By Bruce Fordyce
After dropping out of the 1977 Boston marathon 4 time winner Bill Rodgers declared;
“The marathon can always humble you”
The Comrades marathon certainly humbled many runners last Sunday. The race was particularly harsh on the outspoken and arrogant this year. Runners are normally fairly restrained and modest when predicting performance. Not generally for us the Mohammed Ali style;
“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was”
But this year the race was littered with Mohammed Alis and they all bombed as badly as some of Ali’s opponents or as Bill Rodgers in the 1977 Boston.
The first of the arrogant ones was Gert Thys who astonished us by predicting that he would break 5 hours for the distance and slash 20 minutes off an already very speedy record. A week later Kingsmead still awaits his arrival at the finish line.
The second was defending champion Stephen Muzhingi who spray- painted the words; “Stephen Muzhingi 4 time Comrades champion “on the side of his car before the race. He also rashly declared that he would be the first male athlete since 1975 to win the Two Oceans and Comrades in the same year. At least he finished, unlike Thys, and in his defense I believe most of his “Mohammed Ali” marketing was the boastful handiwork of his manager/coach, Cliff Chinsammy
Next to grab the loud hailer was record holder Leonid Shvetsov who declared that he had travelled from Russia to win only the giant Gold medallion for first place and wasn’t interested in the pathetic small gold medals given to the riff-raff finishing from second to tenth. He also declared that Stephen Muzhinghi hadn’t beaten him in former Comrades but that he had beaten himself’ He beat Stephen this year but unfortunately allowed 5 runners ahead of him to prevent his even having a sniff of the medallion.
Mea maxima culpa. Having missed a silver medal by a few seconds last year I told everyone who would listen that it was a certainty on the “faster” down run. After 29 Comrades I still hadn’t learnt that nothing except pain is a certainty at the Comrades. I was plodding pathetically up 45th Cutting when the silver cut-off gun was fired.
So we all need to remember. Arrogance is a punishable offence at Comrades and it is the meek who shall inherit the rewards our great race has to offer.