My great friend Derick Marcisz never ceases to remind me that his lifetime marathon personal best (p.b.) is exactly one second faster than mine. In March 1983 I ran 2 hours 17 minutes and 18 seconds at the Buffs Marathon in East London. A few months earlier Derick recorded 2 hours 17 minutes and 17 seconds at the old Transvaal Marathon Championships. He has reminded me of that one second for over 40 years.
Derick had a very distinguished running career in the 1970s and 1980s, which included many victories, junior national colours, and some blisteringly fast times.
The two of us shared a slow run together a few months ago and we chatted all the way, as old runners will. We relived past races and discussed old running companions and rivals.
“Remember when we agreed to finish together in joint 4th place at the old 50-kilometre City to City race in 1980?” I reminded Derick.
He remembered it well.
“Neither of us felt like sprinting for the line after duelling shoulder to shoulder for 50 kilometres “Derick continued “rather than sprint we settled for a draw, because there was no point in sprinting. You wanted the tape deck on offer for 4th place, and I wanted the camera (There were prizes on offer then in those old amateur days, not prize money) so we ran across the finish line together.”
“Whatever happened to old so-and-so?” I remarked.
“Oh, he died. ”
As we were running, no, shuffling along, I lamented the fact that our best running days were long behind us and that perhaps it was time for us to retire gracefully and give up running completely.
I discussed the fact that we have stepped into the boxing ring hundreds of times. We have run hundreds of races, at distances ranging from 400 metres to 100 kilometres. To say nothing of the thousands of rounds of sparring (training) that our bodies have endured.
“Perhaps it’s time to retire gracefully”, I suggested.
“No” Derick interrupted,
“No, we can’t retire. Just because we’re older and slower doesn’t mean we have to stop.”
“We must learn to close the chapter, but not the book.” I immediately understood what he meant. “We should both be immensely proud of our opening chapters.”
We wrote some exciting paragraphs and pages but now it’s time for some new pages.”
Derick was correct. Why should runners deny themselves the pleasure of the activity we enjoy so much just because our speedier days are behind us? In my case running is indelibly etched into my DNA. Running is my best friend (Running allows me to sojourn with nature, to be alone with my thoughts, to meditate and be creative. Running allows me to relax.)
I love running with friends, and occasionally even testing myself in fun, low-key competition.
“Derick,” I continued “I believe we have given ourselves permission to be slow. Now that we’ve accepted that we are no longer speedy runners we can continue to enjoy our running and write further wonderful chapters in the books of our running adventures.
“But the most exciting chapters of the entire book still await us. They are itching to be written. Those chapters are entitled.
“Giving back, coaching and sharing our knowledge!”
Now it’s time to give back to our sport, the pastime that has given us so much. We both harbour a wealth of expertise and knowledge about our sport. It would be a pity to take that wisdom and experience with us to our graves without sharing it. “
Derick chuckled at the words “to our graves.”
“Not quite yet I hope Bruce” he said, and he reminded me that he had coached extensively at Joburg Harriers and Jeppe Quondam, his old Gauteng running clubs. He now advises dozens of runners at Spartan Harriers in the Cape. I work with fellow coaches at FordyceFusion where we have had great successes. And of course, there is parkrun where we have over 1.4 million registered members and 220 different parkrun venues. At the Comrades marathon I host a Comrades route bus tour where I guide runners through every one of Comrades’ 90 kilometres. The route tour is always oversubscribed. I have also written a book for Comrades novices named “Winged Messenger” after Hermes the Comrades emblem.
Perhaps the final chapter in our book won’t be entitled “two old blokes fade away” or the bell rings for the final lap” but something joyous and motivating like “How two old runners had great fun and achieved a sense of purpose by helping other runners be the best they could be.”
Join the Bruce Fordyce Comrades Route Tour on 9th June 2024! Tickets available here!
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Join the Bruce Fordyce Comrades After Party on 10th June 2024! Tickets available here!
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