Inspired by some recent blog comments, I decide to investigate some interesting tit bits about the first ever Comrades Marathon run.
The year was 1921. Charlie Chaplin’s movie “The Kid” was released, and although being an excellent movie didn’t win any Academy Awards. That, my friends, was because the Academy Awards were only held 8 years later in 1928.

Other notable events from that year:
Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his services to theoretical physics; the Communist Party of China was officially founded; the United States formally ends World War I (although most had thought the deed was done in 1918 or 1919) declaring peace with Germany; and the first Miss America was crowned.

Wikipedia says this about the delightful Margaret Gorman: "Gorman was chosen from a photo popularity contest and finalist round as the first "Miss Washington, D.C.," and was invited on that count to join the Second Annual Atlantic City Pageant as an honored guest. This was held on September 8, 1921. There she was invited to join a new event: the "Inter-City Beauty" Contest. She won two titles, "Inter-City Beauty, Amateur," and "The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America". Finally, she won the grand prize, the Golden Mermaid trophy. She was expected to defend her positions the next year, but since someone else was "Miss Washington, D.C.," and her other titles were a bit awkward, they decided to crown her "Miss America." She is the only Miss America to receive her crown at the end of the year.
In that same year, a 35-year-old World War I veteran, Vic Clapham, returning from a 2,700 kilometre pursuit of an evasive German general and his troops, decided to start a 56 mile (90 kilometre) running race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. His vision was that this would act as a living memorial to the spirit of the soldiers of the Great War. Lest we forget, about 10 million soldiers died which is more than the last 100 wars put together.

If soldiers could walk 2,700 kilometres in full kit, Vic probably thought, certainly an athlete could run the distance?

After borrowing one pound to fund the event, Vic's dream became a reality on 24th May 1921. 48 athletes entered the race, 34 arrived at the start line and eventually only 16 athletes would finish. Bill Rowan, a resident of Koster (far west of Johannesburg and near Rustenberg), was the eventual winner in a time of 8h59m. Not bad for a race which had no aid stations, medical tents and only a few kilometres of paved road leading into Durban. The second placed runner was Harry Phillips who followed Rowan by 41 minutes.

There's very little else I could find about Bill Rowan. His name is in the record books, yet there is very little information about the man. It probably fits well with the fact that the Comrades is more than any one man. Bill Rowan is the name of the medal granted to runners who complete the Comrades in a time between 7h30m and sub 9hrs.
On Sunday, 88 years to the day after the first ever Comrades Ultra Marathon, I aim to get one of these bad boys. A pace of 6 minutes per kilometre will clinch that for me. My aim is to head off at about 5 minutes 40 seconds per k, and hold on for as long as I can.
Time will tell,

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