Comrades ‘green number’ lady used to tackle longs and shortts

Olive Anthony has completed 21 Comrades Marathons. l SUPPLIED

Olive Anthony has completed 21 Comrades Marathons. l SUPPLIED

Published May 26, 2024


Durban — While her running shoes have long been hung, former Comrades Marathon runner Olive Anthony is on the roadside each time runners embark on the road trip between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

Olive, now aged 72, ran her first Comrades in 1980, in the early days of women’s official participation in the marathon.

The Comrades’ for-men-only barrier was lifted in 1975.

Olive’s claim to Comrades fame is that she became the first black woman runner to achieve a “green number” for finishing the gruelling event on 10 occasions.

Her last Comrades run was in 2010. By then, she had already completed 21 races and had “double green” status (20 finishes).

Since then, Olive and her husband, Alex, have become Comrades volunteers and on race day they can be found on the route, cheering runners on.

Olive Anthony has completed 21 Comrades Marathons. l SUPPLIED

Alex was also a committed Comrades runner, has 14 finishes to his name, but his preference was for shorter distances.

Since her running days, Olive has enjoyed the “camaraderie” that Comrades generates.

“There’s nothing like the race day vibe. It’s like everyone is one big family,” she said.

She took up running as a youngster when her brother, who was a boxer and doing time trials, encouraged her to run.

By 1976, she was accompanying Alex and his friends on their Comrades training runs and she made her first start in 1980 after taking the advice of Peru Moodley, chairman of the Spartans Athletics Club.

The Pietermaritzburg-based couple were both members of the club.

To qualify, Olive remembered how they would run long races on weekends.

A lingering memory from her Comrades debut was the remark made by a runner who passed her as she struggled to climb Polly Shortts, a steep hill outside Pietermaritzburg.

“I had the last laugh because I finished ahead of him,” she said.

Another memorable run for her came in 1983, running while pregnant with daughter Olivia.

A silver medal always proved elusive for Olivia, in spite of having a best time of 7 hours 40 minutes.

When she compared her running days to what the current crop of athletes have achieved, she said: “These days ladies run like machines. The times they achieve are amazing.”

Sunday Tribune