The Secret Runner – My Hero

I always felt like the black sheep of my family. I’m one of five sisters and I don’t exactly have a lot in common with any of them, or with my parents come to think of it. There’s a distinct possibility I was snuck in to the house in the middle of the night, after all, my mother had so many daughters, if someone had plonked one more screaming girl into our family she probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Then a year ago my Great Uncle Ken died. I hadn’t known him that well as he had spent a lot of his life in South Africa. It wasn’t until I helped my Mother & Gran empty out his house I got a glimpse into his amazing life, and boy did I wish I had known him better.

It turns out, he was a runner.


NONE of my family are the least bit interested in sport of any kind. For me, its more than a hobby, its a job… literally. I work for a health and well being charity.

Oh and he wasn’t just any old runner, he ran the Comrades Marathon….at 70.

If you didn’t know , this is an Ultra Marathon in South African heat and humidity through foothills. My mother and Gran had no idea either until the three of us came across his patches and programme from the race in an old box. He did a respectable time too. I’ve never been so humbled in all my life.

His boxes were filled with photography from travels, underwater pictures of fish and battleships. Amazing photographs. This man’s life was an adventure. He travelled the world, saw battleships, ran ultra marathons! I had absolutely no idea we had someone like this in our family. My mother and sisters all live in the same small town and probably always will. This man, who I only saw a few times in a fragile elderly state has become my hero, my pinnacle from simply seeing his life as we boxed it up after he died.

 But the running gene clearly hasn’t stayed dormant forever. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be a strong enough to go to South Africa and tackle the Comrades, although realistically that race maybe a few years away. I’m motivated by the fact that it does run in our family, no matter how distantly. It spurs me on to try harder and achieve more.

 I only regret I did not know sooner, and couldn’t discuss races, trainers, running form…….the conversations my sisters and parents can’t grasp.  I would have liked to hear his stories. That would have been nice.

It made me wonder that someday will my future grandkids/nieces/nephews look through my Facebook photos and see my races and the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, and think that I was pretty cool too. I hope so. Because my family definitely needs more runners.

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6 Responses to The Secret Runner – My Hero

  1. Wow, what an amazing man and post! I am sorry for your loss but happy you found out a little family history. It would of been wonderful to actually talk with him about all his adventures, but I am sure he is now running with you every step of the way. Keep him in your heart when you run and you will go far, I am sure!

  2. TartanJogger says:

    Oh, wow! What an amazing man, and to discover that about your uncle is awesome.
    I’m one of seven kids, and like you, my family thinks I’m crazy.
    I have one brother who does some outdoors-sporty stuff (mostly hill walking but does a wee bit of running) but everyone else just rolls their eyes at me.
    It’s good to know that your running is in your genes!

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