Fordyce pushes for parkrun defibrillators

CEO of parkrun SA, Bruce Fordyce, in the green shirt, with Zandvlei parkrun volunteers.

The founder and CEO of parkrun SA, Bruce Fordyce, was in Cape Town at the weekend to give talks at sports clubs and to promote his book.

The Johannesburg runner is best known for winning the South African Comrades Marathon a record nine times, of which eight wins were consecutive.

The Hong Kong-born 66-year-old ran the Zandvlei parkrun on Saturday, and before getting going, he spoke to some of the runners, joggers, walkers and volunteers who are among four million people in 22 countries on five continents who, every Saturday at 8am, set off on a free 5km timed parkrun route.

Mr Fordyce is now supporting a new challenge of providing each parkrun with a defibrillator to help save lives.

“Thankfully, critical heart-related incidents at parkrun are exceptionally rare, but when they do happen, the chances of survival are 65% higher when a defibrillator is used within minutes,” said Mr Fordyce.

Each defibrillator costs R20 000 and the aim is to raise R4 million.

Mr Fordyce took part in his first parkrun at Bushy Park, England, in April 2011. Bitten by the bug and aware that these events could bring communities together, he started parkrun SA later that year.

During hard lockdown, Mr Fordyce wrote a book, Winged Messenger: Running your first Comrades Marathon, and he was invited to give a talk about his new book, at the Lookout in Muizenberg, for the Capricorn Athletics Club on Saturday July 30.

It’s a “fresh club” with growing membership, including many juniors, some of them doing three minutes per kilometre, according to club member Waleed Allie, of Muizenberg, who introduced Mr Fordyce.

The talk held much humour as Mr Fordyce regaled those present with anecdotes about his life, beginning with a sombre one of how he took up running in 1976 at the time of a different lockdown and being “moered” in a Soweto anti-apartheid protest.

Deciding to take control of his life and destiny, he set himself the goal of running the Comrades Marathon. Five years later, he won this most iconic of races and is now considered one of the greatest Comrades runners in the history of the race.

Mr Fordyce said the book is based on his 1976/77 training diaries with anecdotes of the times thrown in.

He encouraged the youngsters of the club to put the Comrades Marathon on their bucket list. “It’s not only for young people. Wally Hayward won the Comrades Marathon five times and completed his last time just before his 81st birthday,” he said in response to a question from Capricorn Athletics Club chairman Trevor Busby.

Capricorn Athletics Club members before the talk by ultra-marathon runner Bruce Fordyce.
Capricorn Athletics Club chairman Trevor Busby has his copy of Winged Messenger: Running your first Comrades Marathon signed by Bruce Fordyce.
Nadia Adams, of Portland, Mitchell’s Plain, has her book signed for her uncle, Leon Esau, who has completed two Comrades Marathons, but could not attend the talk by Bruce Fordyce.
Capricorn Athletics Club member Waleed Allie with Comrades Marathon multiple winner Bruce Fordyce at the Lookout in Muizenberg.