Former Comrades Marathon runner, supporter, motivator, mentor and friend to The Ultimate Human Race, Don Oliver has passed away. He was 85 years old.
Don successfully completed the Comrades Marathon 19 times, earning himself 2 Silver and 17 Bronze medals.
He was the first officially appointed Comrades Coach and inspired many runners and non-runners to get into the sport and ultimately, to take on the Comrades Marathon.
His efforts at promoting the Comrades Marathon and making it an achievable challenge for otherwise ordinary runners earned him the coveted Spirit of Comrades Award in 1999.
CMA Chairperson, Cheryl Winn says, “Don Oliver was one of the bravest, kindest, most generous human beings I have known. His passion for Comrades was boundless and contagious, as was his overwhelming compulsion to share his enthusiasm, wisdom and experience”.
Winn adds, “His training programmes were based on good common sense and an old-fashioned, tried and tested formula that worked to ensure generations of Comrades Marathon novices achieved their medal. He delivered his advice with equal measures of reverence for the magnitude of the task and good humour, and he took a genuine and sincere interest, satisfaction and joy in every single individual who followed his programme and succeeded. He faced his own adversities with courage and selflessness. He was a fellow runner, administrator, mentor, friend, hero and true inspiration to me.”
CMA Board Member, Isaac Ngwenya says, “Don was amongst the pioneers of the Comrades Coaches. He devised pacing charts and did a lot for the Comrades Charities. He made it possible for many to follow training programs he meticulously crafted for each medal category. I will forever cherish his advice and friendship with the 19 medals I have. May his soul rest in peace.”
CMA Race Director, Rowyn James says, “Don “where are we now” Oliver was a true friend and legend, from getting me through my first Comrades Marathon at the tender age of 18 right up until this year’s race where he was always available to offer support or advice on the race and its runners when I called upon him to do so. Don, you will be dearly missed and I will continue with the “quartz tradition” that you and I shared each year.”
9-time Comrades Champ, Bruce Fordyce says, “When Don spoke at his Comrades training sessions he always started off by saying: “And where are we now?”
“We are all the poorer for your passing Don, that’s where we are now.”
Comrades Coach, Lindsey Parry says, “Don Oliver, the original "Comrades Coach" who made training programmes accessible to the average runner for 3 decades, has left a lasting impression on the Comrades community and me personally. He still attended our annual road shows right to the end, loved the Comrades Marathon and shared his passion for running right to the end. Don Oliver, you will be sorely missed.”
Nedbank Running Club’s Nick Bester says, “Don Oliver will be sadly missed by all Comrades runners involved in the race the past 35 years. I will always remember him for his brilliant pre-Comrades talks to thousands of runners of which I was part of the panel on several occasions. His famous words were: “WHERE ARE WE NOW”.
CMA Board Member, Linda Hlongwa says, “My deepest condolences to the Oliver family. May the peace of God that surpasses the whole human understanding of a man, be their portion at this most trying time.”
Former CMA Chairperson, Jeff Minnaar says, “Don was a man with other peoples’ welfare in mind. He started roadshows in South Africa in the mid-80’s to assist especially those runners partaking in the Comrades Marathon and was able to mentor thousands of runners throughout his life. A friend in need and a friend indeed. My condolences to his family. I will miss my annual get together with him at the Comrades finish every year. R.I.P. Don.”
Former CMA Chairperson, Barry Varty says, ““Where Are We Now?”, was a question always asked by Don Oliver during his most revered Running Panel and Club Talks encompassing a timespan of over 30 years and during which time, I was indeed privileged to have been included to represent CMA in many of his presentations. An inspiration to novice and seasoned Comrades Marathon runners, his analytical guidance has assisted so many to achieve their respective Comrades Marathon goals during this time-span.”
Varty continues, “That, late in life, he endured debilitating amputations of both legs did not deter Don. He continued promoting his cause and participated in wheelchair races, notably the New York Marathon, such was his tenacious perseverance. Rest In Perpetuity Don,“We Know Where You Are Now”.”
Community Chest’s Angie Narayanan says, “Community Chest extends their deepest and sincere condolences to the family of Mr Don Oliver. As we bid farewell to the loss of our Comrade Marathon Hero, we hope that many other runners will continue to take on his light and show the world how ordinary people can be extraordinary!”
Photo: Don Oliver – courtesy of www.runtallwalktall.blogspot.com