South Africa is famous for having the biggest and best ultra marathons on the planet: There are less than ten ultra marathons worldwide with more than 1,000 finishers and over half of them are in South Africa.
However, we’ve also got some brilliant small field ultras that are worth working into your running plans. For those that like the personal touch, here’s a list of ten awesome low-key ultras that will be happy to take your money, show you a good time and will still respect you in the morning. With the prospect of a relatively normal year ahead (let’s hope!) why not plan an ultra running road trip or two? Continue reading “10 Great Small South African Ultras”
It was a Wednesday afternoon when I heard that my presence in Amsterdam was requested for the following Monday. Last-minute travel is always a panicked affair, but I still tried to see if I could find a marathon to run. As luck would have it, the Amsterdam Marathon was on the weekend I was in town, but as luck wouldn’t have it, they had closed their entries several weeks beforehand.
Undeterred I sent an imploring email to the contacts listed on the website, politely requesting a last-minute entry. As this is a ‘big city’ race with thousands of competitors, my expectation for a positive response (or any response at all) was not high. It was therefore a very pleasant surprise when I received a reply just over an hour later, stating that if I was willing to part with 69 Euros, then a marathon entry was mine.
A year after the Dutch summer sun beat me up, I was back in Amsterdam to speak at a conference. To satisfy my insatiable hunger for marathons, I was faced with a repeat visit to Leiden or a 150km drive to the extreme north of the Netherlands. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me… so the saying goes. I wasn’t going to chance another midday massacre in the middle of summer and therefore decided to head north to Leeuwarden, with just over 100,000 residents the largest city in the province of Friesland.
It is often very entertaining to read the English section of foreign marathon websites, which tend to be full of unintentionally funny translations. The Leeuwarden Marathon avoided this problem by having no English section. Google translate had not yet been invented, so this tested the limits of my rudimentary Afrikaans taal skills, as I had to translate what appeared to be Dutch text.
I managed to figure out the important details – like the race date and start time – and also that this was a pre-entry only race, and I had missed the deadline. I wrote a passionate, imploring letter to the organisers in my best Afrikaans to plead for a late entry, and a reply came back a short while later in English to say they would accommodate my petition.
If you ever want to run at marathon in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of summer in the middle of a heat wave, then the Leiden Marathon in South Holland is the one to do. European summers can be something of an oxymoron, but the organisers managed to time the 2006 edition of the race to be run in the middle of a genuine heat wave. Fifteen years later and I can still vividly remember the four-and-a-bit hours I spent slogging it out in the sweltering mid-30s, and this is still the hottest of the 241 marathons I’ve run (to date), even beating out the Two Countries Marathon in Musina for the honour!
If you’re doing PI (or Big Room) Planning across multiple geographies, it can be a challenge to schedule the event around public holidays and other events. I’ve enhanced the standard “ART and Team Events Calendar” spreadsheet that Scaled Agile provides within their “PI Planning Toolkit” to allow for much better visibility and customisation of dates. Continue reading “Enhanced PI Planning Calculator”
Covid has been tough for parents but even tougher for kids. Everyday interactions that we took for granted have disappeared. Even the most imaginative and creative parents eventually acquiesced to the ‘mother’s little helper‘ of the digital age – the electronic device.
The mental strain of Covid on children is well documented. Extra murals and regular play dates with friends have been replaced by Netflix binges and online gaming with friends. For children, the house became a prison and parents the wardens. The inmates grew increasingly reluctant to leave the confines of their bedrooms and, as wardens, my wife and I found it increasingly difficult to get our kids outside for a daily dose of Vitamin D. Exercise in any form was shunned and their fitness gear got less use than the indicators on a BMW. Continue reading “How I Gamified my Kids’ Physical & Mental Health (so that I could spend more quality time with them)”
Anyone who has ever had the (mis)fortune of running with me for any period of time will know that my primary running goal has always been to run a sub-3 hour marathon on an unassisted course. With my biological clock ticking away – the baby is due on 1 January, which I understand will result in some drastic lifestyle changes – there was a certain sense of urgency in achieving this goal before the year was out.
Picking a fast marathon towards the end of the year is quite challenging, as most of the “easy courses” are packed into the first four months of the year to entice Two Oceans and Comrades participants to use them as seeding qualifiers. Although there are some great marathons in the second half of the year, there are very few that scream out “PB,” so I would really have preferred to find an unassisted, circular course, but it turned out that the only option was a point-to-point downhill flyer in the form of the Kaapsehoop Marathon.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon recently announced that they are on the inside lane to become the first Abbott World Marathon Major in the southern hemisphere. I thought I’d take a ‘pictorial’ look back at the two Cape Town Marathons I’ve completed in 2017 and 2019, with a heavy focus on the later when I ran with a tree on my back as part of a moving forest.
July is my worst month of the year. It is cold and there are never any marathons to run. July 2021 promised to be even more dismal as we endured the bleakest winter in many years and there hadn’t been any marathons since March 2020. On top of this we were enduring hard lockdown restrictions as Gauteng rode the crest of COVID’s third wave.Continue reading “The Unexpected Joy of Getting Retrenched”