Bruce Fordyce and his son Jonathan at the London Marathon 2017 which took place on the 23rd of April. Picture: Supplied

DURBAN - Bruce Fordyce, 62, is celebrated as South Africa’s greatest ultra marathon athlete, with a record nine Comrades Marathon and three London to Brighton Marathon wins. He has run the Comrades Marathon 30 times and is the first and only South African to achieve this feat.

Born in Hong Kong in 1955, Fordyce moved with his family to Johannesburg at the age of 13. He completed his schooling at Woodmead High and later attended the University of the Witwatersrand.

During this time he was also a member of the university’s Student Representative Council as well as a committee member of the Wits Athletic Club. It was here that his passion for running began. Inspired by a television show about the Comrades Marathon he decided to give running a try. “I started running in June of 1976, my first run was 10 minutes around the Wits University rugby field,” he said.

Fordyce would subsequently run five days a week afterward, in preparation for the race. “I ran on my own about five days a week for 6 months, rapidly getting fitter I also joined the Wits Athletic Club.” He had trained for a year before entering the comrades in 1977. “ I started off running the race just to get to the finish line, I never thought of winning, while running I realised that this was my passion,” he said. In 1977, on his first run of the Comrades Marathon, he finished 43rd out of 1,678 entries. He was placed 14th in 1978, 3rd in 1979, 2nd in 1980, and was the winner for an unprecedented eight consecutive years from 1981 to 1988; he won it again in 1990. No other runner in the history of the Comrades has achieved this feat.

Fordyce also held the record time for both the up and down run, which both stood for more than 20 years before being broken. He has since completed 30 Comrades Marathons, including the remarkable result of posting identical times two years in a row. Fordyce won the London to Brighton three times. He is the current world record holder over 50 miles — a record set during the 1983 race. He also holds the 50-mile record for the United States All Comers Race.

Over the years he has remained a true patriot and inspiration for his country, in addition to having written two books about the Comrades Marathon, Fordyce has also been a sports columnist for various newspapers and magazines, an SABC television commentator, a motivational speaker and the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Sports Trust. When asked about how he trains these days, he says, “Nowadays, I run 10 km every other day, I train six days a week. I also recently ran the London Marathon this past April with my son, Jonathan, just for the fun of it". In addition to many achievements under his belt, Fordyce has been instrumental in introducing the parkrun running events to South Africa. This is a collection of free-entry weekly 5k run events held throughout South Africa. “parkruns are a good way to start training, it’s totally free, for any fitness level, the environment is warm and welcoming, it doesn’t matter how fit you are. All you have to do is go to the website, make sure you register and print out your special barcode, you need to carry this with you, ” he explains.

Every year there is a pre-comrades parkrun in Durban. “ There will be a pre-comrades parkrun this year as well, held on Durban's promenade, all the runners for the comrades usually jog the 5km parkrun because they run the comrades a few hours after,” he says. “ This year I will be running the Kwa Mashu parkrun because it’s a new parkrun so I’ll be showing my support there”. His advice to aspiring runners is to believe in yourself, “Anyone can run and finish the comrades, most people think they can’t, you should just start, you can do it,” he says. “ You don’t need talent to win, I’m lucky, I have the right physique, the right genes and education for ultra running but many runners don’t and are still successful”. “While running the Comrades you will meet someone that you will admire, you will forever be changed and you will have the ability to do anything that you set your mind too”.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • Bruce Fordyce was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand.

  • Fordyce ran his first comrades marathon at the age of 22. He won his first comrades race four years later at 26.

  • Fordyce is the current world record holder over 50 miles, a record set during the 1983 London to Brighton ultramarathon and also holds the 50-mile record for the United States All Comers Race.

  • He is the former world record holder over 100 km which was set in 1989, the year he skipped the Comrades Marathon.

TIPS FOR BEGINNERS:

  • Start very easily, most people think that they can’t do it, the trick is to just start.

  • Join a recognised running club in your area.

  • Run for the love of it.

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