Beating a Not-So-Hasty Retreat

The Dundee (pronounced DinDear locally) athletic club and the Dundee Hysterical Society run a 21km foot race called the Isandlwana 21 or The Fugitives’ Trail half marathon every January on the closest Sunday to the 22nd which is when the homeland-defending Zooloos routed the wickedly-invading Poms in 1879 and gave them a well-deserved smack on the snoot. After this thrashing Mrs Queen Vic dished out her Crosses by the dozen like smarties to cover up their embarrassment. A fig leaf for the Empire’s nakedness, I say. ‘Have one of her crosses, mate, just don’t tell her what actually happened, mKay?’

The race starts on a hill overlooking the Isandlwana mountain and ends at Rorke’s Drift.

I went to run it one year and it was very special: Half the club members manning the water tables dressed as Zulus in full regalia, and half dressed as pith-helmeted, redcoated Poms. Some of the former were pale and some of the latter dark, to add to the hilarity. I was appropriately dressed in my Savages Club black n white vest with my number 482 on show. This was quite a while ago, shortly after the actual battle, I spose. When I joined Westville Club in the 21st century I was given number 8754357808F. I don’t think they valued me like Savages did.

The oke who started the race looked like a drunken Pommy colonel, his nose as red as his jacket. He had no gun, no whistle nor no trumpet. He had a moustache, and he rambled on about who had done what to whom in 1879 – a potted history in which I think he underplayed the extent of the well-deserved smack on the snoot. And then, when the ‘off’ time arrived, he shouted:


‘Course, in my specific case, all the Zooloos running that day were well ahead of me. Nevertheless, just like Mrs Queen Vic, the DinDear athletic club dished out Victoria Crosses liberally that day, even to slow coaches.


redcoats n zulus

The race result was something like this photo above.

We crossed the Buffalo river at Rorke’s Drift and finished at the famous mission of the same name:

I think the finishers medal is rather special – a cross between a Victoria Cross and a Zulu shield:

My VC from Isandlwana 21km

I later gave mine away to a great cause.



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