Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 154 November 2022 | Page 36
Roy Kirkness in action during the 1978 Comrades Marathon
A young Roy lines up for a 100 Miler in the late 60s in his Ladysmith AC colours
In 1959 , the late Roy Kirkness tackled the Comrades Marathon on minimal training , all to try win a bet . The question is , are today ’ s runners as tough as the runners in those early days who ran on flat , seven and sixpence Bata tackies ? – BY KARIEN JONCKHEERE
He was still owed 10 shillings . That ’ s what Roy Kirkness was reminded of every year when thousands of runners lined up to cover the gruelling 89km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in the Comrades Marathon . In truth , he was not too bothered about recovering the debt , but it meant he had some great stories to tell – starting back in March 1959 when , at an innocuous cricket match in Dundee , KZN , the gauntlet was thrown down .
“ We were playing cricket at Glencoe , and at the break between the two innings , they were talking about Comrades ,” the enthusiastic storyteller would explain . “ I said I ’ m going to run it one day , and the opposition captain said , ‘ You ’ re too fat ! You ’ ll never run it .’ That was all it took .” Kirkness took the bait and boldly declared he ’ d do it that year . In fact , the race was just two months away . “ The bet of 10 shillings was entered into between the captain and myself , because he said I wouldn ’ t do it . The result was that we got home that night and , thinking about it more soberly , we thought – what have we let ourselves in for ?”
In Search of Mileage
Kirkness and the two friends that agreed to go with him had never been runners . They were relatively fit from playing cricket , soccer , rugby and hockey , but had never ventured out on the road for any kind of long-distance training . The trio started with twice weekly training sessions , but five-mile runs were hardly ideal preparation . Just prior to the race , having consulted a friend who was a provincial