'Its never been done before' - Comrades Legend Barry Holland on new Balwin Sport Marathon Series
With 49 Comrades Marathon finishes under his belt, Barry Holland is a legend in ultra marathon running circles. The septuagenarian has completed every single Ultimate Human Race since 1973 and is on course to become the first man on earth to earn fifty Comrades medals when he crosses the finish line after running 90km from Pietermaritzburg to Durban next June. This fact alone makes his a sought after name for any organisation looking to make inroads into the South African road running community. And of all the offers on his table, Holland chose to partner with Balwin Sport on a new marathon series.
“We have a number of series across South Africa for short races like the Vitality Series or the Absa RUN YOUR CITY," he said during the launch of the Balwin Sport Marathon Series which took place at Munyaka in Waterfall City, Johannesburg last week. "I have been on the road for fifty years now and I don’t think we have ever had a marathon series in this country. And not just marathons, but marathon events which always consists of a 42km, a 21km and a 10km and a 5km so that we encompass the whole running community. It’s never been done before. When we took it to Steve, he just said fantastic - let’s do it!”
Having returned to his native KwaZulu-Natal after spending decades in Gauteng running in the black and white of Jeppe Athletics Club, Holland says it was not only the uniqueness of a local marathon series that drew him to the project. The Balwin Marathon Series includes the Jeppe Marathon in Johannesburg, Penninsula Marathon in Cape Town, Pretoria Marathon (formerly sponsored by Deloitte) and the Dolphin Coast Marathon in Ballito which was the first in the series to be sponsored by Balwin earlier this year. The man who now runs for the Dolphin Coast Striders says he also chose to get involved because of the enthusiasm of the company known more for its property investments. Holland says he knew right from the beginning that Balwin Properties which gave birth to Balwin Sport, was the right partner.
"I have been running for a very long time. In those many, many years of running I’ve also been a race director for a few races across different areas whether it be Jeppe or now at the Dolphin Coast Marathon. And in all the time I’ve been a race director where I’ve dealt with many sponsors. I’m proud to say that I think in Balwin, we have the most fantastic sponsor. I say that because you can have a cheque book sponsor where you sit in a guy’s office and he gives you a cheque and that’s the last you see of him. But that’s not the way I like to work. We want involvement and that’s what we get from Balwin. It’s not just the size of their organisation, it’s the ethos of the company. So I was very happy and am very privileged to be part of putting this thing onto the map with Ryan Kalk and Steve,“ he explained.
That a JSE Listed company like Balwin Properties which was founded by Steve Brookes in 1996 chose road running when they could have had their pick of sports events to sponsor around the country, speaks volumes about the magic of a sport whose inclusivity has been celebrated as second to none. Kalk who has been involved in commercialising recreational sport for some time and is himself a runner, has been instrumental in working alongside Holland to get the series off the ground. The newly formed Balwin Sports is his responsibility and he says the plan is to harness the power of running to impact on the lives of their residents, staff and clients.
"Balwin Sports is a new division of Balwin Properties that was started up earlier this year to help pursue Steve’s dream of promoting a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for the company’s staff and clients. The current focus area has been mountain biking and cycling, paddle as well as well as road and trail running. We’ve looked at four iconic races in four different cities that Balwin operates in. The idea is to support local road running as well as the clubs that organise them. We chose the clubs specifically because they have extensive experience in organising races. They’ve got a long history and a very good reputation. It’s also a way of encouraging our residents in our various developments around the country to get active," he said.
Participants can in the series also stand the chance to win an R800 000 Balwin Properties apartment. All you have to do is enter one of the four races and then visit one of the Balwin Property Show apartments and then you’ll be entered into a lucky draw.