Barry wins his 50th consecutive Comrades


Barry Holland was by far the most famous person at the Simbithi Country Club in Shaka’s Rock yesterday afternoon (Saturday). Here he shook hands with an admirer and there he had to pose for a photo again.

And no wonder – after all, he is the Comrades’ own flying Dutchman; a legend running his 50th consecutive race today.

To celebrate the achievement he will run with his wife, Debbie (she is running her 21st Comrades), children, family, good friend Warrick “Wozza” Taylor and members of his beloved Dolphine Coast Striders.

The Comrades Association (CMA) also rewarded him with its own special starting block – just before Block D.

“I was 20 years old when I ran my first Comrades in 1973,” he told RNews yesterday while stirring some honey into his cappuccino.

Holland was a fast runner in his younger days.

He achieved his fastest downhill race time of 6:29 in 1991, while his top time on the uphill race is just five minutes slower – 6:34.

“One can probably divide my Comrades career into two: My competitive years and my survival years,” he jokes.

“These days I try to jog about four times a week. A 72-year-old body can no longer handle the blows of a grueling exercise regime.”

“In my younger days, I didn’t have much eye for the race because it was more physically challenging. Now, however, it is much easier to run downhill than uphill.”

If he counts that quickly, he has already collected 22 Comrades silver medals, while he has already covered approximately 176,000 km in his running career.

“I’m anything but one of those runners who carefully records every single kilometer, but I’m proud to say that I’m on my fifth running kilometer-wise trip around the earth.”

Does he still get on his nerves when he lines up for the Comrades start?

“Natural. It is good to be on your nerves and I always tell the Comrades newcomers that it is a welcome reminder of what awaits you. A do-it-yourself attitude can cost you dearly. The Comrades is a classy old lady with big teeth – she can bite.”

While Debbie watches him somewhat skeptically, he tells that he is closing his Comrades chapter today.

But the 100th Comrades race is only a year or two away; a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

He has participated in marathons in London, New York and Greece; but there is only one Comrades.

“I run because I enjoy it and for the camaraderie. The Comrades is not about the medals, but about the people. This is the great equalizer – you can run with a rich businessman who earns millions, in this race everyone is equal.”

Holland and his group started together today and they plan to arrive at the finish line together later.

“I would love it if people remembered me as someone who gave something back to the sport. I wouldn’t have liked any of it if I was a runner who just expected good all the time without giving anything back. After all, the Comrades play a huge role in my life.”