37-year-old institution – the Old Eds half marathon
08 January 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, it’s good to have you with us, thank you so much for downloading and listening to this podcast, much appreciated. As we inch closer and closer towards the end of the year, I can’t believe we’re talking end of the year already. But we are in the second half and the post-Comrades hangover is over.
I see more and more people getting out on the roads across the country, every single weekend. Out of that slumber after running Comrades. It’s pretty much exactly the same in Jo’burg and the big sort of first half marathon back from Comrades, traditionally every year is the Old Eds half marathon. It’s a great pleasure to welcome the Chairman of the Club onto the podcast today, Mark Mohring. Mark, welcome, thanks for joining us today.
Mark Mohring: Thank you Brad.
BB: Mark, it’s good to have you on and chat about this race. It’s a race that’s a bit of an institution on the South African road running and particularly in Johannesburg calendar.
MM: Yes, definitely, it’s a road race that was started 37 years ago. It’s always been the first long race after Comrades, when all the runners are getting back into shape again. We generally have quite a good turnout, which is great.
BB: Gee, I can’t believe it’s 37 years old, there can’t be too many other races on the calendar as old as that one.
MM: Yes, I can’t think of many that would be that old, certainly Old Eds is a well-established club. Been around for many years and they’ve managed to maintain it for 37 years.
BB: That’s incredible, it’s older than both you and me!
MM: Yes, just by a little bit.
What makes it so special
BB: Mark, what makes the race so special? We know that clubs in general across the country are struggling to put on races every single year, but this one seems to be firm in the calendar, it’s going nowhere, it’s just such a solid race, it’s well-organised and people just keep coming back year after year.
MM: I think you hit the nail on the had Brad. Certainly it’s been a very well organised race over the years, there’s a lot of commitment from the club members. Old Eds does actually partner up with Morningside Road Runners and I think the guys put on a good show for the day, which attracts the people back. As I said earlier, it’s the first race really when the sun starts coming out after a cold winter. So the people do come out and support us on that day. Everything is down to those factors.
BB: It’s a difficult time of the year, you mentioned guys coming out, it is a difficult time of the year to attract numbers. If you look at what races do in the build-up to Comrades. But you guys get a pretty good field there every year. What are you expecting in 2016?
MM: Look, I’m expecting a very good field in 2016. We’ve introduced a 5km race with a preparatory school and we are attracting some younger runners to come and join us on the day. So that has sort of swelled our numbers. But you know, it’s also the weather at this time of the year. It might not be very hot, but the sun’s out and things are great. The birds are singing and people are ready to get out on the road.
BB: I guess you don’t have the same issues that the guys who put runs on in the middle of summer in Jo’burg have to deal with, thunderstorms and that sort of thing. It might be chilly but it’s pretty predictable in Jo’burg this time of the year?
MM: That is it. As I say, the sun shines, the sky is always blue, sometimes it does get very cold, which chases a few people away. But there are lots of hardened runners in Jo’burg that turn up on the day.
How to still get an entry
BB: Mark, if people want to enter, where can they enter now? Are you taking entries on the day as well? Can they just arrive and enter or is it pre-entry only?
MM: No, we’re doing pre-entries and we’re doing entries on the day. Pre-entry at the moment, we’re taking online at www.championships.co.za, also at the Old Edwardian Club at the Sweat Shop. We’ll have late entries from the Friday before the race, Friday/Saturday. Then from 6:00 on the day of the race, at the club. There’s plenty of time to enter and if you do leave it until the last moment, you can still enter.
BB: Brilliant. Mark, let’s just talk about the club itself as well. One thing I love about running in South Africa is the club scene. I’m sure you’d agree with me, it’s probably the lifeblood of the sport in this country. Every single running club has got its own sort of unique traditions and the way they do things. A lot of them do things the same, but there are some unique things about different clubs. What do you reckon makes Old Eds special?
Old Eds Running Club
MM: I think the social aspect of the running at Old Eds really makes it special. It’s not a very big club, but the guys are very close knit and we like to socialise. We invite people from all over to come and join us doing what we enjoy and that’s road running.
It’s quite amazing what you actually see in Jo’burg, especially this time of the year, how many guys get up early in the morning to go for a run. We have a big group going running on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, we do also ask the other old clubs out there, like Pirates and others.
BB: It’s interesting you say that because I wanted to touch on that too. It’s one thing joining a running club just to get an essential Gauteng license or if you’re in the Western Cape, a Western Cape license. But there’s a lot more to it.
You mentioned the social side of it, but the support structures, particularly for new runners, running clubs are vital. You talk about those morning groups and time trials and that sort of thing. Tell us a little bit about the structures you’ve got in place there to nurture runners. Getting people on a path to achieving their running goals?
MM: Really, it’s about participating in the club runs that we have during the week and on the weekends. The one thing that we do is to try and develop some of the newer runners, guys who come along with big aspirations and not a lot of experience.
In those runs we take them through the paces and get them up from basically zero to 5km, 10km, 21km and then it always seems to culminate at Comrades. We’ve got a lot of Comrades runners at our club. Just last year we had, sorry, this year, we had seven novices at Comrades, which was absolutely fantastic.
Are clubs attracting numbers still?
BB: That is pretty impressive. Mark, your involvement with the club, you’ve been with Old Eds for about five years now, you’ve been Chairman for the last two, is the club growing? I know that’s one thing that clubs are struggling with as well, we’ve mentioned the races and how difficult it is to put on races, but running clubs in general are also struggling around the country. Is Old Eds in good shape?
MM: Look, I think it’s in good shape for what it is. As you say, the clubs around the country are suffering, people are moving away from the traditional clubs to virtual clubs, supposedly saving money. But yes, I think we’re in a pretty good position. We probably can have more members but yes, it keeps it a nice size as we are at the moment.
BB: I just want to throw my 2c worth in there if I can, and this is not particularly for you but it’s for anybody listening to this who is thinking about joining a running club. I’m sure you’d agree with me Mark, I think it’s vital that people join. I don’t want to say that paper clubs aren’t legit, but I’m talking about legit, physical running clubs.
For various reasons and one of them is, we all love doing races and the vast majority of the races in this country are put on by running clubs. We all go and join virtual clubs, that whole system is going to fall flat on its face. The running clubs are vital in building the sport and developing it.
It’s also important that if you do belong to a club, to help out at that club. If the club needs volunteers for their race, it’s one race a year that you’re giving a skip. So that you can run the other races. It’s just really important as a community, that we all pull together and build this sport for everyone’s benefit.
MM: You’re 100% right there. If anyone is wanting to join a club, I can only advise that you join a traditional club where you do exactly that. You put on races so that you give enjoyment to others and by the same token those other clubs also put on those races for your enjoyment. It is a problem, if everyone goes and joins a virtual club, there’ll be nobody organising races anymore.
BB: It’s so true and at the end of the day, yes, you might have saved yourself maybe a couple of hundred bucks a year, but look at the damage it’s doing to the sport, it is just not worth it. Mark, thank you so much, if people want to find out more about Old Eds and join the club and check out those club runs and the time trials and that sort of thing. Where can they go? Have you guys got a website or a Facebook page that they can check out?
MM: Well, we do have both a website and a Facebook page. The website is www.oldedwardians.co.za
BB: We’ll put it in the show notes.
MM: Use Google.
BB: Then what we’ll do is we’ll find the one for the Facebook page as well, we’ll put that in too, so people can click straight through. Mark, thank you so much for your time, best of luck with the half. I hope you guys get a bumper turnout because I know these races are also vital in fundraising for the clubs and keeping the clubs going as well financially. Best of luck and we look forward to chatting again soon.
MM: Cheers Brad, thanks a lot, I appreciate it, keep well.