SINCE its humble beginnings in 1921, the Comrades Marathon roll of honour is one of sport’s holy grails. From the little known Bill Rowan, the first winner who defied belief in making the journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on foot in a single day, to the modern-day icons, a look at the men’s race winners makes for good reading.
There are many athletes who have won the race more than once, some even five times or more, but in the 89 years of the race only five men have managed the cherished hat-trick, three consecutive wins.
The first was Arthur “Greatheart” Newton, who won the race five times in the 1920s, notching his hat-trick from 1922 to 1924, with a fourth win in 1925. Through the years, there were other legends of the race — Hardy Ballington, Jackie Meckler, Wally Hayward — who breasted the tape five times, but never in three consecutive years.
The next hat-trick man was Dave Bagshaw who tames the course in 1969, 1970 and 1971. Hailing from England, Bagshaw dominated the race in those years and was denied a fourth straight win in 1972 when Englishman Mick Orton upset the odds with a strong run, relegating Bagshaw to second.
Not long after came the great Alan Robb, the first man to beat the 5.30 barrier when he dominated the 1978 down run. A four-time winner, his hat-trick was from 1976 to 1978. He still runs the race and will line up for his 42nd consecutive start on May 31.
The legendary Bruce Fordyce won the race nine times, putting together a string of eight consecutive wins from 1981 to 1988. His is one sporting record never to be equalled or bettered, such was his dominance, focus and precision when it came to anything Comrades.
The most recent hat-trick men’s winner is Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi, winner in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
It’s no mean feat winning the Comrades, but a hat-trick of wins is becoming rare indeed in the ever-changing world of the Comrades Marathon as local and international athletes strive to have their name on the cherished trophy just once, never mind three or more times