10 Best Comrades Moments

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by Bruce Fordyce


Video thumbnail for youtube video Comrades MarathonColin Goosen’s desperate crawl for the 10th and last gold medal in 1983. The Pietermaritzburg crowd screamed and television viewers went hysterical. The newspapers reported that a housewife smashed her TV when she threw her iron at it in frustration. Colin’s crawl was particularly agonising because he twice tried and failed to stand up and then for a few horrific metres crawled the wrong way down the finish straight. He will forever be known as Colin “creepy crawly” Goosen.


As the large leading pack of runners passed the 56km to go board on Harrison Flats in 1982 Alan Robb chirped “we’re on the start line of the Two Oceans gentlemen”. The lead pack crumbled into bits of flotsam and jetsam with discarded bodies clinging to the wreckage as everyone realised the implications of that statement.


Commentating on television on Frith van der Merwe’s amazing 15th place in 1989, Tim Noakes and I ran out of superlatives. Her stunning run was best summed up by Stewart Peacock who finished 12th. Shortly after he entered Kingsmead the crowd of spectators exploded into cheers and screams. Peacock ran the last lap punching the air, waving and blowing kisses to what he believed was an adoring public welcoming him home. Only when he turned to gaze back down the home straight did he see this irritating wisp of a girl in pigtails come skipping along.


Wally Hayward, 1988. The greatest Comrades run ever. Just shy of his 80th birthday, Hayward ran an incredible 9:44:15 beating more than half the field. Few runners consider that he had to run a sub-4:30 qualifying standard marathon just to be able to line up at the start.


25 000 runners in 2000.
The finish at Scottsville at 5:30pm looked like a battlefield.


The honeymoon couple in the double bed at the bottom of Polly Shorts in 1982. They toasted us with French champagne as we ran past. Theirs was a particularly startling gesture as it was freezing cold and drizzling slightly and she was wearing a very skimpy negligee.


Dancing Dave Wright and his cartwheel/Arab spring at the finish of each of his Comrades. I can scarcely hobble at the finish yet his gymnastic display was always worth at least a 9.75 for the Olympic floor exercise.


Rob Taylor weeping on television after finishing his first Comrades. He had expressly promised us he would not. He cried on completing his first Two Oceans but vowed a diet of cowboy novels and John Wayne movies had cured him of his sissy behaviour. I should have been the one crying as Leonid Shvetsov had just broken my down record!


Grant Behrman ran in memory of his father and brother last year. He trained alone through the Connecticut, New England, winter to fulfil his dream. As we listened to Shosholoza and Max Trimborn’s cockerel crow he sank down on one knee to pray briefly. I noticed he had sewn pictures of his late brother and father on the back of his vest.


Always the final gun. It’s so dramatic, so sad and so unforgettable.

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11 Responses to 10 Best Comrades Moments

  1. Carol Willis May 26, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    I remember creepy crawly…I was only about 7 at the time but will never forget that…

  2. Charmain Shandu May 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    The Final Gun. I managed my 1st Comrades @ 11:53:08. Between receiving my medal, not shiny, but medal nonetheless & getting my luke warm watery Cup of something that looks like soup, I heard the final gun. It sent shivers down my spine. When the music died off, I was griped with worse cold than the PMB icy evening fingers and I thought of all the runners who like me have trodded the 87km, through muscle pains, blood from blisters from chafes in the mostly ungodly places (places of the body I’ve never even laid my eyes on) and tears after ever 1hr of running done, to every 10km completed, to every hill climbed. That’s a lot of tears as one milestone is achieved after the other!!!
    The final guy was the most emotional moment for me, feeling sad for my Comrades who missed it by a few seconds to a few minutes. Also emotional in that I beat it and completed my 1st Comrades within time!

  3. Sabelo Matikiti May 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    I’m doing my first Comrades this year and I must say all the Comrades I have watched on TV, The Gun is the most traumatic one and I never miss that part of the race. I never thought that one day i will be trying to miss that part by crossing trying to cross the line before that man who ‘cant even look’ pulls the trigger!!!!

  4. Steve Dennehy May 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    Mr Fordyce, you are being too modest.
    Watching you catch and pass Mark Page on Polly Shorts in 1987 was watching athletic perfection. You are not only one of the best ultra-runners of all time, you are a master tactician, and you will always be King of Comrades.

    • Ingrid Murray May 12, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

      I agree. Bruce is undoubtedly the King of Comrades. What a legend!!

  5. Roald le Roux May 12, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    Dear Bruce. Having had the privilege to have met you face to face as the guest speaker at a company function, it struck me how down to earth you are…..in particular I remember your humble reaction when I asked you for your autograph on the front page of my copy of Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running. I have never once, in all the years I closely watched TV coverage of Comrades in the early 80′s, prior to attempting my first in 1984, seen you being arrogant, whether hiding from the front runners on race day, nor passing Bob de la Mot (including the handshake!) nor the 9 times you entered the stadium on your way to win, and not the once or twice you had a bad day, and then just hung in there and finished the race…..way back from the limelight where you normally run. Thank you Bruce…..very few sport stars at this level have testimony that matches this……and I can assure you that this is one of the major reasons and aspirations that motivate runners like me, who finished my 7th in 2014 in 11 hours 58 minutes and 10 seconds, to hang in there, refusing to give up, no matter what! Thank you Bruce – King of Comrades and impeccable example of a true champion. If you are lining up this year – may it be your best Comrades ever. Best wishes Roald le Roux Comrades number 41697

  6. Gerald May 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Doing the Comrades for the first time this year.
    Looking forward to it. And inspired by the ten10 runners doing it ten times in a row! Starting tomorrow and running a comrades EVERY day – right to comrades – then running comrades!
    Check out ten10 dot coza

  7. Neil Stoddard May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    you’re right about the final gun.
    I used to know old Sarel Snyman, who ran for J’oburg Harriers. You might remember seeing him as he had a caliper thing on his leg when he ran… well, one year he was the first person to cross the line after the final gun had gone…and despite running Comrades for many years previously, he said ” F… that,I’m finished, I’m not doing any more Comrades”
    But of course, next year he was back …!

  8. Melville Lotter May 31, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    The year 1984 when the Nelspruit man Chris Reyneke past the halfway mark in a absolute blistering pace wearing his white hand cloves. Chris came 3rd that day with Bob de La Motte in second and Bruce first. Chris will always be one of my Comrades heros. The maestro of Comrades runners. When Chris took the lead in any race there was always a fireworks display and everybody was suddenly wide awake. I salute to the Maestro.

  9. Melville Lotter May 31, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    The year 1984 when the Nelspruit man Chris Reyneke past the halfway mark in a absolute blistering pace wearing his white hand cloves. Chris came 3rd that day with Bob de La Motte in second and Bruce first. Chris will always be one of my Comrades heros. The maestro of Comrades runners. When Chris took the lead in any race there was always a fireworks display and everybody was suddenly wide awake. I salute the Maestro.

  10. Brad June 30, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    1989 was an amazing year at Comrades. Frith’s run was probably one of the best runs ever in my opinion. She was in a different class that day. It was also a special year for Sam Tshabala and the great Wally Hayward.

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