Sunday Tribune

Legend’s running feats set benchmark for all



It is 40 years this week since John Ball of East London completed his epic, recordbrea­king run from coast to coast across America. He smashed the previous record, completing the 4 544kms distance in 54 days, the equivalent of a Comrades Marathon every day, for 54 days.

What is more, he did it with no sponsorshi­p and no medical back-up team, only a friend in a second-hand camper van, seconding him.

In the first five days of the run, he had to pass between two mountain peaks with altitudes of 3 800m and 3 500m, which meant that he had to run from sea level up to an altitude of around 3 000m in the first five days.

In 1969, he broke the record for the distance between Johannesbu­rg and Durban, a distance of 646km, which he completed in six days and one hour, covering some 107km a day.

With John Woods, the Springbok surf lifesaver, he also pioneered the race between runner and surfski paddler in the annual surfski paddle race between Port Elizabeth and East London.

What is amazing is that he achieved these performanc­es long before the advent of running shoe technology, scientific diets, sponsorshi­ps etc.

By all accounts, he was a humble man whose running feats set a benchmark for all and can only be termed legendary. MARTIN JOLLANDS


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