March 17, 2015 by DAVE JACK

There is a good chance that I will be criticised for some of my opinions in this particular article – but hey, it worked for me and most of us back then and still does for those who follow it today.

What I would like to tell you now is the preparation for Comrades in terms of training as there were very few races leading up to Comrades between January and the end of May. This incidentally, as far as I am concerned gave us a definite advantage over the runners of today as it forced us to build ourselves up training rather than break down by over racing. I don’t believe there is such a thing as treating a race as a “training run”. Run in a race and you will always run faster than you would a training run of the same distance.

Many people have told me that I am completely crazy that I still fervently believe that there was nothing wrong with the training for Comrades back then. I will deal in more detail about what we did further in this blog and I leave it to you to decide whether we were completely crazy or not.

My decision to run Comrades came at the beginning of January 1968, just 5 months before Comrades itself. Remember that in 1968 and before it and a fair number of years after it, the time limit was 11 hours.

I was allocated race number 482 and I ran my first Comrades in 1968. An entry of around 600 with the normal dropout before the race of around 10% so things like training schedules and programmes existed in the most basic of basic forms and pacing charts didn’t exist at all. Also an advantage to us I believe as we created our own to suit our needs and abilities and didn’t rely on programmes done by people we didn’t even know.

First thing I had to do was to find out how I went about getting ready and what I should do. By chance, Clive Crawley, who wore race number 1 in Comrades was staying for a short while at the hotel in Pinetown where my Dad worked so rather tentatively I approached the man who a few years before had run a gold medal.

Clive was more than happy to help me and at the same time I found out that a chap by the name of Robin Friedeman was the head baker at the bakery where my Mom worked and his number 111 was also green and he was also very happy to help me.

A couple of chats with both Clive and Robin  (I seem to remember just one chat or maybe two with both of them) and I was ready to start, and my first run was on 18th of January 1968 – just 4 and a half months before Comrades, was 1.5km and I didn’t feel great after that but one of the first things I did was tell virtually everyone I knew that I was running Comrades so there was no backing out after that.

Both Clive and Robin explained how I should start and how I should build up with LSD (Long Slow Distance) a concept that I still believe works perfectly today but I seem to be one of the few people who holds the view that this is the way to prepare despite the fact that we were required to finish Comrades in under 11 hours – and most of us did!  What LSD was and the explanation from both Clive and Robin was the sum total of my “training programme” and after that I was on my own to get to Comrades.

LSD became part of my life for many years and I ran my best of 8:29 using the same method of training, but back to 1968, and my distances grew each Sunday as I ran further and further and each week on the Comrades route itself.

It wasn’t an easy task because my training was done on my own until I heard about the group headed by the late Ian Jardine, the famous blind runner of the 60’s and early 70’s until he was stopped from running by the organisers because he had passed the upper age limit of 65. In those days the race was open to white males between 18 and 65 only.

I joined the “Jardine Sunday School” just three weeks before Comrades for their annual run from Pinetown to Pietermatizburg but it was after that first disastrous run with them three weeks before my first Comrades that I realised how little I knew about “The Marathon” and after a complete “all fall down” after about 35km, I was summonsed to appear before the “Old Man” who said to me “I see we’ve learnt a lesson today”. The words “I see” were a regular part of his vocabulary but in fact he couldn’t see anything at all. A very serious lecture about basically being stupid – but no advice – and off I went a few weeks later to attempt the magic that has enchanted me for many years.

I eventually reached the finish in 10:25 in position 320 to get my first medal which in those days was silver, as gold went to the first 6 finishers and silver to the rest of the field. One of the things of which I am still proud today were my splits for that first Comrades and I put that down firmly to LSD. First half 5:10 and second half 5:15.

Incidentally even my best run when I did my 8:29 my splits were pretty even because I had the strength to maintain my speed and for that I thank my LSD training. 

Getting back to 1968 and the first thing that a proud new finisher had to do was to get his blazer and tie and for that I had to travel to Pietermaritzburg to buy the articles from Lambert’s Outfitters, in Church St in Pietermaritzburg, the sole stockists of these. No Expo or Comrades Shop back then.  I still have the blazer although it has shrunk in my cupboard over 47 years!

And so began 10 years that gave me 100% finishes in my starts to turn to green my race number 482.

Over the next 10 years I ran another 4 Comrades proudly wearing that green number.

For all that I thank LSD. In writing these chapters I have spoken to top runners and coaches and all of them have one thing in common. Cut down on races and increase the LSD.





  1. Tony Tripp says:


    I am one of those who remember the Comrades, when you could run for a number of miles without seeing any other runner, and that was in 1964, when I was 17 on the day of the race, I was 18 on the 13th August. One of my crew collected my number and I was nearly stopped at the 30 mile mark by the President of the Natal Athletic association.(in those days it was strictly amateur and the officals were more important then the runners.) He stated, ” you are too young to be running this race”. I looked about 12. My father one of the crew said ” I am his father and he is 18. “. Another runner stepped in and said ” I saw him run a trial comrades at the beginning of May.He also added if he had not have done that, he would be way up in front. We have a winner of the future here”. I came 42 and finished the up run.

    Should young runners run,? Most certainly 17 is a good starting age. If you are fit, running up or down as Dave has stated makes no difference.

    The next year in 1965 I came 32, and was said to be one of the future greats. What happened was I became interested in running 100 miles and organisation. Do I regret not doing better. No. I did what I did in my 10 comrades in a row. Was I good, sure. But running was natural to me, I loved it. What others found difficult I found easy. I meditated and visualized the course. I played classical music on my LP portable played just before the start. Near the end I carried a small radio and played the classical music station.

    I never trained with music, but in the Comrades as I tired, I battled out of it via music. I never walked up hills, never got cramps, in fact I finished in good nick with fuel still in the tank. If I had of stretched myself a bit more maybe my position would have been higher, but that is not important.

    What I am most proud of ,is that I pioneered certain attitudes, that it is all in the mind, you need meditation and focus. Learn to drift and quiet the mind. It was as it were in another dimension where time stood still. I read now how American’s discovered this technique. Balls, it was me, a South African. We developed many of the Ultra distance techniques that are used throughout the World today. But I am not known, and I like that. This appeals to my sense of humour, which droll and very dry.

    At 70 I still race bikes, which I took up at 61. I looked then about 40. I was thin and I still am, and have no grey hair. People who knew me in Durban would still recognise me from the old days. So what is the secret. I meditate everyday. I regret nothing. My philosophy is based on personal experience not wishful thinking. I have done everything I have wanted to do, but I am not self satisfied, I am still wishing to achieve more. Like do well in the world senior cycling yearly championship, but I have to qualify in my now 70 year age group. They are good, I am a average rider. Why write I am good when I am not.

    I have crashed, hit a car and was flung onto the roof slid down and hit the road. Another time, a car hit me from the side, pushed me out into the road and cars swerved around me. I was concussed and roared off swearing. In cycle racing the saying is there are those who are about to crash and those who have. I have also hit trees when misjudging a corner., I like the sport because we all support each other, and stop and help if we have a flat tire or injury when training. Lets put it this way, it is more exciting then running. In the Comrades I knew for certain I was going to finish, I was never fearful of the event. Racing riders never know. for certain if they are going to get the chop. I mean we are all going to die, so it is better when you are doing something you enjoy.

    In racing cycling you apply the same mental calmness, but you have to live in the moment as Zen explains. You need to be in tune with your bike, so the more you train the better rider you become, .but never over train. You must have quick reflexes and learn to control fear, for going down a hill with many corners very fast can dishearten you.

    Now they have the South African qualifying Grand fondo, from Marizburg to Durban, where the course contains part of the Comrades route. I thought going down Fields Hill would be a bastard. However, I was invited by the UCI (international governing body) to race in this event a few years ago, but I was not fit. Maybe in the future I will do it. Find out about it. I thought it would be nice to be a dual Comrades runner and cycling finisher. I have lost my green number, I should apply to the Organisers and pay for them to send me a new number, and two of my ten medals I have lost.

    Regards Tony.

    Liked by 1 person

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