History

Boksburg Athletic Club (BAC) is not just a running club. It is an institution steeped in rich
history. 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 is unlimited.” By a show of hands, the members
agreed that the membership fees for the club would be R6 for adults and R2 for juniors

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 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 80’s 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.

MAKING HISTORY

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 3500 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 80’s 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
camaraderie 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?

TRAINING GROUPS

Boksburg had four different training groups which catered for all forms of road running,
these groups have evolved over the years as new members have come and gone.
These groups went by various nicknames, some of which remain today.

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
25 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 over 40 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 Café just 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 landscape.

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.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Boksburg had a group of athletes who performed well above expectation. 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 were just a few of
the upcoming talents in the junior (u/19) categories. Some of the more memorable
coaches who train track athletes are Pikkie van Zyl, Sonette Sanders, Carel 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
years by Trevor Toerien, and for the past 20 plus 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.


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