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Runaway Comrade

An insider’s view of the oldest and biggest ultramarathon in the world against the backdrop of politics in 1980s South Africa; the Chicken Run to Australia; being sued for $1 billion; and a hectic life on four continents.
Runaway Comrade by Bob de la MotteRunaway Comrade

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Bob de la Motte is best remembered for his epic duels in the ‘80s with nine-times Comrades winner, Bruce Fordyce. Who can forget the 1986 Comrades where, following the legendary handshake 14km from the finish and running 5:26, De la Motte was narrowly beaten by the unstoppable Fordyce. Both runners broke the 1984 record of 5:27. De la Motte has written Runaway Comrade against the backdrop of SA in the politically charged ‘80s in honour of the Comrades Marathon and some of his less fortunate fellow South African runners. “Many of these trail-blazing black distance runners from the apartheid era have simply disappeared; their triumphs ignored and possibly forgotten by those who should be honouring them,” says De la Motte.

In this compassionate, candid, humorous and captivating personal memoir, De la Motte explains his naive dalliance with the Comrades; the crucial social role Comrades played in SA at the time; elaborates on the hyped-up rivalry; explores hypocrisy and speculation of cheating and explains why he chose to join the “Chicken Run” to Australia in 1987. He introduces readers to some of the wonderful characters he was privileged to know, work with and run alongside. He relives his own personal triumphs, disappointments and challenges that have been intricately linked with the simplicity of running, his South African heritage and his hectic life on four continents. De la Motte also gazes into his crystal ball and speculates on the future of the Comrades Marathon and airs his contemporary views on a politically democratic SA.

Foreword by Jackie Mekler, 5 times Comrades winner, 10 Gold medals: “Runaway Comrade is a provocative, spirited and essential read … It will touch all who read it.”

Introduction by Arnie Geerdts: “Bob has finally told us his nakedly honest story. It made me laugh. It made me cry.”

Reviewed by Blanche Moila, first female African athlete to be awarded Springbok colours in 1984: “Runaway Comrade has captured the sentiment of those who were of the opinion that there could be no normal sport in an abnormal society.”

“Every accomplishment begins with a decision to try.” – Gail Devers


A running, political and personal high!
"A compelling history of South African Ultra Running and the transformation of the country from the Apartheid era to post Mandela freedom. Including exciting recollections of great racing in the iconic Comrades Marathon, moving memories of forgotten pioneering Black marathon runners and important documentation of bizarre Apartheid policies. A fun and inspiring read." – Denis Sacks

"Bob de la Motte weaves a beautiful tapestry... The warp is his own coming of age, and the birthing of a free South Africa, and the weft is Comrades.. the beautiful race that continues to capture the imagination of every ultra runner. An earnest account related from the heart, with captivating clarity, and a memory for people and events that is astounding." – Josh Ogada

"Fascinating story, lots of Bob versus Bruce, interesting mix of running and politics, a real eye opener. Well written, not your average sports biography." – Amazon Customer

"One would have to scratch around the statistics to find a Comrades runner who broke the record but didn't win the race. One such individual was Bob de la Motte, out kicked by a rampant Fordyce in 1986. It is fitting that Bob's book was written and published now, for his life is far bigger and richer than the Titanic duals that unfolded on Comrades Day in the mid '80's.

De la Motte brings a chatty and friendly voice to his autobiography. There are several themes that run through this understated sometimes self-effacing account of a man's life, abundantly lived. He modestly exposes the Comrades Marathon running scene, training and preparing at the time when Bruce Fordyce was its most potent running force. He gives a very personal insight into just how it feels to lead that great race only to be tapped on the shoulder by 'Little Boy Blue'.

Conscription, university and the framework of an unjust life in South Africa are subjects dealt with more forthrightly. De la Motte's political consciousness was inherited from a father who was a liberal politian who opposed Apartheid and inevitably led to Bob turning his back on his beloved country.

Bob de la Motte is a qualified Chartered Accountant and he gives the reader some insight into his career as well as some of his corporate experiences. There is a particularly poignant chapter where he looks back over his life with gratitude; he gently puts into perspective a marriage that didn't work. Talented runners lost to South Africa like Mark Plaatjies are remembered. His new-found interest in cycling and swimming together with participation in the Iron Man gives the reader a view of an athlete whose quest is never done.

On putting down his book I felt I had spent quality time with an old friend over a leisurely lunch. After reading his story I know him better and recognise him an ordinary okie like me. There is an overall impression though - here is a life well and successfully lived." - Tom Cottrell, Guide Book Publications.


Bob de la MotteBob de la Motte is a world-class ultramarathon runner, cyclist and Ironman contender. He was born in SA where he attended Wits University and worked for KPMG. His career as a chartered accountant and investment banker has taken him to London, the US and ultimately to Australia where he has lived since 1987. After retiring from his commercial career in 2009, De la Motte has continued to pursue his sporting interests all over the world including Ironman, cycling, mountain biking and marathoning, all at a recreational tempo. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. De la Motte Bob ran second to Fordyce in the Comrades Marathon in 1984, 86 and 87. His runner-up time of 5:26 in 1986 has only been beaten by four winners of the Comrades marathon over the ensuing 28 years. He won South Africa’s prestigious 50km JSE (City2City) marathon in 1985 and the 56km Korkie Marathon in 1986. In Australia he won the Perth Marathon, the national Australian cross country title (M35) and set Australian records for 30 miles and 40 miles in the Mundaring to York ultramarathon. In mountain biking he has completed the 8-day Cape Epic and Australia’s 9-day Crocodile Trophy. He has won many age group titles including the 100km MTB marathon event in Western Australia and the 249km Gran Fondo Fausto Coppi cycling race in Cuneo, Italy. In Ironman, De la Motte qualified for Kona with his debut 10:30 as a 50 year old. In 2014, de la Motte ran Boston Marathon as a 60 year-old in 3:06 finishing 9th in his age category.



Dave HughesDave Hughes, former sports journalist of Johannesburg’s newspaper The Star, was one of SA’s leading sports journalists and athletics writers up to his emigration to Australia in 1985. He is a former contributor to SA Runner magazine. Between 1985 and 2009, Hughes was a senior sports journalist for the West Australian newspaper. He has attended four Olympics Games, three Commonwealth Games, and also covered a diversity of events such as the Rugby World Cup, F1 Grand Prix, several heavyweight world title bouts and two swimming world championships. Hughes was educated at Wits University and served as Chairman of the Wits Cross Country and Marathon Club when Fordyce joined them for his very first run as an unfit student. Hughes was also the first casual employee of the fledgling Sweat Shop before it attained iconic status.  


After the official book launch on 27th October 2014 at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, De la Motte will embark on a series of book launches countrywide at selected running clubs. To find out more about where he will be presenting, visit


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