Imagine watching your dad win Comrades – Philip Kuhn did
08 April 2016
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. I wanted to take a little trip down memory lane today with the Comrades Marathon approaching. You may or may not be aware, but the closest Comrades Marathon finish of all time was back in 1967. There’s a very grainy black and white YouTube video clip that’s available online that you can actually see the finish and it is something phenomenal.
It was a Scotsman, Tommy Malone who was leading onto the field he had, the mayoral batons, so to speak and he was pipped at the post by a South African runner who was born in old South West Africa, Manie Kuhn. It is just heart wrenching to watch that video. We’re joined now by Manie’s son, Philip Kuhn. Philip, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Kuhn: Thank you very much.
A front row seat to history
BB: Philip that final stretch of that 1967 Comrades Marathon is something to watch, I’m sure you’ve watched it many times and had spoken to your dad about it on many occasions.
PK: I was actually watching it live, sitting on the field by the barrier separating the public from the finish line. So yes, it was something else to watch.
BB: How old were you in 1967 Philip?
PK: I was born in ’58, so I was nine years old.
BB: That must have been an incredible experience as a little boy watching your dad. I mean I grew up, funnily enough, watching my dad run Comrades. He never came close to winning it, but in my eyes he was a hero. It must have been a phenomenal experience to see your dad win the Comrades.
PK: I never knew someone could run that fast and I’ve never seen my father run that fast. Look, it was a heart wrenching moment for Tommy Malone and his supporters. But yes, it comes down to who won and unfortunately, ja, it was my father.
BB: I’m going to put that video clip, the YouTube video in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live, if you’d like to watch it, it’s definitely something to see. Philip, did your dad speak about that victory much after it, over the years? Is it something he used to reminisce on? As an athlete you dream of being on the big stage and as a South African, there wasn’t, we didn’t get that many opportunities.
Although 1967 we probably were still taking part internationally. It’s something that all sportsmen, particularly at the top of their game dream of, is to be put in situations where they are given an opportunity to win and they’ve got to give their all. Is it something he used to speak about often?
PK: He didn’t speak about that to us that much, but yes, him and Tommy became very, very good friends and until my dad’s death in 2005 the two of them were forever at each other’s throats. But in a comical, light-hearted, joking manner. Tommy keeps on believing that my father actually ankle tapped him, so ja.
Inspired to do the Comrades Marathon
BB: That’s fantastic. Philip, you’ve gone on and run some Comrades too. We always joke that if you grew up in a Comrades family, a parent doesn’t actually realise it, but they’re cursing their kids to run Comrades. You’ve done 15, if I’m correct. So Comrades has been a big part of your life too?
PK: Correct and it is a curse. I suppose it’s revenge of the parents on their children for all the hard times they gave them. But it is an amazing experience. I don’t know who that African gentleman is that ran about nine of them before he finished his first one.
His comment was: Every South African should run it at least once. I firmly believe that everyone should give it a bash because it teaches you a hell of a lot about yourself. It’s not just a race, it’s a learning curve for everybody.
BB: Philip, not many people hang up their running shoes on 15, have you still got a few more Comrades in you? Or is that it for you and 15’s more than enough thank you?
PK: Well, I’ve got screws and plates and all sorts and imitation discs in my neck and discs from my hip bone in the lower spine. But yes, I would still like to do a couple. I’ve got 15, my father had 21 and I would really like to do 22 you know! Just to rub his nose in it a bit.
Comrades is an important day in KZN
BB: That is brilliant. Philip, looking at Comrades and Comrades race day, you’re from KZN, you’re from Durban. If you’re not running, do you go out and stand on the side of the road and support every year? Or is it just too hard? I know a lot of runners like doing it, but a lot of runners who aren’t able to run Comrades for whatever reason, don’t like doing that. It drives them nuts and they feel like they should be out there.
PK: It does give you that, next year you’re going to do it kind of feeling and yes, you get close to tears. But immediately after you’ve sort of hung up your shoes and to go and stand the next year on the side of the road, not highly recommended.
Especially if you’re injured because then you’re going to do silly things and try to run it again. But as a Comrades runner, you’ve got to go and support the people who are doing it. You have to, it’s just one of those things. You’ve got to put something back in.
BB: The question begs to be asked, where are you going to be on Comrades race day in 2016?
PK: On the side of the road!
BB: Where can we look out for you?
PK: In the Kloof area.
BB: Philip, it’s been awesome catching up and that’s one of my favourite video clips. There aren’t too many old ones around Comrades that are available. But that one of your dad winning in 1967 is incredible, I love watching it over and over. There’s something about it that just, for me, sums up Comrades and the determination and what it takes. Not just to win it, but to finish a race like that.
PK: Yeah, the funniest of all is, unbeknown to my elder sister, her husband, he’s actually in the photograph. The photograph that they’ve got of the finish, he’s actually sitting on, a couple of people away from me. Yes, all I wish is I actually had a clip, I had a copy of that video. Because now that he’s gone, and he gave me the Gold Medal for that year, so it is. I’d like to try and get my hands on a copy of the video.
BB: Philip, what I’ll do, it’s a fairly short clip, on YouTube, I will make sure that we get that link sent to you so that you can have a copy and get it checked out. But we’ll pop it in the show notes to this episode as well. Thanks for your time today, much appreciated and thanks for sharing some of the memories of your late dad and particularly of that race in 1967.
PK: I appreciate the opportunity and thank you very much.