Two Oceans Board member (and former chairperson) calls cutoff issue ‘trivial matter’

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It is in times of great turmoil that you hope for a hero. Someone who will step forward to create sense and order from the chaos. Someone who will do the right thing when others cower and hide. Someone who will act with the maturity and integrity that their peers seem incapable of.

As William Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It was indeed another William who raised his hand amidst the turmoil of the Two Oceans cutoff saga. William Swartbooi is a current Two Oceans Board member and former chairperson of the organisation.

This William is part of a Board that has stumbled over sensibility, tripped over truthfulness and trampled on the hopes and dreams of the runners they are meant to serve. If William Shakespeare were alive today, no doubt the Bard of Avon would shake his head in dismay and observe on the current Board of Bergvliet, “Some are born stupid, some achieve stupidity, and some have stupidity thrust upon them.”

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Two Oceans 2024: Copycat cutoff chaos

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Two Oceans are known to copy whatever Comrades does. Comrades’ prestigious Green Number Club was followed by Two Oceans’ Blue Number Club. When Comrades added an hour to their finish time, Two Oceans extended the same favour. When Comrades introduced qualification marathons, Two Oceans added the same criteria to take part. When Comrades introduced the Bill Rowan Medal between silver and bronze, Two Oceans quickly followed with the Sainsbury. I really didn’t think Two Oceans would copy Comrades’ cutoff debacle but here we are.

This article provides an in-depth independent investigation of organisational deficiencies, statistical analysis of previous results data and first-hand accounts of what happened at the Two Oceans marathon cutoff and top of Constantia Nek. It aims to drop a series of logic bombs amidst Two Oceans’ sea of debatable decisions and questionable explanations.

Executive Summary:

  • The 2024 marathon cutoff was 10 minutes stricter than for the 2022 and 2023 event (and 13 minutes stricter than pre-Covid events).
  • The change in cutoff conditions was not communicated effectively to participants.
  • Data from previous Two Oceans events was not used to determine the stricter cutoff times.
  • Data analysis shows that 55 participants who earned a medal in 2023 would have been cutoff with 2024 times. With entry number increases, this equates to +/-70 runners robbed of a medal in 2024.
  • Data analysis shows that Blue medallists typically run far faster than the 8:11/km allowed over the final 14km in 2024.
  • Female runners, who typically pace ultras better and finish faster, were negatively impacted dramatically more by the stricter marathon cutoff than were men.
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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Cutoffs: Unedited Runner Stories

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The following are unedited correspondence I’ve received from various 2024 Two Oceans ultra runners who were impacted by the the marathon and Constantia Nek cutoffs. I have just removed any identifying text like names and race numbers.

I believe that this is a valuable resource to understand that there are always humans who are impacted in different ways by these unfortunate decisions. Some are angry, others disappointed, others disillusioned – there’s a wide variety of different emotions.

I will be publishing an in-depth analysis of the cutoff issue in the next few days (I’ve just received answers to my detailed questions from the Two Oceans Organisation). The article will draw from some of these stories.

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“Worst thing I have witnessed in 20 years of running” says International Runner with 418 marathon finishes in 77 countries

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Danish runner, Tor Rønnow, travelled to Cape Town especially for the 2024 Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. Rønnow is an accomplished runner with 418 marathon finishes in 77 different countries across all 7 continents. He’s run all 6 world marathon majors but, surprisingly, the Two Oceans was his first ultra marathon.

The calm before the cutoff controversy storm.
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Where did all the runners go? The Comrades cutoff debacle.

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17:29pm, Sunday 11 June, Kingsmead Stadium, Durban: A bemused and bewildered crowd looks at an empty finish straight. The race officials brace themselves for a final finish line onslaught that never comes before shrugging their shoulders and packing up. The SuperSport commentary team, who had been building up to the emotional climax of the day, are stunned into silence. Mqondisi Ngcobo, Chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA), raises the final cutoff pistol and shoots a blank into the dusky Durban skyline. The cock failed to crow at the start of Comrades 2023 and, with most flaccid and anticlimactic finish in Comrades’ 102-year history, it would have been more appropriate had Comrades’ Chairman aimed the gun at his foot.

The most flaccid and anticlimactic finish in Comrades’ 102-year history (perhaps the gun would have been better aimed at the foot).

So much for a fairytale finish. When the clock struck 12 at the 2023 Comrades Marathon there was no Cinderella story. However, someone out there deserves the Giant Pumpkin Award for robbing hundreds of runners of their Comrades medal.

Continue reading “Where did all the runners go? The Comrades cutoff debacle.”
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