The Club Stalwarts
In 2008 Nedbank showed that it serious about getting more involved in the sport of road running by launched the Nedbank Running Club ( NRC ). Catering for both elite and social runners , this saw 10 road running clubs and three development clubs established in 12 cities around the country , and this was followed later with four more clubs on the African continent , in Lesotho , Zimbabwe , Kenya and Ethiopia . As with any running club , there are always runners who stand out , be it for their fast times or their active participation in club activities , and for this edition of the Nedbank Runified Digimag , we are focussing on some of those runners who are always part of the Club ’ s activities , be it a time trial , club run or social event . – BY MANFRED SEIDLER
Nedbank Running Club George
For our first port of call , we head off to the South Western Districts and the Nedbank Running Club in George , where the eversmiling Sam Mandlazi has his home . “ He is one of those people whose infectious enthusiasm and passion for running , and everything that is associated with it , gets other people out and moving their feet , whether it is to run or walk ,” says Club Manager Danie Raubenheimer , adding that Sam ’ s irresistible smile is always a welcome sight when he attends any of the NRC George events , whether it is a run , time trial , club night , or even Virtual Runs ( during COVID times ). “ His broad smile is his trademark feature , and it lights up whenever the topic of running comes up .”
Originally from Limpopo , where his family is still based , 38-year-old Sam has become a regular feature at the George club since joining in 2019 . He will take on any challenge , from 5km to even tackling the 2021 Comrades Marathon Centenary Hope Challenge , where he ran the full 90km distance in 9:15:22 . He even inspired fellow club member Willard Jussah to run the 90km with him , even though Willard had only started running a few months earlier ! “ Our club also has weekly time trials , and Sam is present at every one of them , joking with his fellow runners , motivating them and generally making sure everyone has a good time ,” says Danie .
Work has taken Sam to the Southern Cape , where he works at a Guest House , the 56 George , and so has to spend the majority of his time away from his family in Limpopo . Fortunately , he has found a home away from home in the NRC in George , and this has rewarded him not only with a second family , but also some great running rewards , too . At one of the recent club time trials , he walked ( or rather , ran ) away with a new pair of Nike Running Shoes !
It is little wonder that Sam feels so at home at NRC George . The club has not only found innovative ways of keeping their club members active during these strange lockdown times , but has also been able to retain most of their existing members , when so many other clubs have seen members declining to sign up for 2021 . This is due to there being no races taking place , and thus no need for a provincial license number .
In fact , one of these innovations saw the club come up with a virtual league concept that has not only helped retain membership , but has helped grow the club by more than 50 new members in 2021 . The club devised a league series of races that encompasses 26 races in the year . “ The League is divided into two segments , with League 1 hosting 13 ‘ virtual races ’ and League 2 in the second half of the year also hosting 13 races . Each month we have two races , with one month hosting an additional race ,” Explains Danie .
Prize money and medals are allocated on a points system , and runners who finish all 13 of the virtual races in each league segment earn themselves a gold medal . Those who complete 12 races get a silver medal , and anyone who runs 11 races gets a bronze medal .
The prize money is won on a points system over the four distances that are on offer , 4.2km , 10km , 21.1km and 42.2km . The points are allocated per position , and points are the same for all distances , meaning that even if you only run the 4.2km races , you could still win the overall prize based on your points amassed . And the prize money is generous , with first place earning R2500 , second taking R1500 , third earning R1250 , fourth claiming R1000 and fifth taking home R500 . “ This has attracted many youngsters around the 12-year-age category to join in the races over 4.2km , thus giving the club a more youthful appeal , and who knows , it may even unearth the next big name in the sport ,” says Danie .