On Sunday 11 June 23 WBHS Staff-athletes, Messrs Esmund van Wyk and Blake Rimmer, will set off from Pietermaritzburg on the down-run of the 96th Comrades Marathon, the world’s oldest and longest ultra-marathon. In a race that epitomises our Wynberg Supera Moras spirit of overcoming the odds, we wish them both a smooth and successful run in what is termed “The Ultimate Human Race.” And thanks to technology, we will be with them every step of the way as we track their progress on the long road to Kingsmead Stadium in Durban.
While Mr Van Wyk & Mr Rimmer’s distance running achievements are well-known within our Wynberg community, what is perhaps less known are Wynberg’s remarkable historic links to the Comrades Marathon. The originator of the race, Vic Clapham, was a Wynberg Old Boy, as was the youngest-ever winner, Phil Masterton-Smith in 1931 just months shy of his 20th birthday.
It is perhaps serendipitous that Vic Clapham was finally given permission to hold the first Comrades Marathon in 1921, the same year that Wynberg adopted ‘Supera Moras’ as our motto – Clapham’s founding concept was to celebrate and honour the spirit of his World War I fallen comrades in a race of endurance to test both body and mind. And while thousands have succeeded in the challenge, and many have become household names in their efforts in the race, few can match the extraordinary story of Masterton-Smith:
Coming second in 1930, winning in 1931, and placing 6th in 1932, the story of his entry in 1933 is one of pure commitment. Unable to afford the train fare from Cape Town during the Depression 90 years ago, he cycled 1730 km to the start, ran the marathon, and finished tenth.
In 2011 this story of one man’s passion, willpower, and triumph against the odds inspired former WBHS hockey coach and Bishops Old Boy, John MacInroy, along with Paul Blake and WP & Lourens van Zyl, to emulate Masterton-Smith’s journey of courage and endurance by cycling from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg and running the Comrades the next day. The Unogwaja Challenge to raise money for charity (‘Unogwaja’ the nickname given to Masterton-Smith, Zulu for ‘the hare’) set off from Cape Town, with the four cyclists proudly escorted for the first 50km of the ride by our WBHS Cycling Club.
Many Wynberg Old Boys have claimed the prized Comrades medals over the last century, and we applaud our first staff ‘duo’ as they carry our Wynberg Flag in the footsteps of our brothers in an endless chain.