As local legends go, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more iconic and well-known on the North Coast, especially in running circles, than Barry Holland. I met with Barry over a cup of coffee on a misty Autumn morning in Ballito and if you’ve ever met him, you will know that within just a few moments, you feel so at home with his soft-spoken nature and easy sense of humour, almost as if you’ve been friends for years. Barry is a born and bred Durban boy, and as such has always felt that running the Comrades is ‘in his DNA!’ He tells me how he ‘was always going to run Comrades’ almost as if he was predestined to do so, and completed his first of many in 1973 at the tender age of 20.
As our conversation develops easily and naturally towards the finer nuances of Barry’s life, he tells me about his many years in the advertising and printing business, in Johannesburg or ‘the big Smoke’ as he names it with an almost but not quite begrudging affection. A proper Natal local at heart, Barry always knew he wanted to retire on the Coast, and since moving back 4 and a half years ago, he has been very involved in the local community here in Ballito, especially in his role as chairman of the Dolphin Coast Striders running club. He started his own running events and organisation company aptly name The Running Organisation Company (ROC) and has been a part of organising many large scale events including the well known Deloitte Challenge and the newer Big Hill Run event in collaboration with Seeff Dolphin Coast and Sugar Rush Park. He has a lot of big ideas for the future of sporting events in the area and has lots up his sleeve which I’m extremely excited to see and be a part of.
Inevitably, before long we move on to the topic of Barry’s long and decorated running career, which spans over many years and 45 Comrades marathons. Barry holds the world record for most consecutive Comrades Marathon runs and after this year’s run, he will be tied with the world record holder for most Comrades run in total. His wife Debbie has run 20 Comrades Marathons herself and this year they plan on running at least some of the race together.
He is a devoted family man, and between him and his wife have 7 children in total! Their youngest, Ross, is in his final year at Kearsney College and is the apple of his dad’s eye. Barry and his wife moved back to Durban from Johannesburg 4 and a half years ago so their son Ross could go to school here, and although their other children and grandchildren are spread between the UK and Johannesburg, they do try to see them as much as possible.
As I reflect on the conversation that Barry and I have had, I find myself truly in awe of this man – such an amazing example of someone who has immersed themselves into the local community and works hard every day to be involved, be enthusiastic and actually CARE about what is happening here and the future of this place. Talking to Barry has made me feel so proud to be a Ballito local and given me that little extra spring in my step to get out there and discover even more of what makes Ballito so special!
Do you know any locals you think we might be interested in talking to? We’d love to meet them, so please let us know in the comments below 🙂