The Running Mann’s Guide to September 2023 Marathons
This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s September 2023 marathons and ultras including race descriptions and recommendations. You can find the full 2023 marathon / ultra calendar here.
A summary of your choices is below:
September kicks off with two-laps around Vanderbijlpark and gets more exciting from there. The inaugural Great Kei Marathon at the river mouth looks to be a good new addition whilst the Elliot Madeira Marathon in Mthatha provides your other Eastern Cape option.
My marathon pick for September would be the Voet van Afrika in Bredasdorp near the southernmost tip of Africa. I’ve done 11 Voets and it’s definitely a must-do marathon.
Another fantastic option is a trip to the Karoo for the Laingsburg Ultra (56km this year instead of the customary 80km).
Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain returns for a second run after a successful introduction in 2022 and is a good excuse for weekend away. Another good weekend away option is the inaugural South Coast Marathon (which replaces the 48km cancelled earlier in the year).
Vaal River City Marathon (Sun 03 Sep): Confirmed
Vanderbijlpark was the missing connection in the Vaal Triangle dot-to-dot marathon puzzle until the Vaal River City Marathon was added to the calendar in 2017 (the other dots being the well-established Sasolburg and Vaal Marathons). Despite the name, Vaal River City, you should not expect to see a river of any kind during the race and, depending on your definition of civilisation, it is also debatable whether you see a city either. Vanderbijlpark makes Benoni look like the French Riviera and the fast and flat double-lapper is unlikely to provide any visual distractions – but the runners are usually full of post-Comrades chatter so this is a great chance to greet some old friends and make some new ones.
This is one that all real marathoners need to do at least once. The best summary I’ve heard of this route is, “The first half screws up your legs and the second half screws up your mind.” A unique route that takes you up and over the Soetmuisberg along farmland, gravel road, jeep tracks and mountain paths. After 25 kilometres surrounded by exquisite indigenous fynbos, there is a rude awakening as you are dumped onto the tar at Napier – and those who’ve counted the undulations to the finish at the Bredasdorp High School claim there are 16 hills over the last 17 kilometres. Whilst some races rebrand their catch phrase annually, the Voet has stuck with “The toughest race with the warmest heart!” for as long as I can remember (and having run 11 Voets I can confirm that this is not just a marketing slogan).
Fly to Cape Town; 180km (2h) drive from the airport to Bredasdorp
On site luxury tented hotel pitched at Bredasdorp Sport Grounds: https://voetvanafrika.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Tented-Hotel-Info.pdf or check out lekkeslaap.co.za to book your accommodation in the area.
What else to do there?
Explore the Overberg, sample some local wines, go deep sea fishing and stand at southernmost tip of Africa (where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans officially meet). There is also plenty to do in the charming local villages of Struisbaai, Arniston and Napier. Take a short drive to the De Hoop Game Reserve to spot antelope, zebras and whales.
Route Elevation (total climbing)
South Coast Marathon (Sun 24 Sep): Confirmed
Note: This marathon replaces the 48k ultra that was run in the past. The route description below is for the 48k and the marathon (which is 2 laps of the original 21k route run in reverse will be different). This race gives you a five-course feast that covers the diversity of the South Coast. From the Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre you start with a series of demanding but beautiful rolling hills through rural Kwazulu Natal, after which you drop down to the coast at Uvongo. The exquisite coastal road along the sea front is the easiest section of the route. After soaking up sea-level serenity, you head back inland over gradual climbs that consume the last 5km of the course. It is in reverse of the previous 21km route and is not as tiring to the legs on the finish section.
Mokopane Plaza 4-1 Marathon (Sat 30 Sep): Unconfirmed
This event was originally listed on the race calendar but there is no indication that it will take place.
Laingsburg 56k Ultra (Sat 30 Sep): Confirmed
Note: The ultra has been changed from 80 to 56km this year. Below description is from the 80. Run an awesome ultra in the heart of the Great Karoo. A one of kind race with 15km of tar and the rest on quiet gravel farm roads while you enjoy the peace, beauty and serenity of the Karoo Desert. The route starts at an altitude of 642m and slowly climbs to 922m at the 44km mark – the good news is that “it’s all downhill from there”. If you’re lucky, the natural phenomenon of the spring wild flowers will be in full bloom during your run. Note: The race has changed from the traditional 80km to the 56km route this year.