BACKGROUND - Information about Wally Hayward




Photo of Wally with two of ACR's senior runners - Lilly Krugel & Dion Heigers
Wally with 2 of ACR's Senior Runners,
Lilly Krugel & Dion Heigers

WALLY HAYWARD was born on 10 July 1908 in Durban and died on Friday, 28 April 2006 in Johannesburg, a few weeks before his 98th birthday.


News 24 report on Wally's death

Wally Hayward dies at 97
28/04/2006 09:24  - (SA)  

Johannesburg - Veteran marathon runner Wally Hayward died on Friday. He was 97.

Spokesperson for the comrades marathon association, Gary Boshoff, said the icon of the Comrades Marathon died in an old age home in Johannesburg, where he had spent his last years.

Boshoff said: "A couple of weeks ago, he was at a function where a cheque was handed to him. He looked very frail at the time."

Hayward's athletic career spanned 60 years, during which he competed and excelled at distances from 100m to 100 miles.

He won his first Comrades Marathon in 1930 at the age of 21. He had won the national 10 mile championship earlier that year.

Boshoff said: "On his return to the race in 1950, he was discounted as a serious contender on the basis of his age - only to prove the critics wrong as he took the lead from halfway and won in a time of six hours and 46 minutes."

Having competed on the track in his early 20s, Hayward represented South Africa in the Empire and Olympic Games in the standard marathon, and set world records for ultra-marathon distances.

Hayward was best known for his achievements in the Comrades Marathon.

Friends persuaded him to participate in the 1988 Comrades Marathon - at the age of 79.

Boshoff said: "The nation was stunned as the 79-year-old hero crossed the finish line in a remarkable nine hours and 44 minutes.

"Wally's most dramatic moment came the following year, 1989, when he completed the down run at the age of 80.

"Wally was cherished as an icon and will be remembered as an inspiration to thousands of runners."


Wally would have been 98 on 10 July 2006 - although he didn't look it. See pic above and check the PIX page for more Wally photos.


The enigmatic WALLACE HENRY (WALLY) HAYWARD lead an eventful life as an athlete.

He started his running career seriously in 1925 at the age of 17. As with most athletes who start out running, he kept his racing for the first 5 years to the shorter distances, never racing more than 10 miles. (16 Km.)

But in 1930, at the age of 21, he took the plunge and entered the Comrades Marathon, having never run more than 37 miles (once).

Being a novice, Wally shot to the front and had a 29 minute lead by the halfway mark. These days this would be considered suicidal.

But, despite having to walk up all the hills in the second half, and having his lead reduced by a minute every kilometre in the closing stages, he hung on courageously and managed to win by 37 seconds (in 7:27:26) one of the closest finishes in the history of the Comrades Marathon.

A further remarkable factor that probably contributed to his suffering in the closing stages, was that Wally would only replenish his liquid intake every 30 Km, which is totally unheard of nowadays. He had also put too much baracic powder in his socks - which formed little lumps with the perspiration, (wearing his feet away like sandpaper) causing plenty of blisters on his toes and on the soles of his feet (the dark blob on his white tackies at the toes of his right foot in the photo below was caused by his feet bleeding). Unlike our supportive, lightweight, cushioned running shoes these days, he won wearing 1/6d white canvas tackies with heavy inch thick solid rubber soles!

Wally winning 1930 Comrades
Wally winning Comrades in 1930
(Note Wally's Comrades no. ...  2 )
(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)
Wally with 1930 Comrades Trophy
Wally with the Comrades winner's trophy in 1930
(Note Wally's Comrades no. ...  2 )
(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

In 1931, Wally picked up an injury during his buildup to Comrades - breaking a bone in his right foot after stepping on a stone while running fast down Modderfontein hill, while it was getting dark. He was out of action for a considerable time, forcing him to miss Comrades. He then moved his focus to shorter distances.

His versatility as an athlete is quite apparent when looking at his record. He set national and world records at a wide range of distances, from 5 Km to the 24 hrs.

In 1938, Wally was selected to represent South Africa in the Empire Games over 6 miles (10 Km) where he finished third.

In 1946, Wally clinched the SA marathon title.

In 1950, after not having run in the Comrades for 20 years, Wally lined up once again for the world's ultimate ultra marathon. He won the race again in a time of 6:46:25.


Being vastly more experienced this time, he ran steadily from the beginning, passing the favourite, Reg Allison, at about 20 miles and building a lead of about 21 minutes at Drummond, to finish a full 13 minutes ahead of Reg Allison. Although then 42, he also managed to cut 40 minutes off his winning time as a 21 year old in 1930.


Wally winning his 2nd Comrades on his second attempt, in 1950
Wally winning his 2nd Comrades in 1950 in 6:46:25,
cutting 40 minutes off his winning time as a 21 year old when a few weeks short of his 43rd birthday.

(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

The following year a 43 year-old Wally Hayward was back on the starting line of the Comrades Marathon. He proceeded to win this down Comrades yet again, in 6:14:08, crushing the course record by over 8 minutes.

In the same year, 1951, Wally was awarded the Helms trophy for being the most outstanding sportsman on the African continent.

Possibly one of the greatest moments in Wally's life was representing SA in the 1952 Olympic Games in the marathon. He finished tenth, 7 minutes behind one of the greatest athletes the world has seen, the legendary Emil Zatopek.

In 1953, Wally made history by being the first athlete to break 6 hours for the Comrades, winning in 5:52:30, at the age of 44. This would still put him in contention for a gold medal these days, with the vastly improved scientific training methods and nutrition. In fact, his time for the second half of the race, 2:59:28, was not bettered until 1969, 16 years later!

Wally had a fortunate habit of eating a meal highly concentrated in fats before participating in an Ultra Marathon. He unwittingly did what science was later to "discover" was the right thing nutritionally, since fats have a carbohydrate saving effect, which is of prime importance to any runner over 10 Km.

On 26 September 1953, at 45 years of age, Wally Hayward shattered the 80 Km London-to-Brighton record by 22:42, winning in 5:29:40. He also established his first World record for 50 miles (5:14:12) along the way.

Less than a month later, on 24 October 1953, Wally broke fellow Comrades hero Hardy Ballington's World 100 mile record on the Bath road in England, by more than an hour, in 12:20:28 (a record which was to remain unbroken for 15 years!).

Wally breaking Hardy Ballington's World 100 Mile record in the 1953 Bath to London 100 miler
Wally breaking Hardy Ballington's World 100 Mile record
in the 1953 Bath to London 100 miler by more than an hour in 12:20:28 (a record which was to remain unbroken for 15 years!)
(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

Another month later, on 20 November 1953, the 45 year old Wally Hayward set out after yet another Comrades legend's world record - Arthur Newton's 24 hour record. Along the way Wally passed 100 Km in a new world record of 7:41:36 as well as 100 miles in another world track record time of 12:46:34.


Despite being slowed by tightening muscles after an unfortunate shower at 160 Km, - which reduced the 150 Km he had covered in the first 12 hours to "only" 106 Km in the last 12 hours - he still managed to complete 256,4 Km in 24 hours, improving 11,3 Km on the great Newton's old world record.

Wally setting 24hr  World track record at Motspur Park in 75c takkies
Wally setting 24hr World track record of 256,4 Km
in 1953, at Motspur Park in England (in 75c takkies).
Despite losing 44Km in the second half compared to the 150 Km he completed in the first 12 hours (due to tightening muscles after a shower at 160 Km) this record remained unbroken for 26 years!

(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

The enormous magnitude of these world record achievements is only put into perspective when the length of time that was taken to break them is considered.


100 Km only in 1969, (16 years later), -
100 miles (160 Km) in 1968, (15 years later), and
by 1979 (after 26 years) his 24 hour record had been broken by only one man, Briton Ron Bentley

In 1954, one month before his 46th birthday, Wally became the oldest participant in the history of the Comrades Marathon to win this grueling event, winning for the fifth time in a new "up" record (by more than 19 minutes) of 6:12:15 - realising his ambition of both the up & down records. .

On 12 August 1954, Wally was declared a professional by the South African Amateur Athletic & Cycling Association. They had given permission to his club, Germiston Callies, to raise funds for a trip to England for his record breaking attempts.


However, Wally alledgedly broke the rules by having directly accepted donations totalling £286.5s, towards the total cost of £395.19s.4d, that his record-breaking trip to England had come to, and he was therefore banned from participating in "amateur" events such as the Comrades Marathon.

Only in the mid 1970's was Wally's amateur status renewed and he celebrated this in 1978 by setting a world marathon age record of 3:06:24 for 70 year olds, a time most young men would be proud of.

Probably the most remarkable achievement of the great Wally Hayward is his finishing the 1988 Comrades Marathon after an absence of 34 years, at the amazing age of 79 (a few weeks before his 80th birthday!) .


Although it was the first Comrades he was not to win, Wally stunned the world by not only completing the race but finishing in a time of 9:44:15 - beating more than half the field! Dr. Tim Noakes' statistical analysis (in "LORE OF RUNNING") puts this equivalent to a time of 4:48 for a 30 year old!

Wally completing the 1988 Comrades in 9:44:15 with his "shadow", Les Hackett
Wally completing the 1988 Comrades in 9:44:15 with his "shadow", Les Hackett
(a few weeks before his 80th birthday!)

(If you look closely, you'll see Wally is still running in Comrades No. 2).
(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

Wally with the Founder's trophy for the oldest Comrades competitor - which he last won in 1954 (when he won the race at 45 Yrs 11months) and which he won again at ages 79 and 80
Wally with the Founder's trophy for the oldest Comrades competitor - which he last won in 1954 (when he won the race at 45 Yrs 11months) and which he won again at ages 79 and 80.
(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

In 1989, just a few weeks short of his 81st. birthday, he completed his last Comrades Marathon to date. After this race, he received a congratulatory message from the then State President, FW de Klerk.

Wally completing the 1989 Comrades with Les Hackett just within the 11 hour cut-off, after cramping and other problems
Wally completing the 1989 Comrades with Les Hackett just within the 11 hour cut-off, after cramping and other problems - details in the book.
(from his book, "Just call me Wally".)

In 1999, the Comrades Marathon Association honoured Wally by dedicating the race to the distance running legend.



Wally's memoirs "JUST CALL ME WALLY", were finally published in time for 1999's Comrades, where many runners were fortunate enough to be able to buy the book.


If you have not yet got a copy of this fascinating book you can order one from Bill Jamieson at +27 (0)31 - 312 6371.


You will find it contains a lot more than just the story of his remarkable life - and it's not just his running feats that were remarkable. For example, you can discover why he was decorated for bravery during World War II.


The book is far from being a dry, text-only "story of the life of Wally by Wally". It is liberally interspersed with many historic photos (and even cartoons) and contains countless accounts, write-ups and tributes by others.


It is also interspersed with many entertaining and often thought-provoking quotes, sayings and verses. These, together with Wally's tributes to many other great achievers combine to convey not just the story of his eventful life but also to reflect the amazing character, selflessness, sense of humour and devout humility of the man who justifiably became a legend in his lifetime.

Finally, did you know that the "Om-die-dam Marathon" was conceived by Wally Hayward, who often ran in the "wilds" around the dam in preparation for the Comrades Marathon.



A quote from Wally's book....




Not, how did he die? How did he live?

Not, what did he gain? What did he give?

These are the units to measure the worth

of a man as a man, regardless of birth.


Not, what was his station? But had he a heart?

And, how did he play his God-given part?

Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer,

To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?


Not, what was his shrine? Nor, what was his creed?

But, had he befriended those really in need?

Not, what did the sketch in the newspaper say?

But, how many were sorry when he passed away?




Designed & hosted by AiNet Internet Marketing

      © 2016  Wally Hayward Marathon   -   Design   © 2016   AiNet Marketing CC