A provocative, spirited and essential read
Runaway Comrade is a provocative, spirited and essential read. It’s about running but more importantly it’s about politics and its victims. It will touch all who read it. But be warned: it may leave you ashamed and angry despite the thread of hope for equality that the Comrades Marathon so boldly offers
JACKIE MEKLER - Comrades Green number 9 - Five times Comrades winner - Ten gold medals
A great book - well done - ALAN ROBB- five times Comrades winner - first athlete to run sub 5:30
There could be no normal sport in an abnormal society
I did not have direct contact with Bob de la Motte when he was living in South Africa but was fully aware of his status as an athlete and his voice against the atrocities of the apartheid era. He empathised and was one of the few privileged runners who spoke against the unfair treatment of blacks. I recall his public statements with regard to the inequalities that prevailed in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
At the time I valued this as he highlighted the fact that we blacks/whites could compete and run together in some races but activities further than that were restricted. As a melanin enriched female athlete I related well to this scenario.
In Runaway Comrade Bob has captured the sentiments of those who were of the opinion that "there could be no normal sport in an abnormal society" hence the banning of South Africa from the Olympic movement after the Rome Olympics in 1960.
The Comrades Marathon played an invaluable role in striving to right the wrongs of the apartheid era. Thanks to Mick Winn’s leadership as Chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association, doors opened in 1975 for blacks (and women) to participate in the Comrades Marathon. Henceforth the Comrades Marathon became all-inclusive event in South Africa.
It was with great interest that some 30 years later I read Bob’s reflections and perceptions of this era.
His story is very apt and is filled with authentic information.
BLANCHE MOILA - First black woman to be awarded Springbok colours, 1984.
Bob has finally told us his nakedly honest story. He shares his extraordinary running experiences during the turbulent 1980s when South Africa was simmering on the brink of civil war. He explains his anguish at leaving South Africa and the challenges of the Chicken Run to Australia, his continued athletic performances, squeezed in between his demanding career and domestic priorities. He still managed world-class performances in Ironman and grueling cycling and mountain biking events. He also shares his joy at reconnecting with South Africa after the 1994 general election including his boyhood dream of summiting Mt Kilimanjaro. His regular visits to a newly democratic South Africa over the past two decades afford him an objective observation of political cycles within South Africa and some inevitable crystal ball gazing about the future of the Comrades Marathon. Over the past 28 years only four Comrades winners have managed to run faster than his 5:26 duel with Fordyce in 1986. He tells his self-effacing story with candor, compassion and great wit.As I wrote to Bob in an email after reading Runaway Comrade:
“Maybe I am just becoming an old fart, but I have just read your story and tears are actually streaming down my face. I can hardly see the keyboard. You see, my tears started off as laughter at our stupidity/drive/commitment/sense of fun and chasing personal windmills up and down “Big Jan.” Then my tears came for men such as Hos (Tjale), and Ephie (Sibisi) and Israel (Morake). I cry for them as I cry for me … that I did not have the sense to do more when I could have. Luckily in life, we do get second chances and as long as there is a breath and a will … one can try again. Right the ship, so to speak.”
Bob, you always were a champion, now more so than ever.
ARNOLD GEERDTS - Comrades Green number 1120 – 11 Comrades medals - Television/Media personality
A Running, Political and Personal High
A compelling history of South African Ultra Running and the transformation of the country from the Apartheid era to post Mandela freedom. Including exciting recollections of great racing in the iconic Comrades Marathon, moving memories of forgotten pioneering Black marathon runners and important documentation of bizarre Apartheid policies.A fun and inspiring read.
DENIS SACKS - Wits University BCom MBA graduate of the 1970s - Comrades Marathon medalist (Amazon rating 5/5)
Editor of Wits Athletic Club newsletter “Track and Veld” - Kona Ironman World Championship finisher
Bob de la Motte weaves a beautiful tapestry... The warp is his own coming of age, and the birthing of a free South Africa, and the weft is Comrades.. the beautiful race that continues to capture the imagination of every ultra runner. An earnest account related from the heart, with captivating clarity, and a memory for people and events that is astounding.
JOSH OGADA - 17 October 2014 (Amazon rating 5/5)
A self effacing account of a man's life abundantly lived
One would have to scratch around the statistics to find a Comrades runner who broke the record but didn’t win the race. One such individual was Bob de la Motte, out kicked by a rampant Fordyce in 1986. It is fitting that Bob’s book was written and published now, for his life is far bigger and richer than the Titanic duals that unfolded on Comrades Day in the mid ‘80’s.
De la Motte brings a chatty and friendly voice to his autobiography. There are several themes that run through this understated sometimes self-effacing account of a man’s life, abundantly lived. He modestly exposes the Comrades Marathon running scene, training and preparing at the time when Bruce Fordyce was its most potent running force. He gives a very personal insight into just how it feels to lead that great race only to be tapped on the shoulder by ‘Little Boy Blue’.
Conscription, university and the framework of an unjust life in South Africa are subjects dealt with more forthrightly. De la Motte’s political consciousness was inherited from a father who was a liberal politian who opposed Apartheid and inevitably led to Bob turning his back on his beloved country.
Bob de la Motte is a qualified Chartered Accountant and he gives the reader some insight into his career as well as some of his corporate experiences. There is a particularly poignant chapter where he looks back over his life with gratitude; he gently puts into perspective a marriage that didn’t work. Talented runners lost to South Africa like Mark Plaatjies are remembered. His new-found interest in cycling and swimming together with participation in the Iron Man gives the reader a view of an athlete whose quest is never done.
On putting down his book I felt I had spent quality time with an old friend over a leisurely lunch. After reading his story I know him better and recognise him an ordinary okie like me. There is an overall impression though - here is a life well and successfully lived.
Tom Cottrell - November 2104- Guide Book Publications - www.runnersguide.co.za (Amazon rating 5/5)
Runaway Comrade is quite easily one of the most enjoyable Comrades related books to have been written in a while.
Bob de la Motte has brought to the crux the value os sport, and in particular the value of the Comrades Marathon as a form of social cohesion and nation building in South Africa. As he eloquently puts it, "the Comrades Marathon remains a beacon of hope."
Other than a delightful, insightful and very thought-provoking look at South African running during the apartheid era, Bob's memoirs give the reader a greater knowledge of the man himself. Not only a superb runner, Bob is an accomplished triathlete, cyclist and financial guru, whose success in his various ventures both sporting and career-wise, show him to be an indomitable spirit, and at heart a true Comrade.
Cheryl Winn - November 2014 - Comrades Marathon winner 1982 - Vice Chairperson Comrades Marathon Association
Well done Bob, some fond memories and harsh realities about our country and really heart warming stories about athletes who achieved despite the circumstances they were subjected to. Shaun Meiklejohn - Comrades Marathon winner 1995
A well-woven tapestry of running and historical narratives
As a South African living abroad, I have always wondered about running Comrades, its premier ultramarathon. As a kid, I would grow up watching the likes of de la Motte and Fordyce race it out in this test of the body, will and stamina. This book is a very well woven tapestry of running anecdotes and historical narrative. I love his passion for the people and coverage of the difficult circumstances in South Africa; it would have been much easier just to write about running.
Bob de la Motte is clearly a talented man who has utilized his gifts for something much greater than himself. I applaud this autobiography and will ruminate on it as I run Comrades for the first time in 2015.
Iain Jones - November 2014 - (Amazon rating 5/5)
Runaway Comrade is destined to become a classic
Runaway Comrade is as encyclopaedic and inspirational as it is biographical. People are what makes sport and Runaway Comrade does a great job highlighting the plethora of personalities that are his contemporaries. The simple joy of running is emphasised where the activity and process is far deeper than the outcome. Bob de la Motte's writing is devoid of ego and rich in heart. Refreshing in an age where biographies are aplenty and authenticity is diluted.
Jason Bailey - Cape Town - December 2014 - The full review can be found at - www.the naturegym.blogspot.com
A Book to Devour
I didn't read Runaway Comrade - I devoured it. Bob de la Motte has superbly crafted a book that deals not only with the inspirational matter of road running but also covers topics such as courage/philosophy/politics/conviction/friendships and good old fashioned compassion for the less fortunate. Here are the musings of a man who has succeeded at every level of life and then exposed his heart, joys and sorrows to the literate world. An essential read for anyone interested in running, life and South Africa's turbulent years.
Vernon Loker - December 2014 - (Amazon rating 5/5)
I cannot think of a road runner who will not benefit from owning and reading this book
In the preface to his autobiography, one of Bob's remarks literally brought tears to my eyes. Talking about the 80's, when South Africa was on the verge of civil war, he writes "The Comrades Marathon would provide the one day each year when citizens witnessed how South Africa could and should conduct itself."
Andy McKissock - Modern Athlete magazine - December 2014
Bob's insightful observations on running, politics, business and social issues are a natural extension of his lust for life.
My two strongest memories of South African ultra-marathon great, Bob de la Motte are providing Bruce Fordyce with his stiffest Comrades Marathon challenges and his televised embrace of Thulani (Ephraim) Sibisi, after Sibisi finished second to him in the JSE Marathon.
Both these aspects of de la Motte's career are strongly represented in his superb autobiography. From a running point of view his descriptions of his preparation for and his titanic duels with Fordyce are the highlight of the book. As an athlete and coach, I also found de la Motte's account of his learning curve from being a raw running novice to seasoned and extremely shrewd and well-prepared world-class ultra-marathon competitor compelling.
As much as any other South African sporting book, de la Motte's descriptions of the political state of the South Africa in which he competed, places his running endeavours and those, particularly of his black rivals in their broader social and political perspective. De la Motte's writes unapologetically from the vantage point of a small minority of whites who were openly anti-apartheid while the evil policy was an unquestioned and widely accepted mindset within the white community of the day.
De la Motte's embrace of Sibisi was an embodiment of his rejection of apartheid and the cross-racial solidarity and camaraderie that developed in road running and on the track after black and white athletes began to compete with each other in the mid-1970s. This is a major theme of de la Motte's book and he correctly points out the strong and vibrant road running culture that emerged in the South Africa 1970s and 1980s represented challenge to the separation and racial and political domination promoted by apartheid. It also helped ameliorate the racial polarisation and conflict caused by apartheid.
De la Motte's biography is far superior to most sporting autobiographies for the quality of its chiseled prose, its elegant structure and the richness of its range. Bob not only delves into the political context of his time and his running achievements in South Africa but he also writes, as a full time Chartered Accountant and later banker and businessman, of the business and social world outside of sport. Where de la Motte's autobiography will resonate with the average runner and South African sports lover in general is that he pursued his running career while in full time employment. He thus had to manage his training time, like almost all serious and social non-professional runners, around the extreme work demands of being a partner in a leading South African auditing firm, KPMG.
Even after de la Motte, disillusioned by the intransigence of the apartheid regime under PW Botha, emigrated to Australia in the late 1980s his unquenchable drive to test and prove himself physically persisted. He ran, and subsequently competed in triathlon and cycled his trademark intensity. His attention to preparation and detail in this shows himself applying the rigour of a Chartered Accountant to requirements of sporting competition. His exploits in Australia, recounted in the book, fill in the gap for those of us for whom he largely slipped off the horizon after leaving South Africa.
At the same time de la Motte pursued a vigorous and highly successful professional and business career. So successful that he achieved the financial independence to retire at 55. As the narrative covers Bob's move to Australia, one could not help thinking, how does this man manage to train and work as hard as he did and still be a good father and husband to his wife, Vern. Sadly and predictably, de la Motte's all out commitment to his work and endurance sport put major strain on his marriage.
Runaway Comrade’s driving narrative and Bob's insightful observations on running, politics, business and social issues are a natural extension of his lust for life and new challenges, physical and mental, personal and social. On finishing the book I was left with a sense of great loss because so many men and women of Bob's calibre, professional, dynamic, highly able - perhaps two million people since 1960 - have left South Africa because of the country's volatile and uncertain political situation.
Richard Mayer - December 2014 (Rated 5/5 Goodreads)
Author of "Three Men named Matthews"
Opinionated, candid, inspirational, poignant read @RunawayComrade on SA history, politics, @ComradesRace & more. Enjoyed
Patrick Baransky @gr8sport … posted on Twitter 4 January 2015
The running battles story
In the 1980s South Africa was a turbulent society and an isolated one with the international sporting boycott impacting upon athletes' lives, their performances and the South African psyche.
It was also a time when road running was one of the few sports where participants from across the racial divide could compete on an equal footing on race day, although living conditions, employment opportunities, travel and transport placed black runners at a further disadvantage. The competition at weekly club races and in major events was intense and performances eye-catching.
The Comrades Marathon was "the big one" - but it offered no prize money. Many black runners supplemented their meagre wages with prize monies from weekend races and thus could not afford to invest all their efforts into a win at Comrades, without reward. Hoseah Tjale was one of the exceptions, although he too relied on prize monies from other races. In Runaway Comrade, Bob de la Motte captures this part of history and tells the story of one of the most intriguing duels in Comrades history between himself and Bruce Fordyce.
Runaway Comrade is an entertaining book for all interested in South African sport. It is a story to which thousands of young South Africans, trying to make their way in a troubled country in the apartheid years, can relate.
Bob Norris - East London - November 2014 - founding member of Oxford Striders and former executive committee member of SARRA - South African ROad Running Association
Runaway Comrade was an eye-opener
Runaway Comrade was a real eye-opener and gave me such an amazing insight into South African sport, politics and your own personal story. I could identify with many aspects, with my Springbok colours awarded when I was 12, to compete at the World Swimming Championships in Germany, being taken away one week before we were due to fly out because the rest of the world refused to compete against South Africa!
I really enjoyed your story and will certainly recommend the book to others.
Dr Carmel Goodman – Perth – January 2015
Chief Medical Officer – Western Australia Institute of Sport
Chief Medical Officer – Hockey Australia Women’s High Performance Program – the Hockeyroos
Note - the Hockeyroos were Olympic Gold medalists – at Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000
A great read and very inspiring
Just finished reading Runaway Comrade. It was a great read and very inspiring. Thanks a million! Just left KPMG after 19 years service in July 2014 including my final 11years based in Lagos. The KPMG practice in Lagos was the former Arthur Andersen office so your narrative about your work experiences with Andersens in Australia resonated.
Willem Haarhoff – South Africa – January 2015
ex KPMG South Africa and Lagos
Hi Bob, I enjoyed your book. I had the privilege of running my first Comrades in 2014. I adored it.
Leslie Slater – South Africa – February 2015
Fascinating and well researched
Just finished reading Runaway Comrade. Not only about running, but insights into South Africa’s political backdrop and life events. Fascinating and well researched. Thanks for sharing your story Bob de la Motte. Highly recommended.
Colin Lindeque – Elite Runner – Perth - January 2015
Comrades Gold medalist - 5:48 for 7th in 1995
Best athletics book published in a long time …
Significant sections of the book address South Africa’s political situation during the apartheid era and the role the Comrades marathon played to heal the nation …its conversational style and structure make it an easy, enjoyable read.
Sarel van der Walt - Media 24 (publishers of Beeld and Die Burger)
14 February 2015
Best thing I did during the 2014 Xmas break was read Runaway Comrade. What a book! It has inspired me to do well at Comrades in the next few years. Highly recommended.
Ben Brimble – Cape Town - January 2015
Winner of the 2014 Puffer Ultra Trail Race - 80km
I am not a runner but I read Runaway Comrade from cover-to-cover on two flights with a three year-old and a five year-old clambering all over me. That is my test for an engaging read! It was candid and reflective and a window into a different world. Thanks for sharing your story with us.
Ingrid Sealey – Perth – February 2015
Fogarty EDvance / Boston Consulting Group
Fascinating first hand account
I really enjoyed reading Runaway Comrade. I thought I was pretty familiar with the 1970s and 80s South African running scene from the stories my father (Johnny Halberstadt) told me over the years, but to actually read a first hand account was fascinating. I was so young at the time in integrated schools that I really didn’t fully understand what apartheid meant for South Africa, particularly for athletes like Mark Plaatjes, Thulani Sibisi and many others.
Thank you so much for writing an interesting, insightful and eye-opening book. I really enjoyed the mentions of my father and am grateful he was able to help you out during your career. I have never been much of a competitive runner but have decided to run my first ultra, the Two Oceans 56km in Cape Town in April 2015 and am really looking forward to it. Thanks again.
Jason Halberstadt – Boulder, Colorado USA – November 2014
Son of Johnny Halberstadt
A cracking good read
I have just finished Runaway Comrade and wanted to convey my congratulations on an excellent piece of work. It was a cracking good read which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Ian Cochrane – Perth, Australia – December 2014
Nephew of Bill Cochrane – Comrades Marathon Winner – 1935 and 1946
Runaway Comrade enabled me to reflect on my own life, the amazing experiences I have been blessed with and the world-class people I have met along the way. Merely behaving normally and rationally in South Africa during the apartheid era was seen to be radical and controversial. It was truly an amazing learning experience. I feel humbled and grateful to have met so many wonderful people who have influenced my life in a positive way. You rank right up there. Thank you for publishing Runaway Comrade.
Johnny Halberstadt – Boulder, Colorado – September 2014
Record holder and winner of multiple South African and NCAA Championships including track, cross-country and marathon.
Sub-4 minute miler
10km – 28.50 (1972)
21.1km – 1:03.35
Marathon – 2:11.46
Two Oceans (56km) 3:05.37 (Record)
Boston Marathon – 3rd position – 1971
Runaway – a great read
Your book made its way into my hands via my mother. Her father, Bill Cochrane, won the Comrades Marathon in 1935 and again in 1946 after returning from active service during WW2 where he managed to escape from a Nazi POW camp. Though I have the stories of my maternal grandfather to inspire me, your book has been a fantastic read, including the history of the Comrades Marathon which makes this race so special.
And I know my father, who passed away in 2014, would also have enjoyed it, especially as your reasons for emigrating to Australia mirrored his own feelings for his family and South Africa. I enjoyed your book immensely and will be recommending it to family and running friends alike.
In 2015 I plan on tackling my 30 year dream of running Comrades.
James McGill – Melbourne, Australia – January 2015
Picked up a copy of Runaway Comrade at the Comrades Expo. Great read and compelling story. Made the long flight home to Ireland a lot easier to handle.
John Kissane - Ireland - June 2015 - post 2015 Comrades Marathon
Finally got a copy of Runaway Comrade. An inspirational read and understanding of the history of the Comrades Marathon.
Moerieda Mackay - Stellenbosch, Western Cape - Comrades Back-to-Back medals 2015
Runaway Comrade is a great book. Thank you. A treasured insight into the 1980's Comrades era when long distance running became a seed within me that proved fruitful over two decades later. In 2015 I achieved my Comrades Back-to-Back medals.
Val Opperman - South Africa
A stonking good read!
It's always a nervous moment when a friend gives you a book they've written. Five pages in and I was relieved - Bob de la Motte's Runaway Comrade is a stonking good read. An account of running the 90km Comrades Marathon, finishing 2nd three times, dealing with life in apartheid South Africa and then migrating to Australia. I recommend it to anyone interested in politics, running and a good yarn.
Jennie Fitzhardinge - Perth, Western Australia - May 2015
This book should be required reading for all school-going kids
Bob de la Motte ran just five Comrades Marathons and won three golds, a silver and a bronze. He's written Runaway Comrade and it's clear from the outset that the race was an integral part of his life, as it was and still is for thousands of South Africans. Before migrating to Australia in 1987 de la Motte's hard-running presence made the Comrades Marathon an eminently memorable race at the height of the Bruce Fordyce dominated era. Bob's been described as one of the best Comrades runners never to have won the event.
However this book is much more than Comrades. It's a story about both the growing of a footrace as well as a figurative race to bring the various races of the rainbow nation together in a common purpose. It takes the turbulent transitional times of political and social change while all the time, the Comrades Marathon winds a common thread in the background. The actual race is roughly 90km but this book goes so much further than that, a literary journey that can't be measured in mere miles or perfectly calibrated kilometres. This is a roller coaster story from the heart with despairing detours, humorous hills, triumphant turns and ultimately a fulfilling finish straight.
It also speaks for the unspoken, the many superbly talented athletes of colour, who were caught between the discriminatory laws of the South African government and the rejection of the international world. Having been involved closely with so many of these runners from a newspaper sports reporting perspective, i's particularly pleasing to see Bob donating proceeds of this book to those almost forgotten souls.
It is a book that spells out meticulously just what life was like growing up in the 70's and 80's both sports wise and generally, the good and the bad, the successful and the sad. Forget about the more established prescribed history books that our kids have to read as part of their tertiary education. This book should be required reading for all school-going kids. Sure it's a history but it's more than that … it's a true reflection of the twisting, turning sporting life in South Africa.
Mark Etheridge - South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee - May 2015 www.sascoc.co.za
One of the best running books I have ever read
I was the Swede running my first Comrades. I met you at Comrades Expo, bought Runaway Comrade and you signed it.
It is one of the best books I have ever read and I have read almost all books relating to running, there are to be read. The mixture of running and an explanation of the socio-political situation in South Africa during apartheid was a real eye-opener for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and learned a lot from your book.
Thanks again for a fantastic book, for being a true inspiration and for having taken time to talk to me at Comrades Expo even though I was ignorant enough not to know who you were three weeks ago. Now I will never forget.
Pehr Lodhammer - June 2015
Country Director - Humanitarian Disarmament - Democratic Republic of Congo
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Not bad for an old dinosaur!
Bob's book provides a great insight into what it takes to be become one of the best ultra marathon runners in the world. His breakdowns of training schedules combined with fitting in a family life and professional career show the dedication required. All of this plus his thoughts on apartheid make a great read. I know Bob has recently run Boston marathon in a touch over 3 hours but he is now 60 years old and these days probably rides his bikes more than he runs? Not bad for an old dinosaur. (Amazon rating 5-Stars)
Ian Sandover Perth, Australia July 8, 2015
… a page turner …
Runaway Comrade is a page turner. I finished it yesterday and have handed it on to my daughter. It is a great read and as you say …I know you a whole lot better now. A great achievement. Congratulations
Katherine Kalaf - Perth
Passion runs through personal story
Bob de la Motte, an émigré from his strife-torn birthplace of South Africa in the late 1980s, was once a fixture in Perth’s investment banking circles. He recently published his biography Runaway Comrade, a lively read that takes the reader through the author’s life, including a boyhood that has both strange parallels and complete diversions from the experience of many who grew up in Western Australia.
The Comrades element of the story is more than just the author’s personal sporting battle; it reveals the intriguing struggle of ordinary people doing extraordinary things set against the backdrop of apartheid. It seems such an odd relaxation of draconian laws to have South Africa’s most popular sporting event contested without any racial bias. As a result of this quirk, Bob suggests the race was a brief moment when South Africans could experience or express real tolerance.
Runaway Comrade offers a historic theme that would make it appealing well beyond Perth’s financial circles.
Mark Pownall - Editor WA Business News
…a newly minted chartered accountant …
Robert Aristide Lenferna de la Motte discovered his enormous talent for distance running by chance. He was a newly minted chartered accountant busy establishing his career in Johannesburg when he was recruited into running with his colleagues. Blessed with a remarkable lung capacity (almost twice that of the average person) and a huge stride, it wasn’t long before he and the rest of South Africa discovered to their surprise that he could run a long way, very fast. In Runaway Comrade he has published a book of his “other” life detailing his accidental entrée into top running circles and his David and Goliath battle with professional runner Bruce Fordyce for the Comrades crown in the 80s.
Wendy Caccetta - STM Sunday Times Magazine - Perth
So inspirational Bob!
You were one of my greatest heroes growing up and even more so as I am also a tall CA who has three kids and trains hard. I enjoyed your book so much and to read how you trained for that amazing 5:26 in 1986 has inspired me to train in a similar fashion for next year to improve my 6:45 best to try and come within an hour of your epic 1986 run
Warren Kidgell – South Africa
Great book Bob!
Suzy Barr - Cape Town - January 2016
Hard to put down!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Runaway Comrade in December on holiday in Mozambique. Being a (less glamorous) runner I found it quite hard to put down. You’ve chronicled a very significant period in SA running loreand the book will remain a treasured part of my collection. I also applaud the strong stance you took on apartheid and the efforts you’ve made to remember and support the past black runners from your era.
At least my 10 modest times at the Vaal Marathon eclipse your debut! I also enjoyed overtaking Bruce Fordyce at the 38km mark at the Johnson Crane Marathon two years ago.
Paul du Toit – Sandton – South Africa – January 2016
Well done Bob. Good work. Such a good read.
Jane Donald – Plettenberg Bay – August 2015
Fantastic Bob, your book is a great read and you deserve the success
Dave Gurney – Parktown, South Africa – August 2015
(Author’s note – Gurney features prominently in “Chapter 3 – Comrades flame-out” as my larger than life mentor throughout my disastrous debut marathon in 1976)
Congrats Bob. I totally enjoyed your book – your life has been full of adventures. Your Comrades Marathon determination is very impressive.
Nathalie Larendeau – Perth, Western Australia – August 2015
The concomitant historical account … made fascinating reading
I loved the book. Even though I have never been a particularly talented runner myself, there were so many parts which resonated, such as with my own story of getting into running and the struggle with my first marathon exploits and watching those races on TV were part of what inspired me to try the Comrades. The concomitant historical account and how this weaved into your own life also made fascinating reading, helping to rekindle the memories of those times. Good luckwith the continued success of your book.
Nigel Asprey – South Africa – September 2015
You are amazing and the book is great!
Fiona Harris – Perth, Western Australia – December 2015
My non-runner husband/coach found Runaway Comrade’s perspective of SA’s recent history intriguing. A brilliant read. Congratulations
Val Opperman – South Africa
Great book and worth the read
Running is a journey, like the insights of South Africa over the years. Bob gives the reader a nice overview of them both.
Hugo – Amazon reviewer – September 2015 (5 Stars) - Amazon now has 10 independent reviews 5 Stars
Inspirational reading about the world's greatest ultra-marathon
From the moment I picked up this book, I was hooked. Whether you're an aspirant Comrades Marathon runner, seasoned veteran or simply a Comrades Marathon follower, I'd highly recommend Runaway Comrade. An excellent read from the outset about well known and some lesser-known, underprivileged Comrades Greats. Having successfully completed 23 Comrades Marathons, I was inspired to run again in 2016 by, in my opinion, the greatest Comrades runner never to have won the race.
Bob's candid writing style takes the reader into the mind of the novice and elite ultra-distance marathon runner and endurance athletes while interspersing chapters on his personal life and political challenges he and fellow South Africans faced over many decades in South Africa. It's seriously goose-bump stuff for anyone who reads this book. It is accounts such as this that remind us of the enormous potential we have as human beings and the importance of keeping the fire burning within us.
John Cooper – Comrades Double Green #7774
Mauritius - January 2014
I loved your book – it had me mesmerized from start to finish.
I loved this book. It had me totally mesmerized, amazing for a non-fiction book. I loved how the running story threads through Bob's life and the history of a very dark time in South Africa when the country was at a boiling point just before, during and after the abolishment of Apartheid as a national policy.
It provides a fascinating look into the training and lives of an elite group of runners, the group dynamics and the tensions brought about by the segregation imposed by Apartheid. It makes me appreciate what I often take for granted, the right to participate in and run amongst all races, nationalities and genders as equals in almost any race I choose to. These freedoms were hard won by blood sweat and tears.
His growth as a youngster struggling through his first marathon to a Comrades champion is inspiring stuff and I enjoyed the level of detail he provides on his training and his progression through the years.
Fadeelah Kenny - February 2016
Cape Town – South Africa
Rated 5 stars on Goodreads
Congrats on a fantastic book!
I have just finished reading your book and took 10 seconds per km off my usual run this morning as a result! I was running along mulling over different parts of the book feeling more inspired than usual. Congratulations on a great and inspiring story.
Hylton Mathews – February 2016
Melbourne - Australia
An inspirational read
Thanks for your great book. An inspirational read during a time when many talented athletes were not appreciated or given a chance to succeed.
SIMON LESSING - MBE
Winner of five International Triathlon Union World titles
Boulder, Colorado USA – March 2016
Thank you for sharing your story with us ... it has opened my eyes
I am a South African runner. I met you at the Comrades expo last year where you signed my "Runaway Comrade". It didn't take me long to read your story and I have to say, I admire your remarkable sportsmanship, and I can tell you one thing - a lot of screen shots were taken and forwarded to my fellow running friends here in Dubai.
You are an inspiration, and even though I have a very very long way to go, it has opened my eyes and showed me that it takes 120% dedication. I can't tell you how many times I have quoted your words and told other about the mileage you clocked leading up to Comrades. I have a full-time job and trying to fit 2 x training sessions in per day.
I recently joined Nedbank and it's an amazing experience but still feel a bit out of place being among all the pro athletes with marathon times of about 20 to 30 minutes less than mine. But I am grateful for that opportunity and trying my best to improve everyday. I do complain sometimes and get tired too, but reading your story, I realize I have no excuses and I want to thank you for being such a remarkable person and sharing your story with us. We refer to our short morning runs in Dubai as "Bob Runs" haha. They started off rather slow, and probably didn't live up to their name, but the pace has improved now.I hope that you will be back at the Comrades expo this year
Dubai - 2016
Top 20 Two Oceans Marathon finisher on debut 2016
14th position - 2016 Comrades Marathon -7:08
… a most absorbing, interesting and challenging read of a ’regular’ guy who achieved so much …
When I was told that you had written a book and that you were doing a launch in Durban I wondered what had motivated you to write your story and how you had managed to fill up an entire book. Sadly I missed the book launch and the opportunity to meet you as I now feel that I got to know you pretty well just reading your story!
I spent several months reading a few pages every so often … well what a surprise I was in for. I have to congratulate you for a most absorbing, interesting and challenging read of a ’regular’ guy who achieved so much. I enjoyed the book immensely – thank you.
Reading your story it became painfully obvious how amateurish running was in my day! No great plan for the day, simply start cautiously and work your way through the field…no splits etc.
Once again thank you for the gift of your book and well done on all your achievements.
Derek Preiss - Durban April 2016
Comrades Marathon Winner 1974, 1975
Two Oceans Marathon Winner 1974, 1975
First athlete to win Comrades/Two Oceans double
In the ensuing 40 yrs only one other male athlete has achieved this– Stephen Muzhingi
… your achievements at physical, social and intellectual levels are enormous and inspirational …
I recently finished reading Runaway Comrade and wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the read. It is the first autobiography I have read by someone I know. Your achievements at physical, social and intellectual levels are enormous and inspirational. Congratulations on having the courage to put your life story to date into words. I can relate to so many of your messages not the least being the spiritual benefits gained from running which allow us to better cope with life’s challenges and to continually develop ourselves into more meaningful people.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa would have been horrible for those like you who despised forced discrimination. I don’t believe that you ran away from anything – in fact you sacrificed an enormous amount to better the lives most precious to you. That will leave a legacy for generations to come that will nourish and protect the causes and issues that mean and matter so much to you.
Geoff Donohue – Perth May 2015
Marathon runner – Berlin, New York and others
An absolute brilliant read!
Ran my back-to-back Comrades this year, train with a number of RAC runners and in the lead up read your book. What an absolute brilliant read! It was so well written, and really inspired me.
Katinka Schumann – June 2016
I learned a lot including many useful tips
I didn’t know anything about you one month and one day ago when I finished my first Comrades. During the race I was sure I would be there in 2017 due to the life-changing experience after 35 years of running. I fell in love with Comrades and South Africa and did further research. I found your book on Amazon and have just finished it. I want to thank you because it has been very interesting in many ways; I learned a lot including many useful tips for my 2017 Comrades. Kind regards
Ferran de Torres – 1 July 2016