Prince Mangosuthu Ultra (The Dundee double)

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[Marathon #221 / Unique Marathon #125 / 11 August 2019]

When a horse throws you off its back, we’re told to be brave, laugh it off and get back onto the horse as quickly as possible. Using this line of reasoning, I figured that if a marathon tosses you to the tar, the appropriate response is to write a detailed blog post bemoaning poor race organisation and the toughness of the route, drink a few beers and then pick another marathon to run as quickly as possible.

* I guess that the modern-day equivalent of falling off your horse is riding your bicycle in some rugby posts and then milking it for all it’s worth on social media.

Dundee’s Dorothy Nyembe Marathon tossed me off, her mountainous climbs almost broke my back and the rejrection I suffered over a meagre 42 kilometres severely dented my fragile male ego. Although marathons are scarce at this time of the year, as luck would have it, the next event on the calendar presented the opportunity to return to Dundee and an attempt to tame an even larger horse: The inaugural Prince Mangosuthu 52k Ultra Marathon. Continue reading “Prince Mangosuthu Ultra (The Dundee double)”

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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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Loskop Marathon (The one with a late start & a fast finish)

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[Marathon #214 / 11th Loskop Ultra Marathon / 6 April 2019]

It is rather perturbing to wake up at the feet of Dawn* for one of your favourite ultra marathons and find that there is a 4am text message saying, “URGENT NOTICE: Due to public violence en-route both race starts will be delayed by AT LEAST an HOUR – Police are evaluating the situation. Next update 5:00”. Continue reading “Loskop Marathon (The one with a late start & a fast finish)”

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Real Gijimas Ultra (Every village needs an idiot)

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[Marathon #213 / Unique Marathon #122 / 31 March 2019]

The Real Gijimas Ultra Marathon traverses 50 kilometres of rural Eastern Cape countryside through countless villages between Zwelitsha and Mdantsane. Every village needs an idiot and the following candidates applied for the vacant VIPs (Village Idiot Positions) on the last weekend of March: Bulela Sidloyi, Ernest de la Querro, Jacques Coetzer, Jeremy Knox, Nkul’leko Ntuli, Richard Birch, Stuart Mann and Zolani Twani.

You see, for each of the above applicants, the Real Gijimas Ultra would be their second 50k of the weekend as all of us had completed the Bruintjieshoogte Ultra Marathon the previous day. Continue reading “Real Gijimas Ultra (Every village needs an idiot)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to April/May Marathons & Ultras

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

April is ultra month, with seven ultras dominating the lonely three marathons on offer. There are just six road ultras in the world with over 1,000 finishers – they are all run in South Africa and four of them are held in April (my own personal favourite ultra is the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon over the Easter weekend).

May is much quieter as the South Africa marathon calendar revolves around Comrades qualification which ends on 1 May. Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to April/May Marathons & Ultras”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to March Marathons & Ultras

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

The combination of a five-weekend month and a late Easter (and therefore Two Oceans)  makes March the busiest month on the South African marathon running calendar with 27 marathons and ultras. There are fantastic options in every corner of our beautiful country which makes this the ideal month for a running vacation (that’s a holiday planned around marathons – not a break from running!). Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to March Marathons & Ultras”

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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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Comrades Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Run

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Comrades 2018: My Penultimate Run at the Ultimate Human Race

[MARATHON #190 / Comrades #9 / 10 June 2018]

The human brain is a complex network of neural circuits. The two most intense emotions humans can experience are ‘love’ and ‘hate’. Many people think that ‘love’ is the opposite of ‘hate’ but recent neurological studies have shown that the two are so closely related that they even run on the same neural circuits. A better opposite for both ‘love’ and ‘hate’ is apathy. Apathy is not a word one associates with running Comrades – but wild bouts of love and hate are likely to flow through the neurological pathways of one’s brain over the course of a very long day.

The scientific studies did determine one key difference: The cerebral cortex – this is the part of the brain associated with logic, judgement and reasoning – becomes largely deactivated during bouts of love but remains fully functional during hate. I am a rational, lucid and objective human being which explains why I seem to hate Comrades so much more than I love it.

In 1971 The Persuaders harmonised that, “It’s a thin line between love and hate”. At Comrades there is 90 kilometres between hate and love.

Continue reading “Comrades Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Run”

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Marathon Addict? Guilty As Charged! (My 100th Unique Marathon At Bruintjieshoogte)

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[MARATHON #186 / UNIQUE Marathon #100 / 21 April 2018]

Prudent South African runners only plan their running year BC (before Comrades). When you’re running Comrades in June, it is presumptuous to plan anything for the second half of the year. Having ended 2017 with 89 unique marathons, I realised that I could reach my goal of 100 unique marathons in 2018 BC via a combination of three factors: good health, extensive travel and a very understanding wife.

Everything went perfectly to plan: After 13 consecutive marathon running weekends all around the country (with just three repeat races: Om Die Dam, Two Oceans and Jackie Gibson), it was now time to conclude the 100 unique marathons goal. When picking a milestone marathon, many people would pick a large, flashy and prestigious marathon – but there’s a big risk of getting “Phantom Menanced” and the hype not living up to expectations.

Summiting a termite mound in preparation for summiting the Bruinjieshoogte pass.

Continue reading “Marathon Addict? Guilty As Charged! (My 100th Unique Marathon At Bruintjieshoogte)”

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Two Oceans (A Love Letter To My Favourite Ultra)

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[MARATHON #183 / 16th Two OCeans / 31 MARCH 2018]

South Africa hosts the two biggest (and greatest) ultra marathons in the world: Two Oceans and Comrades. I’ve been asked many times about the difference between the two. My philosophical view is that if you are a teenager in love, Two Oceans is the sweet, charming, beautiful girl that you should marry. Comrades is the girl that’s way out of your league but is malevolent enough to string you along, thinking you have a chance – only to break your heart (and your body) after crushing your spirit and ripping out your soul.

It’s got to be a special race when you’re this happy at 38km (and still have 18km – and Constantia Nek – to go).

The Romance

Growing up in Cape Town, Two Oceans was my “girl next door” – and it was as a teenager that I fell in love with her. I had just started high school at Rondebosch Boys and they asked for volunteers to hold up kilometre boards over the first 15km and man (or in my case “boy”) the last support table on the route. This seemed like a really good idea since I could support my Dad (The Old Running Mann) and we were told we could drink as much Coca-Cola as we liked on the day. In future years Rustenburg Girls School were invited to partner us at the table (which made the proposition even more attractive!). Continue reading “Two Oceans (A Love Letter To My Favourite Ultra)”

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