85: Mavis Hutchison – The Galloping Granny


Manage episode 299731901 series 2680589
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By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch The Comrades Marathon (about 55 miles), held in South Africa, is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race that is still held today with fields that have topped 23,000 runners. The year 2021, marked the 100th anniversary of Comrades Marathon. This episode on Marvis Hutchison is the fourth part of a series honoring Comrades and South African ultrarunning. 80: Comrades Marathon - 100 years old 83: Hardy Ballington - The Forgotten Great Ultrarunner 84: Wally Hayward (1908-2006) - South African Legend 85: Mavis Hutchison – Galloping Granny Mavis Hutchison was a pioneer ultrarunner from South Africa who blazed the trail for women runners worldwide. She finished Comrades eight times in years when very few women ran. She had an impressive ultrarunning career that took her to many countries and she went on to become one of the most popular women in South Africa. This episode is largely based on the research and interviews conducted by Dave and Gillene Laney, contained their excellent biography published in 2012: Unstoppable Woman: The Forgotten Story of Mavis Hutchison -- First Woman to Run Across America and also Mavis Hutchison's blog and other resources. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patreon member of ultrarunning history. You can become part of the effort to preserve and document this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Childhood Mavis Vaugn and her identical twin sister, Doreen, were born on November 24, 1924, in Kimberley, South Africa to George Phillipus Vaughan (1895-1969) and Catharina “Kitty” Barnard Vaughan (1900-1996). The Vaughan family had lived in South Africa for multiple generations. There hometown city of Kimberley was the capital of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province and known for its diamond mines, and "the biggest manmade hole on earth." Mavis’ father. George was one of the top middle-distance runners in South Africa and a rugby player. He worked for a diamond mining company. Sadly, both twin girls had defects in their legs. Doreen had a damaged hip causing her to limp through life and Mavis had a leg that was somewhat “slow.” After contracting rhematic fever as a child, Mavis suffered from nervous breakdowns during her teens requiring hospitalization and was unable to walk or talk for a time. She had to relearn those skills and those breakdowns left her feeling fragile. While a teenager, Mavis really wanted to be a good athlete. Her father had been training girls at her school, so she joined in. She said, "I started out full of enthusiasm. I seemed to be getting nowhere fast. I told myself that if I did not have instant success I would never get there. I found excuses to give up. I believe my dad was disappointed, but he never forced me. I restarted a few times but ended the same each time a failure." Mavis and her mother in 1980 Because of her poor health, her schooling suffered, and she never graduated from high school. World War II arrived, and she worked at the government mint in her hometown making tools for the manufacture of weapons. She wanted to join the Army but her father would not give consent. He gave her good advice and always emphasized that she needed to be nice to others but should also stand up for herself. He wanted her to work hard but take time to smell the roses. Of her mother, she said, “My mom was a very private person, but some things did rub off and what rubbed off on me most was about going the extra mile, working hard, being not just a starter but a finisher, and being there for one another.” Troubled Marriage Mavis sought for more independence and when she was twenty-two, she married a man who turned out to be a heavy drinker bringing misery and abuse into her life.

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