I embarked on a 3-month wild camping adventure about 3 weeks ago, starting with exploring Dartmoor before heading off to Scotland to run/walk from Glasgow to Cape Wrath.
You would have expected my first blog post to be about my Dartmoor adventures, but it is not; it's about the Comrades ultra marathon, (fitting considering COCO's origins) an Olympic marathon and parkrun. I took a few days off from the moor to attend the ULTRA Festival in Wiltshire. It was a very relaxed affair where the chats with fellow runners were just as valuable the formal presentations.
One of the attendees was the legendary Bruce Fordyce, 9-times winner of the Comrades. Over supper on the Friday evening, when only a few people had arrived, we did what runners do when they get together; we talked about running. As we are both getting on a bit (I'm 62 and I think Bruce is 60) we did what old people do; talked about the good old days. We were talking about the running boom in America, which Bruce suggested was ignited by Frank Shorter winning Olympic gold in the marathon. When Bruce described that event he did so with such passion that it brought me out in goose bumps. Great sporting victories described by people passionate about sport are such a joy to listen to.
The following day Bruce wanted to attend the local parkrun, Westbury, so a few of us headed over there to run 5k. Afterwards we had a coffee and again Bruce talked with great passion about the good that parkrun has done getting lots of people involved in running that would not have done otherwise. Bruce show as much respect for the back-markers at parkrun as he did the for the leaders, perhaps even a little more. He also pointed out that parkrun meant that older runners, who were no longer able to compete at longer distances, could still be involved regularly in running and not feel isolated because of increasing frailty. If you have not been involved in parkrun give it a go; it's free, all you need to do is sign-up on line printout a barcode and then turn up at any parkrun and run.
Bruce's formal presentation did not disappoint. He showed a film about the history of the Comrades, then chatted through some of the points in the film, explaining why he was wearing a black armband during the 1981 Comrades. He was wearing it in support of a protest by black South Africans. The white supporters booed him, threw things at him and even spat at him, but he persevered and won the event. The crowd were then in a quandary, Comrades winners are their heroes, but this one was also a sympathiser with equal rights for all. Bruce describes that win as the best his career because he did the right thing.
I hope I can look back on my life and say I did the right thing.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Bruce Fordyce speaking about the Comrades Marathon
My feet are happy feet in Wigwam socks.
What does not destroy me, makes me strong.