Journey to the best 21km in the country

We were allocated a 21km in January and a 10km in August.

We were clueless and had no knowledge about what was required to organise a road race, so we once again approached Callies to get some advice. Amongst the challenges were sponsorship, getting permission from the club and other sections to use the fields for the Saturday and Sunday, Council and Traffic Department permission to use the roads etc.

As a new section the running club had no funds, so had to get involved in fundraising. A disco was arranged at the club to raise money to be able to pay for all the pre-race requirements. Tickets were printed and a social organiser was appointed, who was responsible for selling tickets, arranging a disco and collecting and banking the cash. This enabled us to start paying our bills before any entry fees or sponsorship monies were collected. The hall was filled on disco night, a few raffles were run, a wonderful evening was had, and some funds were raised.

Rob and Penny Oliver were appointed to be our timing officials; they were given stop watches and taken to a race at Callies Immelman Stadium. They were placed near the finish and told to get practice by timing the Callies race. Callies race organisers were asked about their method of setting up the start and finish and why the preference was to taking entries on the day as opposed to pre-entries.

Clem Lilley designed control sheets, which were used at each meeting where we could plot the progress of outstanding items for the race and people were appointed who would take care of for example the entries, start, finish, timing, water points etc. (All things which these days are mundane).

It was then calculated how many people would be required to man all the water points, marshalling, start, finish and nearly had heart attacks, when it was seen how many people we would need.

The 21km race was designed to be over two laps to save personnel at water points and marshalling points. (This remained a two lap course for many years until some of the so called elite athletes were caught cheating by only running one lap and then rejoining the race for the last km and hoping to collect prize money.)

At this point we called on the mens and ladies hockey players as well as cousins, brothers and sisters and work colleagues to assist us. The hockey players helped at the start from 4:30 am and then had to leave to play their games, often starting at 8:30 at away venues because we were using the field. We in turn used to help them when they hosted hockey tournaments with arduous tasks like manning the bar for the day and during the evening when a disco was held. This often ended in the early hours of the morning – such a sacrifice.

In order to get press coverage for the race it was important to get the big names to run our race. We invited athletes like Sonja Laxton, Allan Robb, Johnny Halberstadt, Ernest Seleke, Mathews Botswadi. Most of the top athletes in the then Transvaal were professionals who ran for mines like ERPM, Western Areas Gold Mines. Seleki for example achieved Springbok colours for track, cross country and marathon. For them to run at our event, we gave free entry to the whole team. They would arrive in the mine bus with their managers, coaches, et al. Johnny Halberstadt, being a native Bedfordview resident, after returning to SA from his athletic scholarship in America, also offered to help us promote our races by meeting with the press and having photos taken in sponsors t-shirts.

The 1st 10km race organised by BCC was in August 1980 – sponsored by Alpha Office Supplies. (Only once). This was then sponsored by Lyndhurst Toyota which was owned by Doug McClymont who was one of our running stalwarts.

1st Lady home was Sonja Laxton (who ran for Wanderers at that time) in a time of 35min2 sec.

1st Man home was Johnny Halberstadt (who also ran for Wanderers) in a time of 31min17sec.

The 1st 21km race organised by BCC was in February 1981 – sponsored by Pro-Car and Bedfordview Insurance Brokers. (700 entries)

1st Lady home was Sonja Laxton in a time of 84min 15 sec.

1st Man home was Johnny Halberstadt in a time of 67min 1 sec

2nd Man home was Matthews Batswadi in 67min 15 sec and 3rd was Mark Plaaitjies in 67min 26sec.

Western Deep levels took the team trophy. Alan Robb came 45th – recovering after knee surgery.

Immediately after these races we would go to Mary Howorth’s office to type up the 700 results and then join the other club members at Giloolys Farm for a braai. The results would be photostated on Monday and a work party would then assemble in the hall on Monday night to fold and put into envelopes to be posted on Tuesday morning – most runners got their results before they ran their next race.

In 1982 Bliss Dairies came on board, and sponsored the 21km race, which went from strength to strength.

(Round about this time Kelloggs and FNB sponsored company relays. This resulted in a massive growth of road runners. Kelloggs started at JCE and ended at Springs Old Boys Club. FNB had many different starting places and several finishes including Turffontein Race course and Megawatt Park.)

The field grew to such an extent that the race had to move to Eastgate shopping centre. Parking had become a major problem around the club at that time as we were not permitted to park on the fields and all the open stands in the area had been developed. During that year 1988, there was a record field of 5000 runners. There were no pre-entries and all entries were taken on the morning of the race. That was a very memorable race – Piet Bezuidenhout was the Chairman at that time. All runners were given a little ‘running man’ trophy, but there had been a bit of an ‘error’ in the order and some of the trophy’s arrived without the bronzing, so were little plastic men, which caused a lot of unhappiness with many runners who had come from far and wide to get this trophy. The marquee which had been hired for the race was left in the parking after the race, and disappeared over night. A bit of a costly mistake.

(R18000.00 and it was only insured until the race had finished when the guards were also allowed to go home. The thinking was that once all the equipment had been removed after the race – tables chairs lanes poles etc it was not necessary to insure the marquee because of its size.)

In 1991 the main club signed a deal with Health & Racquet club and in 1992 the race was brought back to the club.

In 1993 Bliss Dairies sponsorship came to an end Bliss was bought out by Barlow’s Group and absorbed into its own brands and disappeared)

Reebok came on board from 1993 To 2000.

DISCHEM, who are still the current sponsors in 2010 started sponsoring the race in 2000.

From small beginnings the race has grown into a very professional and well organised event on the road running calendar. (Ranked in top 3 in SA)