Races from yesteryear – Pieter Korkie 56 km Ultra

Taken from the Runners Guide – 1995

Organiser:  Germiston Callies Harriers
Date last run:
12th March 1995
Start time: 06h00.
Start: Verwoerdburg Stad
Finish: Herman Immelman Stadium, Germiston

Fred Morrison – a founding member of the race

Route Description:  Point-to-Point The Korkie was notorious. It had the name “Slow Poison”. The name summed up the course. From the start the climb was gentle yet continuous. Runners didn’t realise how hard the course was until the marathon mark. Anyone who had not exercised extreme caution would pay the price from this point onwards. The course followed the old road between Pretoria and Kempton Park.

Many would be forgiven if they thought the longest city in the world was Kempton Park. At Jan Smuts Airport – now OR Tambo International – was the marathon mark. From there the course continued to Germiston. The scenery on this course was notorious. There were grain silos and the airport – that was it.

One benefit of the Korkie was the hammering the legs usually took on long runs was avoided. For those who were in serious training for Comrades this was the best news ever.

Course Records
Men – Johnny Halberstadt – 03:11:24
Women – Frith Van Der Merwe – 03:32:42

Editor’s Note: After World War Two Fred Morrison, Pieter Korkie, Sam Mirwis and a few runners discussed staging a race over their favourite training route, from Pretoria back home to Germiston. Sadly in 1947 Pieter Korkie was killed while on a training run. The race was appropriately called the Pieter Korkie Memorial Marathon. The first race was staged in 1948.

Wally Hayward, Jackie Mekler, Alan Robb, Bruce Fordyce, the winners list of this classic reads like a “Who’s Who”. The record has stood since 1980 and was Johnny Halberstadt’s. This race was a legend. It was run in the point-to-point format for the 48th and last time in 1995. It later became a circular 50 kilometer course, run around Germiston.

In 1985 Bruce Fordyce remembers making the critical mistake of racing the Korkie. “It must have been youthful impetuosity, or a foolish rush of blood to the head. I raced it and won it. I was delighted as I lifted the impressive silver trophy at the prize giving. After all, I had joined a list of illustrious past winners of the race including Wally Hayward, Jackie Mekler, Alan Robb, Hosea Tjale, and Frith van der Merwe,” he recalls

Herman Immelman tartan track at the finish of the Korkie – soft, welcome

“Later I was to realise that winning effort was undoubtedly a bridge too far for my poor body. I would pay the price at the race that mattered the most to me, the Comrades Marathon. Only a month before the Korkie I had finished third in the Cape Town Peninsula Marathon in 2:18.”

A nice touch was Wally Hayward calling out the time at the Marathon mark. You had to be sure to greet Wally and the rest of your run would go without a hitch.

Bus transport was offered to the start from Herman Immelman Stadium and from the finish back to the start after the race.