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By John Cooper

As youngsters we sat glued to the TV to see who’d win this amazing race. Sure, I was inspired by the Comrades Greats, but the motivation to enter my first event in 1988 came from a friend Tracey who had entered and successfully finished her first race in ’87. I was about to finish my national service and needed a goal once I was ‘out’.

My name is John Cooper, a graphic designer from Jozi, South Africa. I have been hooked on Comrades ever since that painful day – 31st May 1988. I grew up in Rosettenville, South of Johannesburg. Once I’d researched entry requirements, I bought my first ‘real’ running shoes, a pair of Saucony America – ‘grey imports’. The nearest club to join was Jo’burg Harriers where I could rub shoulders with one of the Greats – Manie Kuhn and chat about Comrades over quarts of Lion Lager on club nights.

People may think that Comrades is just about a very long race on one particular day of the year. It’s not. It’s a lifestyle that consumes the first half of every year and is backed up by support of hundreds of other people. My brother Wayne supported me in my first qualifier and was there at the end of my First Comrades as I hobbled into Pietermaritzburg.

Sitting in the passenger seat on the way back home immediately after the race in our Dad’s bronze Mazda 626, the sense of achievement and overwhelming comradery I had experienced that day washed away any pain in my stiff legs and I was already thinking of doing my first ‘down’ run. 24 years later with 21 Comrades under the belt, I’m still as excited as ever to begin the new season in January. Let the Road to Comrades 2012 begin.


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One Response to Hooked

  1. Clare Voitin January 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    This very inspiring individual convinced me to run comrades 3 years ago – on the day I turned 40. I travelled across from Australia to run with John Cooper and it was without a doubt the most inspiring day I have ever experienced. 2012 will bring me back to SA to run once again. Clare V

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