How It All Began

Over 30 years ago, on 2 March 1977, in the Auckland Star, Jack Leigh wrote as follows about a group of YMCA cardiac patients who were training for the annual "Round The Bays".

... Most of them would be starters for a new YMCA plan - a non-competitive, walk-if-you-like marathon - as the next objective for people who had got themselves fit for the Star's Round the Bays Run. They would work up to the goal over a period of about nine months, with the marathon taking place during Heart Week in October. The "Y" is looking for a sponsor.

On 28 April 1977, the Star continued our history with a further chapter.

A Bit of Health from Ohio
The bobbing Bells of Cleveland, Ohio reckon beauty needs a healthy base. What's that got to do with a new marathon club in Auckland, New Zealand? Bonne Bell Inc is co-sponsor with the YMCA. The local agents, Dominion and Overseas Agencies, saw in "Leighway" (March 2) that the Y was looking for a sponsor. They consulted Cleveland. Back came the answer - "go right ahead". So the club, which has its first meeting at 8 am this Sunday in the YMCA Stadium, will be called the "Y Bonne Bell Marathon Club." The Y was looking for some new objective they could offer people wishing to maintain fitness after the Star's Round-the-Bays run. First objective of the club: - a half marathon for Heart week, which starts on October 10.

Instructors, Barry Hislop and Bill Henwood will be making sure runners do not over-tax themselves. "We feel that if we can advise them correctly, whole families can attack the half marathon goal," says Maurie Rendle, YMCA General Manager. "The Star has kicked off this fitness thing and it is up to someone like ourselves to keep it going!" Bonne (say it "Bonnie") Bell will pick up the promotional tab. And good for them.

On 1 May 1977, 120 "runners" of all shapes, sizes and ages attended the "Y". After an address by Maurie Rendle (Y General Manager), Max Telford (Ultra-distance Star), and Barry Hislop (Y Instructor), they shuffled" off for a "long" 3 miles to the Domain and back! Of the original "first dayers", four are still on the club membership roll - Phil Cooper (Life Member), Murray Grant, Owen Lawrence, (Associate Member) and Joe Hall (Life Member).

A somewhat loose-knit jogging group continued to operate over the winter months, and built up to a half marathon at Onehunga, (the first half marathon in Auckland), in Heart Week on 9 October 1977. At that event, 15 of the Y group, hopelessly inadequately prepared, went round twice to complete their first marathon, among them Phil Cooper, Murray Grant and Joe Hall.

Following the success of the half marathon, a group at the Y, (with Phil Cooper one of the leading lights) decided to formalise the group into an organised club. The first meeting was held on 30 November 1977. Des Vercoe joins the above-named four survivors of the first run as the other member who has been at the club since 30 November 1977.