Our History – looking back over nearly 30 years of running
Dolphin Coast Striders is celebrated its 30th year of existence in 2017 as a pre-eminent running club providing the runners in the area with well-organised time trials, races, training and running camaraderie.
When we trace the history of the club from 1986, the “common thread” has always been a desire to make the Ballito community proud and over the years many accolades have been won, including the Natal’s best half-marathon for five years from 1986 to 2003.
Likewise in the last years there has been a resurgence in the club and its numbers under the mantle of Chairman Barry Holland (43 time Comrades finisher who is an icon in the South African running community), Nikola Ramsden and Paul Swainson. The club organised the Deloittes 21km and 42 km road race since 2014, which received an extremely favourable reception from the current community.
The running club is located at the Ballito Club house in Dolphin Crescent. Time Trials take place every Thursday at 17.30 or 17:45, depending on the season. Currently the running club has more than 320 members.
However, before we can come to 2016 and the present, it is time to go full circle and trace the 30 year pride of Dolphin Coast Striders to its wonderful origins in the past, way back in 1986.
Dolphin Coast Striders came from humble beginnings when a group of runners decided to run from La Montagne in December 1986. Prior to this a group of runners called the “Lali Lopers” after “Umhlali” had been running time trials and training for Comrades from the Umhlahli Country Club.
Richard Young indicated that road runners in the Ballito, Tongaat and Umhlali areas had been in need of a running club for many years. Hence there was great excitement when this new running club was formed and on its inaugural meeting there was a record turnout for the 5.30 pm time trials, when about 40 runners arrived. Richard Young was the first elected chairman of the club and initially had organized 60 interested runners to take up membership at the club. It was agreed to make a formal application to the Natal Amateur Athletics Association for affiliation. The members wore blue and yellow vests.
The initial founding members of the steering committee were Richard “Baobabs” Young as chairman, Dave Stevenson as vice-chairman and John Ferguson as secretary and treasurer. Other committee members were Mel Briggs, Leon du Preez, Errol Frame, Duncan McLagan and Joe White.
Dolphin Coast Striders grew in popularity and by 1990, Dolphin Coast Striders had obtained permission from the town council to build their own clubhouse. Richard Young and his committee had long had a dream of having their own clubhouse and this dream finally came to fruition. The clubhouse (which we know as the thatched clubhouse) was built alongside the Dolphin Caravan Park, near the site of the former Bambi Tea Gardens, on land leased from the Ballito Borough.
Duncan McLagan was a club member who also happened to be an architect and he was responsible for designing the building. The clubhouse was built out of timber construction with a thatch roof, totaling 85 sq metres.
Dolphin Coast Striders had been without their own clubhouse for about a year before this, meeting in the homes of various members. Prior to this they had been given the use of space in the Boulevard rent free. However, all unused offices were then occupied and they lost their home.
The building cost approximately R35 000 and some of the cost was raised through member’s donations and a brick fund and the profits of the 1990 race organised by the club went towards its construction. In addition members and some sponsors had donated additional material required.
Richard Young said at the time: “The town council has been tremendously helpful in getting the project going, and individuals have been generous in getting donations and sponsorships. The club desperately needs a meeting place and I am sure once the clubhouse is ready, the club will thrive and expand.”
The Club was responsible from 1986 for arranging the Dolphin Coast Striders’ half marathon and this race won the accolade five years in a row for Natal’s best organised half-marathon in the hotly contested “Natal Ohlsson’s Top Ten Competition” and the race was a Polly Shorts event and formed part of the King of the Mountain Series. Popular entertainment for the runners each year was a Scottish bagpiper who would encourage the runners along the route together with a group of ladies called the “Leggy Lovelies” whose job it was to urge all the runners up “Heartbreak Hill” which was situated just 2kms from the finish. In 1991 Fred Parsons sponsored the race which was also the Natal Masters Association 21km Championships.
In many years, the race was run by the top elite of South African runners with top competition between the lady runners with Frith van der Merwe and Coleen de Reuk competing for top honours in 1992. In 1996 Grace de Oliveira easily won the ladies’ race in a time of 1h24:16. The race attracted various sponsors over the years including sponsorship from Santorini developers Anglo American Property Services (Ampros) and Realty 1 property group, Sappi, Coca-Cola, Dunlop, SAPPI Fine, Mondi Papers and SEIKO. In 1993 the participants soared to more than 1800 runners, however the race numbers were always capped at 2000 for runner safety. Over the years the race provided much excitement to the community with well-known running personality and now Comrades commentator, Helen Lucre winning the women’s race running and Bheki Nyawo snatching the men’s victory by sprinting in the last 400 m of the race.
The 21 km race, which followed a scenic one-lap route through Ballito, Chaka’s Rock, Salt Rock and Sheffield Beach, also managed in 1993 to attract an incredible donation of two airline tickets to the Athens Marathon donated by Olympic Airways. The race started at the then Ballito Boulevard Shopping Centre and ended at the Dolphin Caravan Park in Ballito, with a full bar, braai and disco awaiting finishers.
In 1993 the first 150 postal entries received were invited to a pasta evening at Santorini with the guest speaker being Bruce Fordyce. In 1997 the race was sponsored by Dunlop with the theme being “A party” with the running dolphin logo holding a bunch of balloons also including a Nike logo, a co-sponsor of the event. Each year the race exceeded expectations and was well supported by both runners and the Natal community.
The Dolphin Coast Ultra Walk was introduced in September 2000. This involved a revamping of the 50 km “test of grit and endurance” and was organized by Dolphin Coast Striders to meander through the many coastal roads and some of the scenic hills located on the north coast. There was a full distance cut off of 9 hours and the athletes who wanted to use the walk as their qualifier for Comrades were required to cross the finish line under 6 hours.
From 1998 to 2003, Dolphin Coast Striders was tasked with organizing the Indian Coast Marathon which became one of the most prestigious road races in Natal. It started at Townsend Park in Ballito and travelled through Zimbali, Westbrook, Tongaat, La Mercy and Umdloti (the half way mark) then through Umhlanga Rocks and finished at the Glenwood Old Boys Club in Durban. This was commonly known as “Natal’s most scenic coastal marathon.” This race was arranged in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Umhlahli and Glenwood Harriers running club. It was held in either late April or the beginning of May and was the last Comrades qualifier. Richard Young worked tirelessly on the race organisation and each year it continued to improve and attract more runners.
From 2003 to 2014, the Ultra 50 km marathon was traditionally held in September but was recently replaced in 2015 by the Big Hill 21km run in December. Once again these races received multiple compliments from the running community.
In 2014, Dolphin Coast Striders assisted in the new Deloitte’s half marathon and full marathon which took place in May and attracted close to 300 entries. Barry Holland, is the official race organizer for this event. In March 2019, this race has grown to 9000 entries and is a premier running event on the race calendar with many runners travelling from far afield to race this Two Oceans and Comrades qualifier. It is combined with a cycling race and there is a move afoot in the sporting arena to have more inclusive sport’s events with the increased interest in triathlons, Ironman events and other multi-sport events.
Trail running has also grown in strength and the Dolphin Coast Striders can be seen running frequently on the weekends at Holla Trails. We are blessed to be located in one of the most beautiful areas with scenic coastlands lending themselves to some of the most incredible training and running routes in the world.