Safari 15 km 1986

Remember these faces? Some of the great runners of the 80's who ran the Safari 15 km race in 1986. Back: Richard Wulfsohn, Nick Bester, Tony Dearling, Bob de la Motte, Julian Kearns. In front: Ian and Sonja Laxton.

The full story from Bob de la Motte:

30 year Flashback - Safari 15km - 20 September 1986 

I was one of the lucky “elite” runners invited to compete in the Safari 15km hosted by Rustenburg Marathon Club. Bruce Fordyce and Hoseah Tjale had also been invited. The three of us had all run sub 5:30 at the 1986 Comrades – the fastest race in Comrades history. As the race was to be held mid-afternoon, Tony Dearling and I ran the hilly 15km “out and back” race circuit as a comfortable early morning run in about an hour. After breakfast we spent the next few hours lazing around the pool that gradually started filling up with the fastest roadrunners in SA. Unfortunately a 15km race was a mere sprint for us Comrades runners, but we would give it a good blast. We were there to have fun. 

The afternoon was hot and humid and the downhill start of the race was insanely fast. Gibeon Moshaba (SA Half Marathon Champ 62:37) took the lead with SA Marathon Champ Zet Sinqe (2:08.04) in hot pursuit, along with Viv van de Sandt, Petrus Kekana, Ray Msini and many other thoroughbreds. I started out conservatively. Fordyce and Tjale were well ahead.

Approaching the turnaround mark I picked up my tempo, clocking 25.40 for the final 8km and an overall time of 49.09. Not too shabby on a hilly course on a hot afternoon. Over the final few kms I passed Fordyce but did not even catch a glimpse of Hoseah Tjale – he had left both of us in his dust. But not even Tjale got close to Sinqe who won in 45.57, more than a minute ahead of the second runner. Such was the genius of Sinqe. Tjale could not make the top 10 - I could not make the top 20. The depth of running talent was simply phenomenal. Sonja Laxton won the Women’s race in 58:35 while Rob Dowdeswell was first Vet in 52:58. 

After a few well-earned beers on Saturday evening we agreed to run 20km on the trails of Rustenburg Kloof on Sunday morning and that is what the picture has captured.

Front and centre in crouched position are the dynamic Laxton duo, Ian and Sonja. They were regulars at the Wanderers Saturday morning training run. Ian had just completed his first SABCTV Comrades commentary – he now has 30 to his credit. Sonja won every race she entered in SA and held almost every record up to and including the All-Africa marathon record.

Standing from left to right Richard Wulfsohn, Nick Bester, Tony Dearling, Bob de la Motte, Dr Rob Dowdeswell and Julian Kearns. 

Richard was a local Rustenburg guy. He had run 5 Comrades at the time and now has 31 to his credit (triple Green #7306). 

The young Nick Bester next to Richard had finished 7th at the 56km Milo Korkie for his first Gold medal in 3:29.45. I had won Korkie in 3:14.07 beating him by 15.38. Nick had one Comrades medal to his name after his 1985 Comrades finish in 6:38. The two of us were destined finish runner-up in Comrades no fewer than six times. Nick won Comrades in 1991. 

Shirtless Tony Dearling, the one runner with a real “six-pack” torso, was the only “legitimate” Comrades runner at the time. He had already earned his Green # 1353, via 15 medals including a Gold. He went on to earn a double Green. We ran many, many kms together - he was a great Comrades mentor, motivating me into the Gold medals in 1984. 

I look like a serious CA – well I was pretty serious in 1986 after winning JSE / City2City 50km in 2:50, Milo Korkie 56km in 3:14 and a second place 5:26 at Comrades – all inside nine months. 

Dr Rob Dowdeswell was one of SA’s leading Veteran runners up to the marathon. He trained many, many, many kms with us as the “elder statesman” offering us wise counsel. He was forever bemused and entertained by our youthful enthusiasm and naiviety. 

Julian Kearns was a sub-editor with The Star newspaper in Johannesburg and a pretty keen runner. The running community was fortunate during the 80s to have reporters and journalists who were active within the running scene – they really knew what was going on. 

Thanks for allowing me to share that snapshot of another wonderful running memory, a minor thread in SA’s rich running tapestry. 

And well done to Rustenburg Marathon Club and the Safari Lodge for making it all happen.



Safari 15 km- Organizer and personal perspective- Nico Steenekamp


Bob triggered nostalgic memories from the running 80’s. Memory is often creative, therefore this note before it gets more distorted!

The Safari 15 km was run only two years, 1985 and 1986. Rustenburg Marathon Club also had their club championships on the same route in November 1985. The manager of the Safari Hotel at the time was Desiree Havemann, a live wire who wanted to put her hotel on the map. Running was a fast growing sport in the 80’s, and she decided to sponsor the race, to promote her hotel. I cannot remember who initiated the idea (the Safari Hotel or Rustenburg Marathon Club), but it was a partnership with the Safari (and Ohlsonns) as the sponsors and Rustenburg Marathon Club as the organisers.

The first race in 1985 was experimental, but we still had some big names running. The late Kenny Jacobs was amongst the prize-winners, but I cannot remember who won. At the prize-giving ceremony Kenny entertained us all when he grabbed the microphone from the MOC. His performance with the mike in hand was almost as impressive as his running! He had a way to make us laugh and feel good about our sport. He thanked the sponsors and organisers but left us with an uneasy feeling, all was not well in sunny South Africa!

In 1986 Desiree wanted to go big. Her hotel had to get in the news, and what better way than getting some big names, including the Comrades stars to the race and the hotel. Bob mentioned a few, including himself, Bruce Fordyce, Hosea Tjale, Nick Bester, Gideon Mashaba and Sonja Laxton. We also invited Mark Plaatjies. Unfortunately Mark had other commitments for the Saturday afternoon, but Desiree bribed him to stay in the Safari on the Friday night and run the route early on Saturday morning (it was an afternoon race). So Mark was there, ran the route on his own, but very few people actually saw him! It was not a very successful publicity stunt!

I cannot add to Bob’s comments of the 1986 race but I would like to share my memories of Rustenburg Marathon Club championship over the same route in November 1985. Our star club runners Harry Schubert (66 minute 21 km runner as a veteran) and Trevor Parry (Three Comrades Gold medals) was injured at the time and did not run. It was my big chance, although there were Josiah Malwale (10th in the 86 Safari run) and Josiah Molemi (both sub 70 minutes 21 km runners) to deal with! Anyway, Malwale started way too fast, and I passed him on the way back, Molemi was too strong and too clever, and although I was closing in, he finished in 51m 57s, with me second in 52m 21s. It was one of my most enjoyable runs! Anyway it was interesting (and pleasing) to note Rob Dowdeswell’s time of 52m 58s as the winning veteran in the Safari race. We always compared (and still do) our times, so I took the honours of this “virtual” race, but I guess he wins using an “age adjusted” scale!

A last memory- the late George Claassen (Comrades winner in 1961 at age 44) was the guest of honour at our prize giving dinner after the club championships.

Supporting documents from Bob's records:


 Supporting documents including a race report from Herman Winter in the attachment below.

Administrator RMC,
19 Jan 2016, 21:45