Potties Marathon Photies (A Pictorial Report from the South African Bushveld)


Running with a buddy is fun and saves costs when travelling. I’ve been running a marathon a weekend and my travelling running buddy, Julian Karp, has been doing two a weekend – but it was only on week four of the South African marathon calendar that our plans aligned for the Potties Marathon.

We caught up on marathon adventures on the drive to Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus). Although the town name was officially changed in 2003, there are no plans to change the race name to Mokkies in the near future.

After an easy 3-hour drive due north on the N1, we pulled into Mokopane Primary School for registration and I immediately noticed that some idiot had parked in the middle of the car park. It turned out that this was actually the race registration desk!

There was no online entry and our late afternoon arrival was still early enough for Julian and I to be awarded Scrum- and Flyhalf race numbers (#9 and #10).

We met up with another JK – the former international rugby referee Jonathan Kaplan – who has also completed over 100 marathons and, like me, is on a mission to complete 100 unique marathons (he’s just over half way there on that count).

Over supper at the local Spur, we talked about Julian’s Top 10 marathons  – this was a really long conversation as there are at least 50 races in Julian’s Top 10 list. We subsequently realised that there were 992 marathons run around the table (but “only” 70 rugby internationals officiated). Refereeing is much easier than marathon running – games only last 80 minutes (and when you need a breather you just blow for a penalty)! The vast majority of the 992 marathons have been run on Julian’s legs (over 700) – he is hurtling towards his goal of an incredible 1000 marathons at a rate of 50+ per year.

If you ever wondered whether referees secretly fantasise about being players, you should have seen the look of disappointment on RefJK’s face when we told him that we’d scored the halfback race numbers – he had not yet registered and seriously considered waking up an hour early in the morning just in case there was still a “bench number” available at registration. In retrospect, we missed a trick and should have arranged #23 for him!

The sun was already shining brightly as about 450 runners lined up at the start on a warm Limpopo morning. Most were there for the marathon (145) – the rest of the field was split evenly across the 32km, 21km and 10km races. The race kicked off promptly at 6am with a single gunshot and no other fanfare. There was so little preamble (and the customary country prayer was also skipped) that I have subsequently wondered whether we all false-started mistaking gunfire from one of the nearby shooting ranges for the starter’s pistol.

The rest of the race report is best done through a series of photos…

The marathon is two laps – each lap consists of a short loop around the outskirts of the Mokopane suburbs…
and then a long out and back segment into the beautiful bushveld.

There were several pacing busses to help runners get their desired Comrades and Two Oceans seeding. The most festive on the day was the 4:20 bus led by Rocky (the King of the Mountain) from Polokwane. The video was at about the 10km mark and the bus kept up the singing and chanting over the whole marathon.

The marathon includes a lovely dirt road section where you run past some game farms. I didn’t see any animals but Julian managed to startle a family of warthogs who dashed across the road in front of him (I expect they mistook his long locks for a lion’s mane).
The tables were festive and allowed time for a breather and a chat. It was breakfast time in the bushveld by the time I arrived at the turnaround point on the first lap. On the second lap, I was offered some brandy to go with my Coke (but I’d learned my lesson at Volksrust the previous fortnight and politely declined).
The roads are quiet and well marshalled but you’ve got to watch out you don’t disappear down one of the Potties Potholes!

The race and route had plenty of interesting signs and attractions – here are some of them:

Feeling sad and need a hug? Then join your local wrestling club! I’d had my share of male bonding over dinner the previous evening so I didn’t need to join the local “stoei” (wresting) club. Not sure what move is represented on the mural (or where the blue fist disappears to) but it looks painful.
Either wood is really expensive in this part of the world or this area serves as the local Lovers Lane (and “wood picking” is a euphemism). If you were to proposition someone in a Mokopane bar with, “Would you like to come round to my place and pick up some wood?” it would be a good example of a literal and metaphorical pick-up line!
There were no Potties (or Portaloos) on the Potties Marathon course but bushveld does provide plenty of cover should you have a pressing need to make a lumpsum deposit. If you do need to go off-road for a bossie, make sure you do so in designated areas only.
Many runners looked stressed out at the start but, by the time this picture was taken towards the end of the race, they’d had a chance to relax.
Some interesting bridge graffiti as we transitioned from tar to dirt. The dirt road is much harder to run on than tar but I really enjoy getting off the asphalt for a while. The graffiti translates to, “Life begins where the tar road ends.” A suitable metaphor whilst running a marathon.
This was an interesting piece of art using an old jalopy as the centre piece. By the looks of it, the man fixing the car could do with some running repairs himself (and possibly a large dose of Preparation H).
I started blogging late last year and joined Twitter and other social media profiles to promote the blog. At registration I met a Twitter friend in person for the first time, Ntsako, who is also one of the organisers. He told me that I, “look much bigger on the internet than in real life!” He took a few pictures of me running during the race (pictures of me actually “running” during a marathon are quite rare as I am usually posing after asking a spectator to take a photo).
There were some great support tables along the route but the Abies Auto table was my favourite. They had gone with a Formula 1 motor-racing theme (e.g. Coolant for Cooldrink).
They even had a nice chair so I could have a quick sit down before tackling the last 2km home.
After crossing the finish line one receives a nice goodie bag consisting of sweets, toothpaste, Vaseline, shampoo, conditioner and a Vodacom starter pack. I am too old to make juvenile jokes about Vaseline (but I was pleased to note that the toothpaste – and not the Vaseline – promises “Deep Action”). Julian (the runner version of Michael Bolton) was most excited about the shampoo (which, after running shoes, is his major household expense).
The race is sponsored by Oasis Hotels (a small chain that have hotels in Mokopane, Margate and Botswana). I always try to support race sponsors and was planning to stay with them as long as the rate was reasonable. Turns out it’s really hard to get in – the web booking form gives an error and no one replied to my email booking enquiry – so we stayed at a very nice B&B close to the start instead. Hopefully Oasis are still sponsoring the race the next time I run Potties so that I can make a second attempt and tell you that it’s a great place to stay.

I am not a great fan of double-lap marathons and tend to avoid them if at all possible. However, I would make an exception to come back and run Potties again. The race is really easy to get to and into (even if the hotels aren’t). If you’re going to run one double-lapper, this is the one I would recommend.

On the drive home, Julian tried to convince me to join him for Pick ‘n Pay marathon the next day – I politely declined telling him that the only Pick ‘n Pay endurance event I would be doing tomorrow was the weekly grocery shop with my kids!

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7 Replies to “Potties Marathon Photies (A Pictorial Report from the South African Bushveld)”

  1. Really enjoyed reading your blog, it was most entertaining.
    Won’t you ask Julian, when you next see him, if he has any relatives from PE? There was a father and two sons called Karp who were customers of mine, and had a shop called Snips in Newton Park

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