The Tony Viljoen Masters Marathon in East London was started in the late 1970s as a way to encourage athletes to continue participating in athletics events after they’d “past their prime”. In East London, “past your prime” is considered “over 35” – and the inaugural race in 1978 had a strict “no under-35s” restriction.
Four decades later and the rules have been relaxed to allow youngsters to run the race socially. However, this is a marathon that specifically caters to the older generation and prizes are only awarded for those born before 1984. These are awarded in five-year brackets from 35-39 all the way through to the oldest finisher.
This year it stopped at 75-79 in the ladies’ section of the race with the 75-year-old Paula Richardson finishing in 5:20. In the men’s field, the incredible 84-year-old Caspar Greeff pushed the finish categories all the way to the 80-84 division with a 5:30 finish. In doing so he became the oldest ever finisher of the race and probably set the record as the oldest South African to complete a marathon*.
* I’ve checked with those in the know and no one could identify any older marathon finishers in South Africa. Riël Hauman, the demure and normally sedate statistician, added “Caspar is a freak!”
This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s October marathons including race descriptions, recommendations and travel information.
October is a quiet month for marathon runners with just seven options spread all around the country, including two very interesting new events:
Mpumalanga offers tour of the rural villages on the western extremities of the Kruger National Park with the Shikumba Filling Marathon (named for the petrol station where the race starts and finishes).
Limpopo hosts the only ultra marathon of the month with the Run 4 Cancer 48k in Polokwane.
After a marshalling error resulted in a short course last year, De Wet de Beer and the team from Jacaranda Marathon are promising a runner-centric reboot of the event. Definitely check this one out – and the new route – if you’re in Gauteng (where marathons are scarce in the second half of the year).
My pick for the month is Boland’s best, the toughest race with the warmest heart and the southernmost marathon in Africa – Voet van Afrika Marathon (more details below).
The last Sunday on the month provides a tour of the Kwazulu Natal South Coast from Scottburgh to Amanzimtoti at the Goss & Balfe Sapphire Coast Marathon.
There are two new marathons on the calendar. As I understand it (awaiting verification) you can use them to qualify for Two Oceans but not for Comrades. However, whilst they both seem like spectacular events, it’s doubtful anyone will actually use them as a qualifier for the reasons stated below:
The Clarens Golden Gate Marathon is an out-an-back route run entirely within the national park: an absolutely beautiful but disgustingly hilly part of the world.
The Cape Wine Marathon is an off-road circular tour of all the wine farms in the Durbanville Hills region of the Western Cape. There are 13 wine tasting tables so arrive with a clean palette and a designated driver.
[Marathon #222 / Unique Marathon #126 / 24 August 2019]
For a change, I thought I’d start with the finish. The picture below was my first impression of the race (and Mossel Bay) after parking my rental car and taking my first few steps in the only town on the Garden Route I’d never visited before.
Whilst other marathons on the Garden Route conjure up images of cavorting along pristine lagoons, frolicking over unspoilt beaches and traversing through lush indigenous forests; the PetroSA Marathon invokes images of oil refineries, smog and the smell of rotten fish.
[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.
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)”
[Marathon #219 / Unique Marathon #124 / 21 July 2019]
The first Dorothy Nyembe Marathon was supposed to be held on 16 December 2017. The race was well advertised, took plenty of entries and was then ‘postponed’ on short notice. Runners who’d entered were told it was “against the rules” to provide refunds (not sure what the Consumer Protection Act would say about that) but that their entries would still be valid next year when the race was held.
2018 came and went without any further mention of the race and it looked like the event had been postponed indefinitely. However, the 2019 race calendar surprised us by including the race on the mid-July program. I was somewhat dubious about whether the race would actually go ahead (with the cynic in me wondering whether someone needed to raise funds to do maintenance work on their firepool) and therefore I waited until the last minute before entering.
Based on previous experiences, I approach inaugural races with extreme caution but superbly organised first time marathons like the Hippo in Richards Bay had lulled me into a false sense of security.
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.
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?)”
[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)”
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.
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”