the race. 

There was a fair amount of speculation in 1984, when three Springbok marathon runners entered the race along with over 8 500 others. The three, Bernard Rose, Kevin Shaw and Willie Farrell added a new dimension to the race and had many speculating. In addition, Rose added a professional approach to the epic, in much the same way as Fordyce did and Johnny Halberstadt. Bernard Rose certainly had the credentials as a speed merchant, and in one week in 1981 ran two marathons in 2:16:14 and then 2:13:01, an incredible feat indeed. Would these novices be fast enough, strong enough and have enough stamina to upset Fordyce in his attempt for a fourth win. Also amongst the challengers was Hosea Tjale, now a seasoned campaigner, who had recently won the Korki Marathon and was only narrowly beaten in the Two Oceans.

The early morning was cold in Maritzburg, but the atmosphere at the start was electric, once all the customary rituals were dispensed with, the noisy millipede made its way to Durban. At Cato Ridge, Mike Symonds was in the lead with the main contenders running in relaxed fashion slightly adrift of his time.

At the half-way mark, Drummond, It was Chris Reyneke that went through first followed by Springbok Kevin Shaw. De la Motte was soon to go by. Some of the information that Fordyce received from his seconds was conflicting, and found that he was a little too far back for his liking at that stage.

Fordyce began to apply the pressure, but so too did those ahead of him, Chris Reneke and now Bob de la Motte. By the time the leaders reached Hillcrest, Reneke was in the lead, De la Motte was two minutes behind him, Shaw slightly over a minute behind De la Motte, and Fordyce now four minutes behind the leader.

The tall Johannesburg accountant, Bob de la Motte was running the race of his life. He had Reneke in his sights and started to close. On the gentle descent near Kloof, Reneke dashed into the roadside bushed, and De la Motte moved into the lead. Fields Hill came and went and the order of things in Pinetown was first Bob de la Motte, then Chris Reneke and then Fordyce. Cowies is a hill that proves difficult on the down, and for Reneke this was his nemesis, Fordyce, now running hard closed the gap and quickly passed him. The target now was a De la Motte, who was speeding towards Durban.

Relatively unknown to the spectators, De la Motte got a huge ovation as he sped passed. This tall runner had come a long way in a short space of time, in 1981 he finished his first race in 9:03, in 1982 he finished 16th in 6:05, and now he was running the race of his life. Fordyce was relentless in his pursuit, and by the time the two reached Westville, Bob De la Motte was looking drawn, the crisis, both mental and physical, began to take their toll on a courageous De la Motte. The trade mark of Fordyce on the other hand was a strong looking finisher who, at the last minute stages the coup de grais.

On the Durban boundary, at 45th Cutting, the gap between the two was 30 seconds, and with only seven kilometres to go, the Comrades champion swepped passed. Fordyce looked sideways and said, “Bob, you are running like a star” . There was no answer, just the scilent plodding of a very tired man.

Fordyce raced to the finish and broke the tape in a new record time of 5:27:18. Bruce Fordyce did not have to wait long for his runner-up Bob De la Motte, Having lost the race in the dying stages, the big man moved slowly and despondently towards the finish, it was he who later  “the loser being given a winner’s ovation”. Waving in gratitude he jogged stiff-leggedly to the finishing post, to cross the line in 5:30:59. A very fast time, less than two minutes outside the previous record.

Fordyce later revealed that it was a tactical error on his part, in that he wrongly assessed his opposition, he was watching the wrong rivals, and had his eye on the speed merchants, Farrell and Rose. In the end, Fordyce need not have worried, as their challenge evaporated.

In 1985 the Comrades marathon celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. Fordyce was clearly the favorite to win and thanks to the media, he had become a house-hold name. More-so than any other winner of the race, he had become a very popular figure in South African society. Fordyce was intent on joining that elite band of Comrades Greates, and certainly if he wins the 1985 race he would be right there.

This placed an enormous pressure on the athlete, and at times made training quite difficult. Fordyce had moved clubs for this race and would turn out in the colours of the Rand Athletic Club. The attention paid to him and the expectations of an adoring public weighed heavily on his shoulders. Uneasy lay the head that wore the Comrades crown.

To all intents and purposes however, the 1985 race would be a gala event, For the first time in its history, the number of entrants topped 10 000. Public interest in the race had grown to enormous proportions. Among the entrants for this race was the great Jackie Mekler, now at the age of 53, was making a nostalgic comeback. Springbok rugby captain Wynand Claasen was also an entrant. Sadly, the runner-up last year, De la Motte was not an entrant due to illness.

Much of the pre-race speculation was that Fordyce would win his fifth title, and the diminutive 33 year-old Siphiwe Gqele would be the man to upset the betting.  Hosea Tjale was also seen as a threat to the crown, he had the experience now, with one silver and three gold medals. One slip and Tjale could re-write the history books and become the first black athlete to win the Comrades.

From the start Hosea Tjale did seem to mean business, and by Cowies hill he was lieng in a very comfortable eighth position. With Kloof and only one-quarter of the race done, most of the hot favorites were up front. A very unusual sight in the Comrades of the eighties. There was the usual jostling for position, and at the half way mark, it was Bruce Matthews who went through first followed by a very determined looking Tjale. Next came the quartet of Fordyce, Biggs, Thobejane and Tiviers a minute off the pace of Tjale. They were in tun followed by Gqele, Robb, Shaw, Fraser and others.

By the time the leaders reached the other side of the Inchanga bank, Tjale was in the lead, and to a tumultuous applause, he was the leading man at the Mission Station. He was ahead of Tiviers, Biggs, Oberholzer and Fordyce.

Collectively, for the front five, the race was at its most difficult stage. It was not so much the case of Tjale falling back into the clutches of this quartet, on his tail but of their impelling each other forward. It was a war of attrition, and in the unfolding scenario none of the other four accepted that the record holder and champion was invincible. They were determined not to hand the race to him on a platter. Each was drawing on the deepest of physical, mental and spiritual reserves, the question was ; who would crack?

By the time the leaders reached Cato Ridge, the race was left to Tjale and Fordyce, Derrick Tiviers and Villiers Oberholzer were now slightly adrift and were not looking threatening at all. Tjale was the one to make the move first, Fordyce responded. And now near Camperdown, Tjale , apart from having made an early break in the day, was now running a tactically sound race. But with Fordyce testing him on the hills, it did seem that once passed Camperdown, his bid to become the first black man to ever win Comrades was over.

At the right moment, Fordyce made his move and sped off to Maritzburg. It would be easy to say that the Champion won and that was that. But it was not to be, he looked strained and drawn on the base of Polly Shorts, and even considered walking briskly. Fordyce was showing the strain and was badly dehydrated. Fatigue was driving the runner back into himself. And now, the true spirit of the Comrades did emerge, determination against all odds to keep going, supported by an adoring and supportive public, the frail figure of the runner ran home and claimed for himself the glory of being seated with the great men of Comrades.

Arthur Newton, Hardy Ballington , Wally Hayward, Jackie Mekler and now finally, Bruce Fordyce, a true great in every respect.

It was a joyous reception that greeted the next man home. Hosea Tjalie fought on gamely and finished strongly in his best ever time of 5:42:40. It was a titanic battle for the top honors that day, Tjale later said, at Camperdown I was feeling good and I knew I had to make my move, I tried to tire him out, but in the end he tired me out, Bruce is too strong for me”. It was over ten minutes before the third man Derrick Tiviers came into sight.

Happily the results will show that the great Jackie Mekler collected his medal in a time of 8:23 and our famous Rugby captain finished in 10:16.