The History of the CSIR Running Club

This page will soon be updated to include recent years 

The club was founded in 1991 at the suggestion of Robert Skorozsweski (no longer a member), but part of the first Comrades group from the club.

Retha Rossouw (still a member) became the first chairman after the inception meeting in 1991, before handing over to Mark Thompson (still a member) in 1996, who then chaired the club for the next 4 years until 2000. Thereafter Wayne Coetzee held the post during 2001, to be followed by Tiaan van Vuuren (2002 to 2003), after which Ken Swettenham (still a member) took charge between 2004 to 2007, followed by Michelle Smit (still a member) in 2008 until 2009;

Thabo Pooe took over the reigns then and steered the club until 2014 and handed over to Corne Botha which ably steered the club in 2014 and 2015. Corne handed over to Tebogo Machete, who chairs in 2016 and 2018. During Corne`s tenure at the helm a new set of club colours were introduced. The chairperson in 2017 was Ms Tebogo Gumede.

During this 26 year period the club has grown from less than 10 members in the first years, to over 150 members, and is now a significant club of note within the Gauteng North road running fraternity.

The first Two Oceans and Comrades races to be run in the (original) club colours took place in 1991, with Retha completing her first Comrades in 1993. James da Silva (still a member) joined the club in 1993 and ran his first Comrades in CSIR colours that same year. James is a stalwart of the club, having been a continuous member for over 18 years, and has completed 19 comrades to date. He also represented the club and SA in the World Veteran Games Marathon in Durban in 1997, along with Ken Swanlund .

The club’s first 5 years under Retha’s chairmanship also saw the implementation of the annual CSIR Race. The 1st race was held in 1993, at Clapham High School, Pretoria, with the assistance of Agape Running Club, and consisted of a single 10km route. From 1994 onwards (until today) the race has been held annually on (and around) the CSIR campus. The 10km distance stayed the same until, under during Wayne Coetzee’s chairmanship (2001) a 15km alternative route was added, which involved some serious dirt and trail running around the CSIR campus border fence.

From 2002 until 2005 the annual race reverted back to a single 10km event. Under Ken’s chairmanship the race evolved firstly into a 10 + 15km event in 2006, and finally into the 10 + 21km event in 2007. This dual distance format has remained the clubs standard ever since, with the addition of a 5km fun run in the latter years. Over the 16 odd years that the race has been held on the CSIR campus, it has evolved into one of Gauteng North’s flagship running events, and has continued to attract ever-increasing numbers of participants, with numbers peaking in 2009 with in excess of 2000 runners. The race has been awarded league status in many years, and has once again achieved this status in 2010.

The CSIR race has, since its very first appearance in 1993, always been run in aid of the Pretoria Sungardens Hospice. This tradition still continues today, with the addition, that since 1997 funds have also been raised for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). As well as providing charity support the club also has a tradition of assisting other clubs with their races, and for many years manned a water point on the Om-de-Dam marathon, with the same for the Phobians Marathon (+15 years support) and the Maratimo race (+ 5 years support)

During its life time the club has continued to grow and attract an ever increasing range of runners, all with different running interests and capabilities. In support of this, the different chairpersons have always added their own special marks and traditions to the club. Retha Rossouw’s chairmanship (1991 to 1995) is remembered as a time of establishing the club, the start of the annual race, and several memorable away runs such as the PE Great Train Race, and relay events, but possibly more importantly was the start of a guaranteed supply of free food and drinks after each leaguer race! Under Mark Thompson (1996 to 2000) the club hosted many annual club trips to both the Two Oceans and Knysna Marathons.

Tian van Vuuren introduced the new club colours during his chairmanship (2001 to 2004), organized the first club trailer for league races (making the art of catering so much simpler), and will be remembered for his many live band water-points on the banks of the Hartebeesport Dam in support that Om-de-Dam ultra marathon. Ken Swettenham (2005 to 2008) will be remembered for his enthusiasm for all Comrades runners and introducing the final version of the 21 + 10km annual format, which has continued to grow ever since, until, under Michelle in 2009 the club hosted its biggest ever field for the CSIR race. Under Michelle’s leadership the club initiated its community outreach activities, and in so doing adopted Nantes Primary School, supporting (financially) their participation in the AGN Cross Country program. One of the Nantes runners qualified for the championship race and received Gauteng North colours.

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