The Running Mann’s Guide to September Marathons & Ultra

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This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s September marathons including race descriptions, recommendations and travel information.

For those wanting to work off some of the winter fat, it’s still slim pickings as we hit spring on the marathon running calendar: Just six standard marathons and one ultra. However, each one is a quality choice.

After a marathon break of four months in Gauteng, the Vaal River Marathon gets the Highveld going again whilst the Amajuba Marathon in Newcastle, Kwazulu Natal provides a good central option for those in need of a well-organised long run.

However, it is the Western and Eastern Cape that dominate your September options with five of their athletics districts hosting a stunner of a race:

  • In the Border region, East London’s Tony Viljoen Masters Marathon is a point-to-point downhill flyer. This years race has special significance as Tony Viljoen, who founded and led Border Masters Athletics for 40 years, passed away at the beginning of August.
  • Eastern Province Athletics offers you the Friendly City Marathon in Port Elizabeth. This is a friends-with-some-hilly-benefits out-and-back route with plenty of beautiful ocean views along the way.
  • In the Transkei, the Elliot Madeira Marathon provides some scenic countryside running before finishing in the buzzing town of Mthatha.
  • One of the highlights of the running calendar and Western Province Athletics’ crown jewel is the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon – the only IAAF Gold label status marathon in Africa and my recommended marathon for September.
  • The month ends with the Laingsburg Karoo Ultra Marathon in the South Western Districts – 80 kilometres of bliss in the heart of the Karoo Desert.

Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to September Marathons & Ultra”

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MiWay Wally Hayward Marathon (Can I be Frank with you?)

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[Marathon #217 / 2nd Wally Hayward Marathon / 1 May 2019]

Foreword

As a schoolboy, I remember hearing about the predictions of Nostradamus and thinking “What a load of crap”. How could a 16th century French whack job predict events 500 years later? I was certain that this was a complete load of concocted claptrap courtesy of the fanciful, furtive imaginations of rapscallions* who’d taken great liberties translating Michel de Nostredame’s vague, flowery prose and then used them to retrospectively correlate his prophesies to current events**. Continue reading “MiWay Wally Hayward Marathon (Can I be Frank with you?)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to August Marathons & Ultras

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This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s August marathons including race descriptions, recommendations and travel information.

South Africa’s long distance road running scene awakes slowly from its post-Comrades winter hibernation with just six options (including one brand new race) for the marathon connoisseur.

It’s bonanza time in Kwazulu Natal where half the races are hosted (including both ultras) but Gauteng runners (and all those north of the Vaal) will have to make travel plans to get an early Two Oceans qualifier under the belt. Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to August Marathons & Ultras”

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Pongola Marathon (The Zululand Sugar Rush)

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[Marathon #216 / Unique Marathon #123 / 27 April 2019]

On the 27th of April 1994, 20 million South Africans exercised their right to vote in our first non-racial democratic elections. Twenty-five years later, on the 27th of April 2019, 214 runners exercised their legs and enjoyed their freedom to run marathons in the small Zululand town of Pongola.

Pongola (or uPhongolo as it’s known in Zulu) is a Kwazulu Natal town famous for its production of sugar cane and subtropical fruit which are harvested in the 50 km² of plantations that surround it. The town has a long history and hosts the grave site of the Zulu King Dingane. Continue reading “Pongola Marathon (The Zululand Sugar Rush)”

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Comrades 2019 Overall Field Race Stats

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This article provides detailed analysis and statistics on the overall Comrades 2019 field. Statistics articles on the elite section of the field can be found here for the women and here for the men.

Participation Trends

This year saw a record number of Comrades entries (24,594) just ahead of the 2000 edition (24,552). However almost a quarter of the entrants (22.4%) did not make it to the start line (the year 2000 had a meagre 2.4% start line drop off). The start line drop off percentage varies a great deal each year, with the highest being a massive 35.1% in 2011 (20% is about average). Of note is that it rarely breached 10% when participants had to run a qualifying marathon before entering. Continue reading “Comrades 2019 Overall Field Race Stats”

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Comrades 2019: Mens Elite Field (All the Stats)

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The 94th Comrades Marathon and 48th Up Run was held on 9 June 2019. This is a stat by stat account of the Men’s Elite section of the race – with a few anecdotal interludes thrown in to break the statistical monotony.

The Gold Standard

Click to expand.

The race starts at a fast pace but everyone (other than a few naïve television commentators) knows that the first half of the Up Run is for the television cameras, the second half is where the medals are earned. Continue reading “Comrades 2019: Mens Elite Field (All the Stats)”

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Comrades 2019: Ladies Elite Field (All the Stats)

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A stat by stat account of the Comrades 2019 Women’s Race.

The Gold Standard

Click to expand.

Gerda Steyn was in a class of her own smashing the record and becoming the first lady to break six hours on the Up Run (only three ladies have achieved this on the Down Run). After a fast start by Ann Ashworth (2018 Down Run winner) and Camille Herron (defending Up Run champion), Steyn takes the lead early on and no one comes close to keeping up with her.

Fields Hill fractures the field directly after Pinetown. Alexandra Morozova makes her move before Drummond but can’t keep pace with Steyn and settles for second. After starting slowly, Caitriona Jennings blasts her way to halfway but struggles over the latter states of the race (doing well to hang onto third position). The most interesting pacing is by the local Kwazulu Natal debutant Jenna Challenor, who produces a great even run by for a sixth place finish. Continue reading “Comrades 2019: Ladies Elite Field (All the Stats)”

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Drug Running at Comrades (and discrediting American ignorance)

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The Comrades Marathon is a lot like a nasty big brother that sadistically bullies, torments and tortures his weaker siblings. As one of those weaker siblings, I’ve received more than my fair share of merciless moers, violent lammies and vicious donkey klaps at the annual family reunion between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. I feel this entitles me to have an opinion and say what I like about Comrades – and occasionally I repay my serial brutalisation with a playful retort or gentle jab of my own (before running away, slowly). That is the God-given right of a ‘family’ member*.

* For example, one of the article ideas on my backlog is ’10 Things I Hate about Comrades’ but the list of things has grown so long it may in fact form the content of my first full-length book.

However, when someone outside the ‘family’ callously condescends your brutal big brother, all past grievances are forgotten, all past sins are forgiven, and all the scars and bruises from past battles become prized signs of affection. When someone outside the circle of trust insults a member of one’s household, the correct response is to immediately – and without hesitation – take up arms (or in the case of Comrades, legs) to defend the family honour. That is exactly what happened recently when the insolent, ill-informed and ignorant American ultra runner Jim Walmsley condescended Comrades with a reckless remark. Continue reading “Drug Running at Comrades (and discrediting American ignorance)”

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I offered Comrades runners trust-based loans: This is what happened

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The Scenario

It is the middle of October 2018 and entries have just opened for next year’s Comrades Marathon. The entries are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Runners, particularly those from lower income groups, raise concerns that all 25,000 entries will be sold before they get paid at the end of the month and have the funds to enter.

After seeing several social media posts from anxious athletes, I decided to do a small good deed aligned with the spirit of Comrades: Offer an interest free, trust-based loan to five Comrades runners. I’d pay for their entry and they can pay me back when they have the money to do so. This is the story of what happened…

The spirit of Comrades.

Continue reading “I offered Comrades runners trust-based loans: This is what happened”

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How a 70-year-old man with a bad back won the Comrades Ladies’ Race (The story of #483)

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There is no human alive who loves the Comrades Marathon more than Dave Jack. He’s had had a six-decade long love affair with the race – and his unbridled passion shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Dave’s run it 14 times, done live reports on the event for Radio 702 for 18 years driving alongside the race leaders, stadium announcing and prize-giving MCing for over a decade. He’s served on the Comrade Organising Committee (the forerunner to the Comrades Marathon Association) and is one of the very few people to have earned a ‘running’ Green Number (for 10 finishes) and well as a ‘serving’ Green Name (for 10 years or more in service of the race).

Dave Jack finishing his first Comrades in 1968.

Dave told me, “I’ve done everything there is to do at Comrades except win the race!” Well, actually that’s not quite true – and that is why I am writing this article. But the story of how Dave Jack won the 2018 ladies race takes some explaining and requires a detailed backstory – so here goes…

Continue reading “How a 70-year-old man with a bad back won the Comrades Ladies’ Race (The story of #483)”

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