Jacaranda Marathon (Purple Rain in Pretoria)

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[Marathon #196 / Unique Marathon #108 / 13 October 2018]

Opening Chords

Once a year Pretoria turns purple as 65,000 Jacaranda trees go into bloom and herald the start of summer. The impact of the trees on South Africa’s capital city is immense. They’ve resulted in Pretoria being nicknamed “Jacaranda City” and prominent purple branding adorns everything from the regional Tshwane municipality to the local radio station (which is of course called Jacaranda FM).

The Jacaranda City Challenge is perfectly timed to capture the trees in full bloom. Prince sang about Purple Rain – but if you really want to see the phenomenon in real life you should run the Jacaranda City Marathon. Running a marathon under a constant florid canopy is quite an experience. This year an overnight thunderstorm meant that we were also treated to a luxurious carpet of petals, whilst every gust of wind brought more purple blossoms raining down.

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Imbube Marathon, Eswatini (Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only A Marathon Runner)

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[Marathon #195 / Unique Marathon #107 / 7 October 2018]

I’ve been trying to get more proactive about running marathons in neighbouring countries. One of the countries I have been scouting is the small, landlocked, mountain kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland) and my investigations uncovered the Imbube Marathon. Run on the first Sunday in October, this proved the perfect opportunity to notch one more country onto the marathon list.

In Eswatini, everything revolves around the king – and the marathon is no different. The word ‘Imbube’ means ‘King’ in the local siSwati tongue and the event is personally signed off by King Mswati III himself.

Getting ready to start the King’s marathon.

Continue reading “Imbube Marathon, Eswatini (Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only A Marathon Runner)”

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Two Countries Marathon (Musina in Action)

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[MARATHON #194 / UNIQUE MARATHON #106 / 22 September 2018]

There are marathons that are tough to get to and marathons that are tough to run. The Two Countries Marathons is both. The race starts 10km inside Zimbabwe near Beitbridge Town and ends back across the South African border in the sweltering furnace that is Musina.

Pay no heed to what they say about kitchens, if you can’t take the heat stay out of the Musina hotpot: The marathon ingredients are a gruelling drive to the far northern boundaries of South Africa, an early morning border crossing on one of the busiest roads in Africa and precisely 42.2km over vast expanses of heinous hills. Throw them together and cook for several hours in 35°C heat – and you have the recipe for a fantastic and unique marathon experience!

To tick this race off the bucket list, you must successfully conquer three arduous challenges… Continue reading “Two Countries Marathon (Musina in Action)”

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Vaal River City Marathon (Running circles around the Vaal Triangle)

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[MARATHON #193 / UNIQUE MARATHON #105 / 2 September 2018]

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Science was my worst subject at school and I absorbed very little knowledge. However, Newton’s third law is one of the few snippets that stuck*. Restated, Newton’s third law means that for every attraction there is an equal but opposite repulsion. An example of this is the Bermuda Triangle (that sucks people and objects in) which would need to be countered by an equal but opposite place on the planet that repulses one with extreme vigour. My theory is that the opposite of the Bermuda Triangle is the Vaal Triangle. Continue reading “Vaal River City Marathon (Running circles around the Vaal Triangle)”

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Blood Buddy Ultra (The Legacy of a Schoolboy Dare)

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[MARATHON #192 / UNIQUE MARATHON #104 / 9 AUGUST 2018]

For those who weren’t stockpiling candles and canned food, the early 1990s was a period of unbridled optimism in South Africa: The times they were a changin’ and democracy was a comin’. It was in this spirit that a small group of 11 matric students from Amajuba High School and three of their teachers sat around a camp fire discussing the future.

The conversation meandered around innumerable topics until one student wondered whether it was possible to walk between the local towns of Memel (in the Free State) and Newcastle (in Kwazulu Natal). This proved an interesting topic, one thing led to another, the gauntlet was thrown down and a dare was unleashed. Continue reading “Blood Buddy Ultra (The Legacy of a Schoolboy Dare)”

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PPC Riebeek Bergmarathon (a win-win-win Winelands scenario)

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[MARATHON #191 / Riebeek BERgmarathon #2 / 4 August 2018]

Marathons are in short supply after Comrades. After two long months in the barren running wilderness, I was finally able to fall off the marathon wagon on the first weekend in August with the 33rd running of the PPC Riebeek Bergmarathon (my second). Although I am currently on a mission to run every marathon in the country, I don’t mind doing a few repeats here and there – and this marathon through the heart of the Western Cape’s Swartland is definitely worth a repeat visit.

The Riebeek Bergmarathon starts and finishes at the PPC Cement Factory. Whilst the factory itself is very Dickensian, the beautiful grounds include a working vineyard and have historical significance as the birthplace of Jan Smuts.

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Is Road Running Still (Unconsciously) Sexist?

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Confessions of a Trainee Feminist

On my social media profiles, I profess to be a “Trainee Feminist”. As the lone male in our household (even our cats are girls) I might joke that this is merely a survival tactic but, having been blessed with two daughters, it is actually a genuine attempt at improving myself and the world into which my daughters grow up.

I recently wrote an article on the oldest road race in Johannesburg, the Jackie Gibson Marathon. The race also has a half marathon named after another South African running legend, Allan Ferguson. I thought I’d done a pretty good job conveying the personality of the marathon – as well as highlighting the impressive achievements of both gentlemen which resulted in them getting honoured with race naming rights (Allan Ferguson actually has two road races named after him – as far as I know the only person in the world to be so honoured).

Continue reading “Is Road Running Still (Unconsciously) Sexist?”

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International Races Honouring Female Runners

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This is a list of all the races named after female runners outside of South Africa. There is currently just one race named after a female athlete in South Africa (whereas there are at over 60 named after their male colleagues).

Acknowledging female athletes internationally also seems to be something of a rarity – and is usually done in the form of a memorial race after the athlete has passed away. Below is a summary from the research I’ve done. Continue reading “International Races Honouring Female Runners”

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The Famous Five

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South Africa’s Five Famous Female Athletes

You know you’re famous when people can just use a first name* and everyone knows exactly who you are. This is certainly true for each of these five female running stars (even outside of running circles): Frith, Zola, Elana, Blanche and Sonja – surname not required!

* The opposite of being ‘individually first name famous’ is to be ‘collectively surname infamous’. The Kardashians are a good example of this. 

Continue reading “The Famous Five”

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Not All Superheroes Wear Capes – Some Wear Running Shoes (& Helmets)

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The two hardest time-based medals to earn at Comrades are the Wally Hayward for men and the silver for women. Just 17 women (0.5% of the ladies’ field) earned the medal this year. Surprisingly, considering South African demographics, this year’s Comrades saw only two black ladies finishing under 7h30 to earn a gold or silver medal – one of these was Enie Manzini.

Who is Enie Manzini?

An inspirational athlete, firefighter, paramedic, single mom and all-round superheroine. She is also a survivor of domestic violence.

Superheroine Enie Manzini (in her firefighting outfit).

Continue reading “Not All Superheroes Wear Capes – Some Wear Running Shoes (& Helmets)”

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