Author: Tom Cottrell
It came as a simple e-mail from Annemarie Sainsbury, the race administrator of Two Oceans. This was just a note to let all know of the passing of Liege Boulle. Liege died at 2:00am on October 19, 2000. He died at the age of 91 and was penniless.
While those may be the simple facts, here was a man who’s running career in Comrades terms spanned 50 years. The records show that he holds 39 medals, two gold, 29 silver and eight bronze medals. His first Comrades was run in 1933. he finished in 9:11 and came 32nd. This was in the year that Hardy Ballington won his first race.
During the 1930’s Liege never missed a race, and his finest achievement in those days was a solid third place in 1936, behind Ballington and Reeve. Morris Alexander, Comrades historian, recalls the race – “Wallace, who had gone through a bad time, was helped by Boulle’s cheerful company, but near home he sent Boulle ahead to do his best. From being half a mile behind Reeve at Poly Shortts, Boulle got to with-in 100 yards of him at the finish.”
The ‘up’ Comrades in 1960 marked a special occasion for Liege. This was his 20th medal. Sadly, during the mid-seventies, the Comrades Marathon Association prevented Liege from running the race, as they imposed an age limit on entrants. Boulle, now deemed too old to run the race, was excluded from the list of entrants. For four years, he sat on the road and watched the race go by. Needless to say, Liege protested loudly, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Happily, by the end of the 70’s all this had changed, and Liege finished the ‘up” run in 1979. As Alexander recalls; “Hayward’s one-time Johannesburg Wanderer’s tears, sweat and blood brother and 70-year-old contemporary, little Liege Boulle, having got back into the race with the removal of the age-limit ban, did prove his point, coming home to thunderous applause with almost an hour to spare, and ahead of 599 others. Only fifty minutes slower than his pioneer effort 46 years earlier. “
Liege was back on the road and on another four occasions, the diminutive figure of Liege sporting the number 141, was a feature of the race. Liege ran his last Comrades in 1983. Oddly, he ran Two Oceans only on two occasions. In 1983 he finished in 5:34 and in 1984 at the age of 75, he finished in 5:42:17. Liege still holds the age group records for those years.
Men like Kenny Craig and Clive Crawly have now passed Liege Boulle’s tally of Comrades medals, but there is a special place reserved in history for this very special man of the Comrades Marathon.