A Rockies History by Richard Wilkinson
“We started a running group in Johannesburg in 1971, when I had just arrived in Johannesburg from Cape Town. I had already done a few Comrades Marathons and was a committed runner.
In those days running was not in vogue at all. On one of my early training runs, I met Robin Treger who was also running. I convinced him to start training in earnest for Comrades. He in turn introduced me to Manny Hayman and a few other runners such as:
- Lennie Myers (Little Lenny): a great, fast and dedicated runner with a lovely sense of humour.
- Jeff Fisher: I think he had run a Comrades, and was fit and knowledgeable
- Dave Ibry: a Swiss runner
- Lennie Myers (Big Lennie)
- The Finestone brothers
We started our runs every Sunday morning outside Manny’s home in Bramley. We would choose a route run to a cafe and wait for the slowest runner to catch up to us. Then we would run back to Manny’s for tea.
Over time, we started to gather more and more runners who came on a Sunday. Comrades was only for a few of us, as the running explosion had not yet taken off. People started to join us almost every week and we grew and grew.
Among the runners were:
Dave Hirshorn, Alan Pollack, Ivor Lazerson, Alan Reichman, Ian Shaipkatz, Dickie Kinross, John Brand, Don Oliver, Richard Wilkinson, Zummy Isaacs, Dick Pike, Pat Smith, Joe Shapiro, Jack Adno, Mike Codron, Norman Schwab, Gerald Fox, Roy Krowitz, Iss Bulafkin, Gerald Lampert (Doc) & Gerald Lampert (Sweets) to name a few.
A lot of us had our own running groups starting from our homes where we used to run during the week.
We were also members of different local clubs that existed such as Callies, Wanderers and Pirates.
As we grew, Manny’s neighbours got more and more uptight about the noise that we runners were making early in the morning, so we moved to the area near the Bramley Scout Hall.
We called ourselves “Rockies” after a few things. We called Manny “The Rock” because he was so reliable with his steady pace. We also liked the name as it was after the Road Runner bird and at that time the Beatles had a song called Rocky Racona.
One day we all sat around Manny’s swimming pool discussing the possibility of starting a proper running club.
Although we ran for different clubs, we had already established an identity and we’re known as Rockies!
Most of the existing clubs catered mainly for the fast few elite runners and gave no thought for the back of the pack runners. At this time, a few other runners were breaking away from the old established clubs to form their own identities in their areas.
There was Mike Hay, who left Callies to start Springs Striders; Tommy Malone who started Benoni Harriers as well as Dick and Vreni Welch who started R.A.C.
We decided to form a proper club with the following principles:
- We would be a completely open club and allow any person of colour to join.
- We would cater for the back runners and make him feel welcome.
We would call ourselves Rocky Road Runners and have as our emblem the Rocky Road Runner bird.
And that’s how we started.
Then the running explosion took off, and I think that Jeff Fisher was our first chairman.
Ivor Lazerson took control of Transvaal Road Running and raised it to new heights. We were basically a Comrades running club and would feature very high on the list if entrants each and every year.
We were a very go-ahead club and came out with some very new and novel ideas for road running.
- We had name tags printed on our vests to make it very personal.
- We were the first running club to organise a road race without having cars on the road as seconds.
- We introduced refreshment tables.
- We also invented the chute finishing system for better and quicker results.
- We had established a great sense of spirit and although we were not very social drinking club we made it a point to greet and watch over every person in our club.
- We had our own two colour magazine.
- We also started the Comrades Panel Talks where we would give assistance to all runners this became the forerunner of many other talks around the country.
- We introduced differently abled runners in the sport by trading and developing first blind runners and the moving on to assisting runners of all disabilities.
Rockies have the proud distinction of being awarded over 5 different times the “Spirit of Comrades Award” amongst others.
We are known worldwide we have runners in England, Australia and there is even a Rockies club based in Canada.