'There's no quick fix' - Good day for Tyme Bank Langa AC as Raydon Balie wins Bay to Bay 30km
When it comes to middle and long distance running, most of South Africa's stars hail from the Highveld plateau where they can enjoy the benefits of living and training at altitude. With the possible exception of Alec Riddle's Max Africa athletes who were based just outside Port Elizabeth during the 1990's and early 2000's and Michael Mbambani's current Ikhamva Athletic Club also in the Windy City, few coastal training groups have managed to outcompete the Gauteng camps and make a prolonged impact at a national level. But one group is starting to buck that trend.
Boasting the likes of Zimbabwe's half marathon national record holder Fortunate Chidzivo and sub 29-minute 10km performer William Kaptein, the Tyme Bank Langa Athletic Club has started to put itself on the map as a Cape Town based outfit that can mix it with the best in the land. Led by coach Chris Bruwer who also mentored the legendary Elana Meyer during her running days, the club can be best described as a semi-elite outfit which promising athletes use a stepping stone to make a name for themselves as elite contenders before going on to stand on top of podiums.
"We are not an elite club in the true sense of the word like the other elite clubs in South Africa. I like to use the term elite development. We are trying to bridge the gap between where the guys are club runners and runners trying to get to elite teams. So we try to provide some support. It's nowhere near what the elite runners get, but it's just to keep them in the sport. And the longer we can keep them in the sport, the bigger the chance of success," he explained.
One athlete who is begun to benefit from this support is Raydon Balie. The 29-year-old has showed great promise, recording a few good results at a national level against some of Mzansi's finest. For example, in May 2022 he ran a 2:17:59 personal best to claim eighth place at the Durban International Marathon and then followed that up with eleventh position (2:18:45) at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon that October. And after finishing in eighth place again at the 2023 Durban International Marathon, Balie signalled his intentions for 2024 by opening his season with a dominant 1:37:15 victory at the Top Form Athletic Club Bay to Bay 30km on Sunday 21 January. Lloyd Bosman was second in 1:39.55. Bruwer believes that keep Balie in the sport has been the key to his improvement, and that would not be possible without the backing of Tyme Bank.
"There's no quick fix. There are no guarantees of course, but you have to play the long game. Karl Westvig who was the founder of Retail Capital and sold it to Tyme Bank, has just got an amazing passion for the sport. He says to me that we should do whatever we think is right for the athletes. We are not trying to chase any results. So to have that kind of support is amazing. So for me the question is about how we define success. One form of success is to keep the athletes in the sport for as long as possible and keep them injury free, then if they can use the sport to create a little bit of economic future for themselves then that's good."
It was a good day in general for Bruwer's Tyme Bank Langa AC at the Bay to Bay as Chidzivo (2:04:15) and Mia Steytler (2:04:49) took second and third place respectively behind Steph McCall (1:54:27), while Andre Afrika (47:58) was second behind Robbie Simpson (47:35) in the men's 15km race and Alexa Townsend (60:14) also finished as the runner-up behind Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon gold medalist Carla Molinaro (55:41) in the women's 15km.