Boksburg Athletic Club (BAC) is not just a running club. It is an institution steeped in rich history and this year, on the 29th of October, the club marks its 34th birthday. Since its inception, the club has faced many challenges but has always come out on top, because its members are filled with passion, enthusiasm and commitment to a single goal: fostering the spirit of athletics in all spheres of life. Boksburg Athletic Club is comprised of many different facets and a wide variety of people from all parts of the population.
The inaugural meeting of BAC took place at the ERPM Rugby Club on 29 October 1975. This meeting, attended by 81 people, was chaired by Mr I Kramer and it was here that the club’s constitution was compiled and the office bearers of the first committee were elected. Tommy Malone, the elected chairman of the club, memorably said, “There are going to be problems in the future, but success lies in the team spirit of the club. The club will last, as talent in Boksburg
By a show of hands, the members agreed that the membership fees for the club would be R6 for adults and R2 for juniors.
Today, the fees have increased to R400 for adults and R225 for juniors. The club has also introduced a social membership fee
of R334. The increase in cost, of course, is directly proportionate to the improvement of the facilities, scope of people who have registered as members and inflation. For everything this club has to offer, the membership fees are well worth it.
Not long after establishing themselves as a functioning athletics club, BAC sought the permission of the Transvaal Provincial Administration to hold the ‘Bloodhill Blitz’, a Wednesday evening race, now considered to be the oldest time trial in South Africa. The Transvaal Provincial Administration granted them permission, but based on certain conditions. They would need to stop running half an hour after sunset, meaning that the Blitz would have to start at 17:30 and not at 18:00. Also, due to time limits, the runners would only able to run the 5km distance and not the 8km. Not fazed by the conditions, BAC launched their Bloodhill Blitz and it has been a firm favourite of club members ever since.
Some of our readers may remember that it was during this early era of amateur sport that most sporting codes did not allow female participation. For this reason, Boksburg decided that, although their female counterparts could not participate in the actual events, the club would endeavour to include them as much as possible. Thankfully, those days are gone and women are now fully entitled to participate in all forms of sport.
Once the sporting barriers were removed, women no longer stood on the side of the road but actively took part in the different events. The club saw some great female athletes emerge during the next few decades, such as Shelley van der Spuy, Carolyn Wridgway, Lucinda Newby, Frith van der Merwe, Yolande Maclean and Lesley Train.
But for many in the club, the concern about bans against female athletes was a mere drop of water in what later became a huge reservoir of concern. The early 80s would prove to be the most historic and troubled era for the club in its short history. It is often said that the true character of someone emerges not in times of success, but in times of struggle. This sentiment was echoed in Tommy Malone’s first speech as club president, a speech in which he claimed that there would be problems in the future but the success of the club would lie in the team spirit within the club.
In February 1980, Boksburg Athletic Club made a historic move and relocated their headquarters. Their move was inspired not by a desire for a new location, but because they could no longer stay in an area in which the Conservative Party had banned non-whites from using municipal facilities for either competitions or training. The club had become the first victim of Boksburg Town Council’s controversial sports policy. In response to intense pressure from the local community, BAC issued a press release that read: “One of the aims and objectives of Boksburg Athletic Club, as stated in its constitution, is to ensure that there shall be no hindrance to individual members on racial, political or any other grounds. As such, the club is the first in the Transvaal to encourage club membership and participation in athletics by athletes of all races. The club has decided to move its base away from Prince George Park as a result of the actions taken by the Boksburg Town Council in denying our black athletes the use of the training facilities.”
Despite BAC’s best efforts to keep the club together, there was a palpable uneasiness within the ranks. The decision to hold all training sessions, races and meetings at venues free of town interference and to take a stand against Apartheid was met with applause by some and with discontent by others. The club was breaking apart at the seams. The name of the club also came into question. While some members felt strongly that BAC should change its name, others felt that the best way to fight Apartheid was to keep the club’s name and stand firm on the established constitution.
BAC left Prince George Park and found Parkdene Primary, which, for the next few years, became the new home of the Wednesday night Blitz. Although these measures cost the club financially and were inconvenient, the club was determined to stay in Boksburg and abide by its constitution to foster athletics amongst people of all races. They would continue to oppose any moves from any quarter to deny this right.
But the point that politics and sport should never be separated was driven home at a later stage when a breakaway faction, comprised of the club’s leading black runners, formed the East Rand Athletics Club. The black runners were under severe pressure in the townships because they insisted on competing in their BAC colours, so they decided to form a club with their own identity. The athletes were quoted as saying, “We left because of politics… nothing more.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The next three years at BAC were ‘business as usual’ as the club held their usual three annual road races in Benoni. The races were successful, dispelling any notions that the club was faltering and these events further established them as a great success. The Colgate Race alone attracted over 3 500 participants and is renowned as one of the great Gauteng road races. This race is the club’s flagship race and continues to be one of the most popular events on the CGA calendar, often being used by most Gauteng runners as their last ‘long run’ before the Comrades Marathon.
The 80s ended on a very high note with one of BAC’s members, John Sebata, being awarded Springbok colours for the marathon. John was included in the Springbok team for the SA marathon championships in 1989. This high continued in all aspects of the club and in March 1993, the club moved to the Boksburg City Stadium. The move signified the end of an uneasy past and a very promising and exciting future. The setting up and establishment of BAC at the stadium was, for many, a dream come true, and even more so for the founding members who had envisaged this development from the moment they conceived the club. The John Hattle Memorial and Colgate races, as well as all training runs would take place from the stadium. Tuesday nights would become synonymous with Steve de Bod’s track sessions, held on the tartan track and the Wednesday night Blitz had found a new home. The family atmosphere and general camaradrie of many years of friendship and hard work was there for all to see. The club was back on top.
Currently, BAC continues to grow from strength to strength with new members joining every month. With road running, track and cross country being catered for what more can one ask for from a club?
Boksburg has four different training groups which cater for all forms of road running. These groups go by various nicknames, which have been formed over the years.
The Parkrand Plodders, the most historic of the groups, was the founding running group in the club and most of the members who served on the committees in the early years ran in this group. It is within this group that a number of the current club traditions emerged, such as Perky’s Punisher, a 64km training run that takes place six weeks before Comrades. The late Jimmy Perkins measured an 8km loop that would be run eight times, hence the name, Perky’s Punisher. Another tradition to emerge from this group has been the Christmas Day Duck Run. This sees runners racing to the lake, feeding the ducks and then running home again.
The Falcon Crest Flyers meet at the Falcon Crest Garage on Trichardt Road and run the same type of pace as the Plodders but have different ‘quality’ sessions built in to their morning training routes. It is for this reason that they are perceived as slightly more serious than the plodders. They do, however, apply a standard ‘go back and fetch’ rule.
Mention running in the company of Anne Kouvarellis, and you will soon find yourself running in her group. Anne is one of the few women in the country who has completed 23 Comrades Marathons. Anne is the ultimate running ‘mother’ as many great runners start their careers in this group. Anne nurtures and looks after her runners until they ‘grow wings’, then she lets go and watches with great pride as they fly high. Lesley Train began her running days in this group, under the careful watch of many senior group members.
Brian’s Break, run by Brian McCrindle, is an evening session for those who wish to train on hills, more specifically, on the only hill in Boksburg. This session is run up and down Rondebult Road and provides hard and fast Comrades runners with a much needed hill training session and quality work.
Last but not least is Fast and Frank, the group with the name that says it all. The group trains with silvers in mind. Whether it’s silver at Two Oceans, silver at Comrades or silver in any other race, the group primarily focuses on long distance speed. They run their marathons averaging under three hours and can often be seen in a big ‘bus’ guiding each other through. They are coached and mentored by Frank Da Ascencao, a man with no less than 20 Comrades silvers to his name. The average pace is below five minutes per km, and they are firm believers in the motto: rest when it rains.
The club’s speed comes from track sessions, held every Tuesday at the City Stadium from 18:00. These sessions have been coached and run by Steve de Bod since the inception of the club 34 years ago. Steve has a wealth of information and knowledge and guarantees runners a personal best in an upcoming race, if they are willing to stick with his track sessions for more than a month.
BAC is also known for its Mine Dumps Run, which takes place every Saturday from Farrar Park Caf? off Rondebult Road.
For those who have never run on or experienced the true beauty of the South African mine dumps, this is training run is strongly recommended, and one which runners will need to do quickly, before this mine dump, like the rest, disappears into
The vision that Tommy Malone and the other founding members originally wished for has definitely come to pass in a club that boasts three very strong disciplines, road running, track and cross country. The current strength of the junior track athletes is phenomenal with many of these young athletes going on to represent Gauteng at SA Club Championships as well as at school level.
At present, Boksburg has a group of athletes who are performing well above expectations. Robert Hill and Andrew Roodt took third place in the 800m at SA Championships. Megan Williams and Shannon Freeman took gold in the high jump. These youngsters are but a few of the upcoming talents in the junior (u/19) categories. Cameron Alexander, O’Bakeng Molopyane and
Andre Smit are performing exceptionally well in the youth (u/16-u/17) categories. In the sub-youth (u/9-u/15), Carmel Perumal was selected for the SA Youth Championship 2009 and was voted the second best male athlete in Central Gauteng Primary schools in 2008. Kayla Koch, Dean Koch, Jone Badenhorst, Tatiana Devenish and Tiaan Steenkamp were all selected for the Central Gauteng Inter Provincial Team in November 2008.
Some of the more memorable coaches who train track athletes are Pikkie van Zyl, Sonette Sanders, Charel Blignaut and Monique Gibbs. All the coaches are affiliated to Central Gauteng Athletics.
The cross country section of the club has been extremely well represented over the past few years by Trevor Toerien, and for the past 20 years by Willie Maisela. This section also boasts talented runners like Ian Morshead, who has won the Rhodes Trail a number of times. It is a strong arm of the club and many believe that cross country running is the true backbone to a great Comrades Marathon.
Over the years, BAC have formed many wonderful traditions, including the Bingo Evening, Chairman’s Breakfast, Aches and Pains and dinner dances, which have become the backbone of their social calendar. Every Wednesday night, after the Blitz, the club hosts the Finish Line Pub. Families and friends meet to laugh and enjoy a relaxed evening together. Estelle Burmeister, Diane Snyders and Sheree Rogers ensure there is always good food on offer and each week members look forward to a new menu. Wednesday night bar duties are shared amongst committee members.
The atmosphere of BAC is one in which runners get lost friendly banter, hearty laughter and a sense of overall happiness that is as rare as this wonderful club. The people who frequent the pub on a Wednesday night, are the same people who fought for many years to see the club stay true to its constitution and who never gave up on the dream to foster sport in all spheres. If you haven’t yet experienced the Wednesday night Blitz, pack your tog bag and make your way to Boksburg.
CLUB CONTACT: Linda Vogel
DETAILS: 011 917 3721