Phil Masterton-Smith

Phil Masterton-Smith was the youngest ever Comrades winner at the age of 19.

The Unogwaja challenge was initiated to follow the footsteps of Comrades legend Phil Masterton-Smith, who was affectionately known as “Unogwaja” which means the Hare in Zulu.

Phil Masterton-Smith was involved in two of the closest finishes in Comrades Marathon history, when in 1930 he narrowly lost to the great Wally Hayward. The following year in 1931, he battled against Noel Burree, and crossed the finish line meters ahead to claim Comrades Victory and become the youngest ever Comrades winner at the age of 19.

In 1933 Masterton-Smith couldn’t afford the train fare from Cape Town to run the Comrades Marathon, so he cycled the distance from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, right the way across South Africa to get to the start of the Comrades Marathon.

Tragically Phil Masterton-Smith was killed in action on 5th June 1942 by a mortar bomb, defending the Gazala line during the siege of Tobruk in World War II.

This ultimate story of passion, willpower, courage and determination was mirrored by four young men, who followed in the footsteps of Phil Masterton-Smith 78 years later. Team Unogwaja succeeded in cycling 1677km’s in 10 days from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, and then running the Ultimate Human Race on day 11.This journey came alive & the Unogwaja team came together through Red Sock Friday (RSF), an initiative that shares its origin, like Comrades, in the aftermath of a World War, and is a global community of people who share a common passion for life and positive energy. The moment that founder of RSF, John McInroy, heard the story of Unogwaja from Dr WP van Zyl, a stranger at the time, the two knew this was a path they were going to follow.

Click here to download the story on the Comrades Marathon History.

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Phil Masterton-Smith death notice 1942 from war records
Phil Masterton-Smith's death notice from the 1st Royal Natal Carbineers