I first met Ian Jardine at the beginning of May 1968 on an ill-fated training run from Pinetown to Pietermaritzburg which “the Old Man” used to organise every year at the beginning of May along the route and in the direction of Comrades in that particular year. I didn’t know him when we set off that morning, but I certainly did before that day ended.
On reflection I realise that I knew nothing about Comrades – and I mean nothing. We had started in Pinetown and by the top of Field’s Hill I was running alongside Manie Kuhn who had won the year before and was second the year before that. That’s how easy Comrades was! By the time we had done another 30Kms I was so far behind the rest of the group that I had to get into the car and be driven to where they were. I arrived and was told that “I.J. wants to see you”. In reality he had been blind for years and couldn’t see a thing but nonetheless I presented myself and he said to me “I see we have learnt about Comrades today”.
As I came to know him over the years that followed I learnt that was his “stock phrase “I see” when in fact he could see nothing at all.
Anyway, back to that awful run of mine and “Mr Jardine” (I never dared call him anything else as I was just 21 at the time) was very nice about it all, gave me some pointers, told me to try to run the rest of the way to Pietermartizburg, which I wasn’t able to do but to present myself the following Sunday morning at the top of Botha’s Hill to join them and in the few weeks left to Comrades, they would teach me what I needed to know.
I duly did that and with just a couple of weeks left to the big day I finished my first Comrades in 10:25, and so began an association with Ian Jardine and his “Sunday School” that lasted for the next four or five years.
What was so remarkable about this man though? In 50 years of running the legendary Ian Jardine clocked up a total of 110 794km of which over 50 000 were run after the age of 50.
Before switching to running as a first love at the age of 52, he had played rugby 2nd league), hockey and tennis (1st league) and had played cricket for Transvaal and baseball for South Africa. The last 50 000 miles of Ian Jardine’s running were done with the help of friends who acted as guides because he was totally blind for many years before his death in 1976. I admire those who “led” him for Km after Km because I did it on a few occasions and it was a very hard job and to do it over the distance of Comrades must have been an amazing feat in itself. In the time I knew him, Gerry Treloar was his main “guide-dog” and Gerry himself a remarkable man who had been chairman of Savages Athletic Club in Durban for some years.
The Sunday morning “school” ran week after week over the same 32km route from the top of Botha’s Hill to what is now Inchanga Caravan Park and back and running with the group was just so easy. We stopped for tea and toast supplied by Mrs Jardine at the halfway and it was disappointing when we got to the end, such was the pure joy of running.
The group had more natural comedians than any other I have ever come across and as one of the youngsters in the group we simply had to do two things. Run and laugh. In that group were Nick Raubenheimer, Charlie Warren and Jack Usdin who were the three funniest men I knew and a whole group of others who contributed with their quips. We were also joined on occasions by winners like Dave Bagshaw and gold medalists like Dave Box and all these seasoned veterans who were more than happy to impart their running knowledge. It was one of the regulars, Malcolm Hean who taught me to run up hills when he said to me “Take care of the bottom of a hill and the top will take care of itself”. I have never forgotten that and have passed that on to many a frightened novice in the years that followed.
Ian Jardine never went anywhere without his amazing wife and second, Eleanor, who always had a smile and a helping hand for any struggling runner and that beige coloured Valiant – and if I remember correctly, the registration number was ND 903 – was regarded as a “saviour” by many of us on a long lonely road.
When I met him and ran with him the “Old Man” lived at what was called Anderson’s Farm and what is now Inchanga Caravan Park and actually in a caravan parked next to the old farmhouse. Alongside the caravan was a pole attached to which was a metal wire which had been carefully measured and which “I.J” would hold onto and run for a specific length of time to give him his daily run. The fact that he was running in a circle didn’t matter as he couldn’t see and it was safe as there was nothing over which he could trip and fall.
In the fifty years up to 31 December 1972, Ian Jardine ran about 110,000km. In the ten years between the ages of 51 and 60 he ran about 38,000km, between 61 and 70 he covered around 50,000km. His highest mileage for 24 hours was 160km, for one week just over 500km, for one month (October 1965) 1100km, and for one year (1964) 6000km. These figures are particularly amazing when you consider that a blind man had been guided a total distance of some 80,000km, or almost twice around the world over all sorts of roads without as much as a sprained ankle. That was his faith in his friends who led him and I am honoured to have been one of them.
Ian Jardine entered Comrades 14 times and completed it every time. His best in 1965 when he finished in 8 hours 38 minutes. He won the Founders Trophy for the oldest finisher, 13 times, 10 years in succession from 1960 to 1969. When he reached the age of 65, he was banned from running Comrades as that was the upper age limit in those days, which in hindsight was really rather foolish as he would most certainly have been able to complete Comrades well inside the 11 hour time lime we had in those days for a good few years more.
All his running was done in his own time, with no encroachment into office or business hours.
‘Tackies’ were used throughout his running career, each pair averaging something over 1600km. Arthur Newton, by trial and error, and over 150 000km found the best drink on the road was lemonade, sugar and salt. The “Old Man” improved this drink by the addition of bicarbonate of soda and called it “Corpse Reviver”.
I incidentally used it very successfully in my first few Comrades and by the way, it also tasted very good!
Ian Jardine died of cancer in late January 1976. A truly remarkable man.
11 thoughts on “IAN JARDINE – UNSEEING YET HE SAW :”
That was simply an exquisite piece of writing … and invaluable golden thread in that rich Comrades tapestry. I look forward to reading all your earlier posts plus those still to be written. Congratulations for sharing the story of a true Comrades legend.
Bob de la Motte 0419 919 718 – Australia 0827 415 564 – South Africa http://www.runawaycomrade.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Thanks Bob. I had the privilege of running many hundreds of kms with Ian Jardine in my early running years and he was an amazing man.
Thank you for that information about my uncle Ian Reid Jardine, he was my gran’s baby brother. It will be added to my family tree. He was an amazing man. Kind regards, M Plint
Thank you for your comment. Ian Jardine was an amazing man with whom I ran many miles and a man who taught me a great deal about the “art” of long distance road running when it was still in its infancy in South Africa. It was an honour to have known him.
My father was a very good friend of Ian Jardine and devoted a section to him in his book Ultra Runners All.In 1974 he was awarded a special Karoo medal by my father Guillaume Marais with the inscription ” Unseeing he yet saw”. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a copy of the book.
What a wonderful story you have written about Ian and also Eleanor. Ian was my uncle and affectionately known as Inty, and was a true legend in those days. You also have a lovely photo of him that brings back memories of him running in his Bata Takkies, together with some of the amazing friends who guided him on his runs.
As a Fish Hoek Athletic Club member I’ve run Two Oceans since the early 80’s but it was only in 1996 that I ran my first Comrades with thoughts of Ian as my inspiration. I also have 14 medals and will be trying for my 15th in a month’s time at the age of 67. It was a real shame that Ian was prevented from running Comrades at the age of 65.
Of some coincidental interest, my Comrades Number is 12630 and with the 26 in it, I am always remind of the link to Ian – Comrades number 26.
Many thanks for the article.
Thank you for your comments about “the Old Man” as he was known to us. I ran my first Comrades 50 years ago in 1968 and he played a very big part in my early running years.
Every Sunday morning, summer and winter we used to gather at the top of Botha’s Hill and run to what is now Inchanga Caravan Park (where he lived for a time) for tea and toast and then back to Botha’s Hill. Always Mrs Jardine was there in the beige Valiant the registration number of which, if I remember correctly was ND 903.
Gerry Treloar did most of his leading at that time although at various times we were all needed to help with that and it was a seriously tough job.
He was a remarkable man and I regard it a great honour to have known him and to have run many miles with him.
Chatting with Pam Norquoy at our village library, she asked if Ian Jardine was completely blind. I
called up his name and got your excellent article. Pam and her late husband, Don, were involved
at Germiston Callies for many years.
I appreciate your memories as I also ran with my blind friend Christo Botha over many km’s of
training and racing, although we only did one Comrades together.
At one time Dennis Tabakin gathered a few of us who did this and gave us the name of Jardine
Joggers. I still have the little badge that he had made for us.
Thank you for keeping some good memories of those days.
At one time he used to follow his guide who had a hankie tucked into the waistband of his running shorts but by the time I met him in May 1968 he was completely blind as far as I know and he was led by his guide who held a piece of material at one end and “the Old Man” held the other and he ran that way.
It was no easy task and I led him a couple of times and the concentration needed to do so was intense because you had to be in complete sync with him in terms of speed and at the same time watch for anything in the road that could be a danger.
I ran in his group for about 4 years and his main guide during that time was Gerry Treloar who had it down to a fine art. In shorter races the “old man” had the nasty habit of sprinting the last 100 metres or so for the finish line.
I was always very pleased that it was Gerry and not me that was doing the leading when he did that. He was a remarkable person who taught me a great deal about “the art of road running”
I have just found this article on the history of some of the Comrades running greats, especially Ian Jardine and his wife Elenor. I was a child of about eleven or so when I remember my Cousin Ronald Clokie and his passion for running and the comrades. I also remember that he was one of Ian’s guides, and being fascinated as how the two men were able to run together, one seeing, one blind. Beautiful article, though I would love to know for how long they ran together. Ron had many medals from his running days Thank you.
Thank you for your comment. Whilst I ran many miles with Ian Jardine and whilst I knew many of the people with whom he ran and also “Mrs J” as she was known to so many of us, I never in all my running years, met Ron Clokie. Obviously I knew who he was and if I remember, he too had sight problems as he got older. I seem to think that he also had an annual training run from Durban to Port Edward over a few days but I never ran it.
I am unfortunately not able to tell you how long he and Ian Jardine ran together as I simply don’t know. There are photos around of the two of them on the road together and these are fairly easy to come by.
Thank you for your support in reading my blog and for your comments about the article.