A Watch for Ambitious Athletes

C is for Camaraderie



One of the
most memorable sights of Comrades 2012 was when two of South Africa’s all-time greatest
runners, Bruce Fordyce and Zola Pieterse,
finished hand in hand in 8:06:09 and hugged on the line. Bruce, the nine-time
winner and undisputed King of the Comrades, had mentored Zola in her training
ahead of her first Big C, and they ran the last 25km together.


Zola says
the Comrades was her toughest race yet, as she was in unknown territory after
the 56km mark – her longest races before this were the 50km Loskop and 56km Two
Oceans ultras. “My energy levels were depleted by the time I got to 60km, but
with the help of Bruce, I pushed through to Durban. I experienced the Comrades spirit and
there is nothing like it in the world!”


This was Bruce’s 30th Comrades medal and he
announced afterwards that he will now retire from the Big C – but there may
still be one run left in the tank… “This will be my last Comrades, although I
am thinking of giving it go again when Comrades turns 100. I will only be 68
then.” And what a way to bow out, pulling in alongside Zola when she needed it
most in Pinetown.



The 2012
Comrades saw two runners join the select 40-medal club, and both did so without
having missed a year since their first run! They are now tied third on the list
for most Comrades finishes with Clive Crawley and Riel Hugo, behind Dave Rogers
(45 medals) and Kenny Craig (42 medals).


This was a
big year for Barry Holland. Having provided crucial
training advice to Modern Athlete readers in the months leading up to the race,
he then set off on his 40th consecutive Comrades, leading a special
Barry Holland sub-10:30 bus home in 10:23 and embracing his wife, family and
clubmates on the line. “It was a fantastic run, and words cannot describe
running and finishing with my family,” says Barry. “There was a huge commitment
from everyone, because we all go through rough patches at different stages, but
we had a shared belief that we’ll finish together.” He is also thankful for the
spectators and fellow runners who congratulated him on his feat. “The reception
was amazing. People saw the four stripes on my number and shouted ‘Go Barry!’
which was a great feeling!”


Barry says
he is planning to run two more with his wife, who is now on 18 finishes. “Maybe
I will look beyond that, but that’s a decision for later. I guess I keep coming
back every year because I love the dedication one needs for Comrades. I’ve
always said that training is harder than the run. I love that commitment people
make and the camaraderie I share with my running mates!”


having run the Comrades 40 consecutive times, Louis Massyn says every race he has run is different from the last, and this one was extra
special. With four yellow stripes on his number, Louis enjoyed great support
from runners and spectators alike, and he says the atmosphere when he entered
the stadium was the best feeling he has experienced in his long Comrades
career. “It was emotional for me. It was the best race of my life and the
cheers took me home! I’ve gotten so many phone calls, e-mails and Facebook
messages – the support has been great!”


Even though
he went through a bad patch when he reached Field’s Hill, Louis recovered in
Pinetown, finding a running mate and finishing with him in 11:23. “I was
buggered, but you have to push on. Now I want to keep going from here. I’ve
been lucky because I’ve been injury-free all 40 years. For me now, it’s
breaking the record for the most Comrades runs. Being a part of the greatest
ultra on earth is so rewarding!”



In a race
as long as Comrades, many athletes rely on pacesetters to get them home for
their target time or before the final cut-off gun is fired. This year, Modern Athlete had two pacing buses in
the race, aiming to come home in sub-11:00 and sub-12:00 finishing times.


When Jackie Campher’s sub-11:00 bus reached halfway in 5:27, he
says he knew they could push through to the finish and make it home on time. “The
runners kept asking me questions before that, like what time we’ll be at
halfway and what time we’ll finish – and if I’ve done this before,” says
Jackie, but after that everybody settled down. When the bus came home in
10:51:34, the runners went crazy, cheering and hitting the ad boards. “People
thanked me then. It is something you can’t describe as people you don’t even
know hug you!”


applauded the atmosphere and camaraderie in the bus as runners helped each
other through the rough patches, “Everybody worked together, especially at the
water tables. There was a lot of chatting and joking and the vibe was great. It
also helped that I had some runners from my club in the bus, and my son,
Steven, was also in the bus helping when I had to pull off now and again! Another
highlight was passing through the Modern
Smile Zone in Pinetown and Sean Falconer
said ‘Jackie, you are a legend!’ With that, Steven gave me a pat on the
shoulder and it brought me to tears!”


legendary sub-12:00 pacer Vlam Pieterse had to pull out of the race with one
week to go it looked as if there would be no sub-12:00 bus… which literally
left some runners in tears! But then Vlam’s mate, Hardus ‘Spike’ Laubscher, came to the rescue, just two days before the race, by
agreeing to take over the driving duties. “It was scary taking over from Vlam,
because he is a legend. I didn’t know if I had it in me, but my confidence grew
because I could see how many people depended on me for a finish.”


Vlam’s pacing chart and being met at several points along the way by Vlam and
his family, Spike led an enthusiastic bunch home in 11:47. “It was so lekker!
As much as I helped them, they helped me. There were locals, about 20 Americans
and a woman from Puerto Rico. Some were worried,
asking me things like what to eat and drink, but I told them not to worry and
we did it. With just a few kilometres to go, I told them that they must taste
their medals and many burst into tears! It was the best feeling ever getting
into that stadium and crossing the line together!”