In 1983, RAC’s membership exceeded 1000 for the first time. Ten years later, in 1993, RAC celebrated its 21st birthday and membership stood at 3074. The year 2000 saw another surge in membership with the Comrades cut off being extended to 12 hours.
Many old runners re-appeared and RAC recorded the largest number of Comrades entries - 823 runners (648 finishers). Today, our membership numbers have dwindled to about 1 500 members, mainly due to about 11 new running clubs that were started up in a radius of 10km from RAC and a fair amount of members immigrating.
RAC members typically make up about 20% of the field at most road races. As Dick says, “My son has done some research on the running times of 35-year-olds compared to those of 40-year-olds. The older group outclassed the younger group and this can be put down to 40-year-olds having more time to train. At 40, you are often at a stage where you are on top of your career and the kids are no longer crying babies so you can make the early morning training runs.”
He stresses the importance of club structures. “I sometimes refer to the gym culture amongst runners; you pay your money, you do your thing and you only squeal when something is wrong. Otherwise nobody knows you. That is wrong, because it is important for people to get involved in their clubs. The club structure provides input and keeps things together,” says Dick, who tries to meet at least one new person every time he goes running. “Folks on the road all have some kind of story to tell and each one is uniquely different.”
The now familiar club colours are white vests and white/maroon shorts. The white shorts were a bone of contention for female runners in the early days and in 2001, women changed to maroon shorts.
Bruce Fordyce was one of RAC’s more well-known RAC runners. He initially ran in the colours of Wits University before joining RAC, and though he won Comrades as a Wits runner, he was never part of a team winning the Gunga-Din Trophy. Bruce was an RAC member on and off for about ten years. He now runs for Discovery Vitality. “We often tease him and say when his bank balance drops below six figures, he will come back to RAC,” says Dick.
Sonja Laxton joined RAC in 1985. In 1987, she did her club proud by being awarded triple Springbok colours in track, cross country and road running. At the world Half Marathon Championships in 1992, Sonja set a new world veteran record. Today, she still wins many races in her age category and is often a top contender in the Spar Ladies Race series.
With so many members over the years, the club has made many notable achievements; here are just a few:
Norma De Beer completed the 1977 Comrades and became the first RAC lady to run the event.
In 1979, Hosiah Tjale won the Checkers Marathon and in 1980, went ahead to win the first RAC Gold medal at Comrades, as well as winning the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon.
In 1982, Helga van Werweskerken broke the SA 1 000m track record.
Bob De La Motte, Tony Dearling, Trevor Metcalfe and Allan Day won the Gunga-Din team trophy (for Comrades) in 1984.
In 1985, Ephraim Sibisi won the Two Oceans.
In 1989, Fritz (founding member) ran his 30th Comrades.
Titus Mamabolo ran a 2:19 marathon at the age of 50 in 1991, and was awarded Springbok colours.
In 1992, Israel Morake won the Two Oceans Marathon.
Ina Sanders won gold at the 1998 Comrades and a year later, she won the ladies section at the London to Brighton Marathon.