Vets celebrate 40th Comrades Marathon

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ND comrades_d_news_7 (4) RAJESH JANTILAL Louis Massyn, 61, completed his 40th Comrades Marathon. Picture: Rajesh Jantilal

For Comrades runners Louis Massyn and Barry Holland, life really does begin at 40.

Both men on Sunday achieved the enviable feat of completing their 40th Comrades marathons

Massyn, 61, from Welkom, dedicated his milestone medal to his wife of 24 years, Rita.

He said she had been a great anchor to him over the years, with his supporters.

Veteran Holland, 60, also credited his family for his success.

Holland, his wife Debbie (who completed her 18th Comrades), daughter Kelly Gibb, son Ryan Gibb, son-in-law Owen Van Dongen and brother-in-law Bruce Stewart all finished together.

“It was fantastic; the last 12 to 15km were torturous for Debbie, who was experiencing severe nausea, but everyone waited for her,” he said.

Both his wife and son were hospitalised after the race, and were being treated for severe dehydration.

Both Massyn and Holland have in their sights the two runners who have completed more Comrades than them – Dave Rogers with 45 medals and Kenny Craig with 42.

Asked if the number one spot was a target, Massyn said, “I’m definitely going for it.

“I’m still fit and still have a burning desire to carry on each year.”

He said he could not describe the feeling of finishing Comrades.

“I was never in doubt (about finishing),” he said.

He said he ran at a steady pace and felt comfortable for the whole 89km.

He said his first race in 1973 was sparked by a bishop at the Anglican Church in Odendaalrus (in the Free State); when the bishop likened the marathon with the work of the Bible, he never looked back.

“If you said to me 20 years ago that I would complete 40 Comrades marathons one day, I would have never believed it,” he said.

Massyn said he planned to resume training for his 41st medal during the festive season and would rest for a while.

Holland now lives in Johannesburg but still refers to himself as a “born and bred Durbanite” and described the experience as “incredible”.

“It wasn’t just an amazing experience because of the race itself – we also had a lot of support along the way,” he said after the race.

Holland completed the race 21 seconds after the 10-hour mark.

“I had no problems at all; it was truly a magnificent 40th,” he said.

Before the race he told the Daily News that, because of his link to the city, running the Comrades was “part of (his) DNA”.

He added: “I was never a big runner at school or anything. However, as an 18-year-old, once I’d left school, I decided I had got to do it. I trained for two weeks, but it just seemed like this was the stupidest sport ever, and I gave it up.”

Camaraderie

The next year he had a change of heart and trained for three weeks before giving it up again.

He ran his first Comrades when he was 20 in 1973.

The camaraderie of the race was part of its appeal, he said.

“The five months of training is really more difficult than the actual race on the day.

“It takes a lot of dedication, discipline and commitment to train six days a week, getting up early when it’s really cold and dark to go for a run. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve loved running with Regent Harriers and then Jeppe up here.

“It’s fantastic to go out with your mates early in the morning and run.”

Holland has also run the Two Oceans Marathon 26 times and has run the New York marathon, the Athens marathon as well as the London marathon twice. He said he would be returning next year, to run with his wife in pursuit of her second green number (20th race). - Daily News

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