Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 165 February 2024 | Page 32

Most Exclusive Comrades Clubs
A number of the Quadruple Greens who attended the Comrades centenary function in May 2021 . Back row , from left : Shaun Wood , Vic Boston , Dave Williams ; Middle : Zwelitsha Gono ( 24 ), Alan Robb ( 18 ), Boysie van Staden ( 27 ), Barry Holland , Wietsche van der Westhuizen , Mike Cowling ( 7 ); Front : Louis Massyn ( 25 ), Kenny Craig and Dave Lowe ( 8 )
Finishing Comrades number 45 , which tied the then record for most finishes
of thousands of people standing on the course , supporting you , and you have this millisecond of interaction with each of them . It ’ s a unique dynamic that underscores the race ’ s profound impact .”
Barry regards the Comrades as a celebration of ordinary South Africans from every stratum of society , united by the ethos of ubuntu – “ I am because we are ,” a bond Nelson Mandela described as an understanding that our humanity is tied to others , emphasising our interconnected successes . This philosophy transcends the physicality of the sport , elevating it to a shared journey that celebrates our collective humanity . “ It is this unifying force that empowers us to overcome the insurmountable ,” says Barry .
Finding Camaraderie
Barry ’ s running journey began at 18 , marked by solitary runs on Durban North ’ s unforgiving roads , which soon led him to abandon his training . A year later , despite renewed resolve , he struggled with the solitude inherent in running , leading to another halted attempt . ( Little wonder that “ the loneliness of the long distance runner ” is one of the most commonly used catchphrases in the sport !) The turning point came just as he was on the brink of surrender for the third time . Fortunately , Barry ’ s solitary journey then crossed paths with 30 runners from the Regent Harriers club .
Dr Waśkiewicz ’ s studies show that ultrarunners seek fulfilment not just from the act of running , but from the camaraderie and collective experience of like-minded people , and the shared journey of the long run . Barry soon found that having fellow runners to train with made all the difference . “ It ’ s what happens at five in the morning , meeting your mates , talking , being out there together . It ’ s a hard sport ; you need people to get through it . It is a wonderful sense of belonging , a strange relationship with an unwritten contract with your mates .”
Barry and Louis are two of the most sought after Green Numbers for an Expo pic
Getting it Done
Barry ’ s running journey has already covered an awe-inspiring 170,000 kilometres , with only 4300km ( 2.5 %) being within the 49 actual Comrades races . That total is equivalent to circling the globe more than four times , and stands as a testament to the relentless training of a dedicated runner and his 22 silver medals , 6 Bill Rowan medals , 20 bronze medals , and one Vic Clapham medal . The record of Barry ’ s achievements highlights a central truth : The magic of the Comrades unfolds not on race day , but in the months of taxing preparation leading up to it .
When it comes to a philosophy , Barry says his success is built upon three key elements : Talent , mindset and training . “ I ’ ve always considered myself genetically gifted , biomechanically sound , and a smart runner .” That ’ s why , post-Comrades , he religiously takes six weeks off for recovery , an essential rest period to allow for healing and prevent injuries . Then begins the arduous 46-week training regimen anew . Embracing a simple truth , Barry has maintained a steadfast mindset : Finish this Comrades and prepare for the next . “ I never changed that thought process .”
Barry ’ s mental toughness , especially in the gruelling final stages of a race , underpins his philosophy of enduring pain , striving for excellence , and expending every ounce of effort to reach the finish line . “ When you race , leave nothing on the road . Get to the finish line knowing you ’ ve given everything you possibly could ,” he advises .
Achieving Milestones
Barry ’ s relentless stride towards his 50th Comrades medal is more than just a testament to his endurance ; it is a metaphor for life ’ s trials . His pursuit has never been a solitary affair ; it is the culmination of dreams shared with his family , the unwavering support of his fellow runners , and the collective pride of the vibrant town of Ballito , which he calls home . This is not just Barry ’ s race ; it ’ s a victory lap for every life he ’ s touched .
Still , he reflects on the swift passage of time as he looks back on half a century of taking on this incredible race : “ The Comrades has a way of drawing people back for the challenge . You start with the intention of just one race , but soon you ’ re hooked , not just on the run , but on the relentless pursuit of bettering oneself , and then , suddenly , you are approaching a Green Number , and that is again
Only a small number of male runners in the history of the Comrades Marathon have completed the race 40 or more times , and an even smaller number of women have managed 30 or more finishes . The first men to reach 40 were Clive Crawley and Kenny Craig , both doing so in 1998 , while Kleintjie van Schalkwyk was the first woman to reach 30 . Today the list features 18 men and six women , who are now members of the two most exclusive and difficult to join Comrades clubs !
The current record for the most Comrades Marathon finishes is held by Barry Holland , who has completed 49 , while Kleintjie Van Schalkwyk ’ s 34 medals make her the leading women ’ s finisher . Barry is aiming to be the first to attain 50 medals , at this year ’ s Comrades . Another interesting stat is that the two lists each contain one former winner of the race : Allan Robb ( four wins in 1976 , 77 , 78 and 80 ) and Tilda Tearle ( winner in 1993 ).
Men with Quadruple Green 49 Barry Holland 48 Louis Massyn 45 Dave Rodgers 45 Vic Boston 44 Wiestsche van der Westhuizen 43 Alan Robb 43 Mike Cowling 42 Clive Crawley 42 Dave Lowe 42 Zwelitsha Gono 42 David Williams 41 Tommy Neitski 41 Colin Goosen 40 Kenny Craig 40 Riel Hugo 40 Shaun Wood 40 Boysie van Staden 40 Johann van Eeden
Women with Triple Green 34 Kleintjie van Schalkwyk 33 Patricia Fisher 31 Pat Freeman 31 Toni Hesp 30 Tilda Tearle 30 Kim Pain
32 ISSUE 165 | www . modernathlete . co . za
The Comrades Centenary function also saw Triple Greens Pat Freeman ( 29 ), Pat Fisher ( 20 ), Kim Pain ( 23 ) and Tilda Tearle ( back left , also 1993 winner ) pose for a pic with 1992 winner Frances van Blerk ( back right ) and 2016 winner Charné Bosman ( 12 ).