Comrades Marathon: Much More Than a Race

Comrades finish

Looking ahead to the Comrades Marathon this weekend, we published an article about the race from Jo Zakrzewski earlier this week. Jo’s article talks about all the special aspects about this race that make it unique, and it’s her personal account of having run it (and come 4th). Because it’s such an iconic race, when we published the article there was a great deal of interest in it and we received a lot of feedback. Some of this feedback was from Bob de la Motte.

Bob de la Motte is a sporting hero in South Africa, a man whose name is forever etched into the legend of the Comrades Marathon. Although Bob never won Comrades (but he won many, many other races in his career), he produced two incredible duels with Bruce Fordyce which have gone down in history.  Bob is also the author of ‘Runaway Comrade: an insider’s view of the oldest and biggest ultramarathon in the world’, which sets the race against the backdrop of politics in 1980s South Africa. All proceeds from the book go to the benefit of a few of South Africa’s leading black ultramarathon runners from the 1974-90 era. You can find out more about the book and the runners it has supported on Bob’s website.

So, in short, when Bob, with his extensive knowledge and understanding of the Comrades Marathon gave us some feedback, we were very interested. And we wanted to make this feedback available to you by publishing it here.

Bob wanted to add a few things to our article. Firstly, he pointed out that the Comrades is a WWI memorial, started in honour of South African soldiers who were killed in battle. And that ‘in 1975 Comrades was no longer an exclusive ‘white male’ event…women and blacks were allowed to take part’.

Secondly, Bob made the point that ‘Comrades became a symbol of hope for all disadvantaged South Africans during apartheid’s darkest days. Black athletes like Vincent Rakabaele and Hoseah Tjale carried the flame of hope for millions. Comrades became the day when all South Africans embraced each other.’

Bob talks about the political significance of Comrades in his book, Runaway Comrade. Bob feels that the running community in South Africa ‘deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to social harmony, reconciliation and human dignity during apartheid. Every Comrades runner was respected and treated equally.’

I’m sure that many non-South African runners won’t be aware of the societal significance of Comrades and I’m so glad that Bob took the time to contact us and give us this feedback. If you’d like to read Bob’s book you can find it on Amazon here, in Kindle and paperback. And remember that by buying a copy you are supporting, in Bob’s words, ‘athletic giants from the 80s apartheid era. Legends.’.