RAC – A Johannesburg and Comrades pacesetter
10 June 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, it’s great to have you with us, I’m Brad Brown. Thank you so much for joining us today and downloading this podcast. I thought it would be a perfect time to chat a little bit post-Comrades Marathon about what it takes and how to do it. I think a lot of people may have sat at home on Comrades race day and thought, you know what, I want to do that race. A lot of people get fired up and motivated to do it.
There’s a running club that’s based in Johannesburg that’s got a very rich history when it comes to the Comrades Marathon, but they’ve also got a fantastic approach to the race. They help literally hundreds of runners every year. They’ve helped thousands over the years, get their Comrades medals. I’m talking about the Rand Athletic Club, RAC. We’re joined now by the Chairman, Dick Welch. Dick, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for joining us today.
Dick Welch: Thank you Brad.
BB: You guys at RAC do some amazing work, how many Comrades runners did you have in 2016?
DW: We’ve got 341 at the moment.
RAC’s proud Comrades heritage
BB: That is absolutely incredible Dick, that’s fantastic. But over the years, RAC, it’s almost interwoven into the Comrades fabric. It’s a club, like I said, that has a very rich Comrades history. You’ve had some big names run in RAC colours over the years. I think of the likes of Bruce Fordyce, Bob de la Motte has run for Comrades and many others.
DW: Yes, we’ve had Bruce, the other one that comes to mind is Mark Page who was also a consistent bridesmaid there. We’ve won the team prize about eight times, which was very hotly contested between the different clubs in the old days. We haven’t done much since 1987/88, somewhere around there. But the professional era has quietened down things as far as our top runners are concerned.
But we still have consistently large numbers of runners who go to Comrades. Many of them are ones who find it difficult to get there. Franny, our secretary, goes to inordinate lengths, not only to contact the employers of some of the runners, to see if they will assist them and the response has always been very, very good; but we also have our own members who club in and we have a travel fund that we keep a pot boiling.
We do all sorts of things like hire out cones and such like, which goes into our travelling fund. We manage to assist runners to get to Comrades. Franny organises buses for them, transport to get down there and back again and also books accommodation. Every year she leaves the hotel and then books for the next year. We’ve had a continuous set of opportunities for our guys to run like that.
BB: I love it. Dick, one thing I know about RAC too is it’s not just a Comrades club, there is such a wide variety of members at the club. That run everything from Park Runs right the way up and there is a place for everyone at RAC.
DW: We try and get the youngsters to run the shorter ones. My eldest son was a very good short distance runner. We were all concentrating on Comrades and he used to say ‘oh, there’s nothing for me,’ so that’s how the 10km became part of the effort.
It was a good warm down for Comrades and it was also something for the shorter distance runners to run. We also have a 5km race as part of our Tough One, which is sponsored by Asics and that’s been a really nice one. We get 5 000m runners coming from all over the country to come and run that one.
Equipping our runners, no matter the goal
BB: There’s definitely some great things happening at RAC. As far as the state of the club goes, it’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest up north in Gauteng. I’ve run your time trials, it’s like a mini race every week, it’s incredible.
DW: I’ll be quite honest, our long Comrades training run I think had more runners than we had in the race, 10km last weekend. But anybody who ran it, I think at the prize giving about nine of them put their hands up and said, we didn’t do a PB. All the others had very, very good runs because the conditions were absolutely perfect. As we started the race, the sun came out and they ran in sunshine for nearly all the way. It was, in itself, a very, very successful race.
What we also have, initially we have a programme, or had some programmes of beginners Comrades runners. Means of them getting a chance to work to a programme. Our road running captain, Hanspeter Stebler has always prepared that for us.
Then we’ve got a group who prepare little forums and talks with people who have got specialities in the running area, that can give our members some background. So that if something happens to them during a run, not only the Comrades run, but during any run, they feel something is going wrong; they’ve got an idea of what’s happening to them and they can think of a way of overcoming it. This is what we try and do, get the guys to have as much knowledge as they have. Not only in training, but in their own physiology and their own feeding and such like, we try and keep them abreast of modern ideas on that.
A new wave of 30-something runners
BB: I love it. You guys have literally got all bases covered. Dick, I know this is a tough question to ask, I’m not sure if you know the answer offhand. But you’ve also got a widespread of athletes, from an age perspective. Do you know offhand your youngest member and your oldest member?
DW: I’m just trying to think how old our youngest one is, we’ve got some young ones, but generally the cross country runners. We have a few in the younger age groups, sort of 10-12-13 groups there. But by and large, our population is aging. You’ll see in the team prizes that we’re winning the Masters and veterans prizes on a fairly consistent basis.
There is a move that I can see of sort of 30 year olds starting to get involved in running. I don’t know if it’s the Park Runs or what it is that’s got them going. Maybe they’ve just realised that they’re going to seed, but they’ve started taking things more seriously.
What I really would like to emphasize, amongst all the runners now, instead of looking at further, to try and get them to think of running faster and faster, particularly while they’re younger. When they get a bit older, they’ll have that leg speed and then of course, they can capitalise on the long runs because they’ve already got that innate speed.
BB: I think that’s such great advice. Dick, finally, if people want to find out more about RAC, or if they’d like to come through and perhaps run your time trials or join the club, where can they get more info?
DW: We operate from the Old Parktonian Sports Club, which is in Garden Road, Bordeaux, right adjacent to the Braamfontein spruit in Jan Smuts Avenue. We have our Tuesday time trail which starts at 5:45, but we have moved the administration there and this has been our strong point.
Franny has given us very good administration and we’ve been able to be consistently at the same place, at the same time. So people can find us and then once they get down there and see if they like us and if they do, sign up, then we can get them to become involved.
BB: Fantastic. Dick Welch, thank you so much for joining us here on Old Mutual Live today, much appreciated, all the best. That club just continues to really crank on and churn on and I think what you guys are doing is amazing. Well done and keep up the great work.
DW: Well, thank you Brad.