Rand Athletic Club (RAC)
Rand Athletic Club (RAC) is one of the oldest clubs in the South Africa with a membership of close to 1 500 runners, walkers, trail runners and social members. It is a club known for its rich running tradition and its huge attendance at time trial evenings; about 500 runners gather at the clubhouse every Tuesday evening to partake in the tough but rewarding 5km and 8km time trials. Over the years, many well-known faces and talented runners have been a part of RAC, which started way back in 1972.
Three friends, Caspar Greeff, Ray Alborough and Fritz Madel, who all lived in Northcliff, Johannesburg, and ran together, founded RAC in 1972. Madel took the role of the club’s first chairman. In February 1973, the club constitution and colours were accepted and subscriptions were set at a mere R4 per year, with running licences costing just R1.50.
Initially, the young club battled to take off but after some hard work from the club secretary, Tiaan van der Walt, and later Gavin Reynolds, matters improved and membership slowly started increasing. Little did they know at the time, that they would be creating a club that would become a constitution on our running roads in decades to come.
Six RAC members completed the 1973 Comrades; at that stage the club had 37 members. At a meeting in February 1974, it was agreed that women could join the club ‘with rights equal to those of men.’ Pam Potter was the first female member, joining eight months later in November 1974. The club policy, which was set out at a meeting in December 1974, is still followed today: “To always be there for all runners and not concentrate on a few of the best athletes.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Dick Welch RAC's current chairman joined the club in 1975 after he was transferred to Johannesburg from Mpumalanga. By then, there were about 60 members who formed different groups, running from different places. “Initially there was no clubhouse and the runners started their morning training runs from a lamppost in Northcliff. We got up to all kinds of mischief on the runs in those days. I will never forget the time each one of us got a turn to lead the run. If it was your turn, you could decide when to turn. At one stage everyone just kept on turning right. We must have gone around the same block about 25 times! Eventually someone turned left,” chuckled Dick.
Dick reminisces runs where Fritz, one of the founding members, took a group of runners on a 16km route in Northcliff. One day, some of the guys measured it and found it was only 15km. “Fritz was mortified. His logbook had to be changed and he insisted the measuring wheel was wrong. These are the spirited guys who started the club and ran in those days. We had a lot of fun and giggles. We used to pick up members along the way. That’s how the club grew.”