IF you have ever participated in, watched, or supported someone running the Comrades’ Marathon, you would have experienced the camaraderie that is so strongly associated with the annual event.
It’s this “spirit of unity”, as well as the story of the event, that two locals – Brad Morgan of Gillitts and Steve Camp of Winston Park – said they wanted to capture with the first-ever table book. world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon.
And they succeeded – despite lockdown restrictions, the July 2021 riots and a tight six-month deadline.
From the moment you start flipping through the pages, not only are you captivated by the pure meaning of Ubuntu and human resilience, but also by all the different facets that have made the Comrades unique and world famous.
“It’s such an iconic event, and it represents the best of South Africa. There is no other event like this, where everyday people can become heroes and the spectators play such an important role in getting the runners through. We wanted to bring the race to life by combining a rich mix of copy, which delves into the memories: how medals, badges and trophies are awarded – basically everything you ever wanted to know about the comrades – with beautiful photographs “said Morgan, a former sports radio host and journalist.
Making the book visually appealing was a priority for the duo, Camp said.
“About ninety percent of the photographs in this book have never been published before, and that’s something that [Morgan] and I wanted to try a new look at the Comrades. There have been many books written about the comrades, but they have all been written, ”explained the avid sportsman.
While browsing the Msunduzi City Library (formerly The Natal Society Library), as well as the archives of the Comrades Marathon Museum (also known as Comrades House), both located in Pietermaritzburg, the two Durbanites not only discovered rare film and photo slides, but also shirts, shoes and scrapbooks that had been bequeathed by some of the race’s best past runners.
“It was also great to work on this stuff because it was very personal for the riders, and it wasn’t stuff that had been shared in books before. We found some cool stuff from important people in the story of the event,” added Morgan.
The search also revealed unique, never-before-shared stories – which Morgan shared with Caxton Local Media as a teaser:
“It’s something that most people didn’t know. In the very first event, Vic Clapham, the guy who started the Comrades and organized it all… They’re about to start the race and he surrenders account: “I don’t have a starter gun. [Now he is] in a little panic. He looked around and saw a policeman, so he ran up to the guy and said, ‘Please, please, that’s my problem. Can I borrow your revolver? and the policeman duly said yes. So he took the policeman’s gun and used it to start the race!
“There are a lot of incredible stories out there, and it was so hard to condense a hundred years of stories like this into a book this size,” Camp said.
“But we’re really happy with what we’ve produced,” he said. “Writing books is not a full-time job for either [Morgan] or myself. It really is a hobby. I think it’s such an honor to [document] the history of the Comrades for the year of its centenary. We both grew up on the road and followed it since we were stoned, and being in a position where I could co-write the book with [Morgan]and putting it together the way we wanted to, is something very special,” he added.
The ultimate purpose of the books, they said, was not just to educate and entertain, but to inspire people.
It wasn’t the dynamic duo’s first project together, however. In 2020 they successfully published a book about the legendary Dusi Canoe Marathon.
In Your Stride: 100 Years of the Comrades Marathon can be purchased from the Comrades Marathon Association or online via IGo Books at R480 (including home delivery), while Adventures on an African River: 70 Years of the Dusi Canoe Marathon is available through the Natal Canoe Club at R200.
To celebrate this year’s Comrades Marathon – which takes place on August 28 – and its centenary, we will be giving away signed copies of Dusi and Comrades books to one lucky winner.
Simply complete the form below for a chance to win. The winners will be notified by telephone and must pick up the books at Road mail offices (115 Escom Road, New Germany).
Comrades Centenary Book Competition – JULY 2022