The Running Mann’s Guide to January Marathons

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

South African marathons go on hiatus from the beginning of December until the middle of January. As a marathon running obsessive, I normally get withdrawal symptoms during the break (symptoms include a lethargy in the legs and a noticeable swelling in the belly) so I try to get my first marathon of the year done at the earliest opportunity. The good news is that there are seven great options to choose from in January. Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to January Marathons”

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Sapphire Coast Marathon (Delayed Planes, Delayed Trains & Marathon Running)

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[Marathon #197 / Unique Marathon #109 / 28 October 2018]

The best time for a Western Province rugby supporter to run a marathon in Kwazulu Natal is the day after Western Province beat the Sharks in a Currie Cup final: When I boarded the flight to Durban at halftime things were looking promising with the good guys leading 6 – 0.

Unfortunately, the worst time for a Western Province rugby supporter to run a marathon in Kwazulu Natal is the day after Western Province lose to the Sharks in a Currie Cup final: When I turned on my phone shortly after landing, I was left with no doubt as to the result.

For most of the year the people of Durban are affable, kindhearted and gentle-natured but during rugby season they go into musth – becoming agitated and aggressive. Winning is not a habit that comes gracefully to the average Sharks* fan – and my phone battery steadily drained as a constant influx of obnoxious messages bombarded my social media accounts. Continue reading “Sapphire Coast Marathon (Delayed Planes, Delayed Trains & Marathon Running)”

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Jacaranda Marathon (Purple Rain in Pretoria)

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[Marathon #196 / Unique Marathon #108 / 13 October 2018]

Opening Chords

Once a year Pretoria turns purple as 65,000 Jacaranda trees go into bloom and herald the start of summer. The impact of the trees on South Africa’s capital city is immense. They’ve resulted in Pretoria being nicknamed “Jacaranda City” and prominent purple branding adorns everything from the regional Tshwane municipality to the local radio station (which is of course called Jacaranda FM).

The Jacaranda City Challenge is perfectly timed to capture the trees in full bloom. Prince sang about Purple Rain – but if you really want to see the phenomenon in real life you should run the Jacaranda City Marathon. Running a marathon under a constant florid canopy is quite an experience. This year an overnight thunderstorm meant that we were also treated to a luxurious carpet of petals, whilst every gust of wind brought more purple blossoms raining down.

Continue reading “Jacaranda Marathon (Purple Rain in Pretoria)”

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Imbube Marathon, Eswatini (Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only A Marathon Runner)

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[Marathon #195 / Unique Marathon #107 / 7 October 2018]

I’ve been trying to get more proactive about running marathons in neighbouring countries. One of the countries I have been scouting is the small, landlocked, mountain kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland) and my investigations uncovered the Imbube Marathon. Run on the first Sunday in October, this proved the perfect opportunity to notch one more country onto the marathon list.

In Eswatini, everything revolves around the king – and the marathon is no different. The word ‘Imbube’ means ‘King’ in the local siSwati tongue and the event is personally signed off by King Mswati III himself.

Getting ready to start the King’s marathon.

Continue reading “Imbube Marathon, Eswatini (Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only A Marathon Runner)”

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Outeniqua Marathon (The One I Almost Missed)

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[MARATHON #187 / UNIQUE Marathon #101 / 28 April 2018]

I run a lot of marathons around the country. When local runners see the Gauteng license plates pinned to one’s vest they often ask, “Did you come here especially to run the marathon?” – and are suitably impressed (and often somewhat surprised) when you confirm that is indeed the case. When you run a marathon on the Garden Route, local runners ask a similar question from a slightly different perspective, enquiring “Are you here on holiday?”

You see, when you live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, your assumptions change and you know that even the most addicted marathon runner isn’t going to just ‘hit and run’ – it’s much more likely that they are going to ‘hit, run your marathon and stay for a few days’.

Running through the Garden of Eden: About to cross the Silver River on a road that’s a national monument.

Continue reading “Outeniqua Marathon (The One I Almost Missed)”

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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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Jackie Gibson Marathon (Where The Hills Have No Name)

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[MARATHON #185 / 3rd Jackie Gibson / 15 April 2018]

People are very liberal dishing out advice when you’re 21. When I was 21, I migrated upcountry from a small cliquey, seaside village called Cape Town to the metropolis of Johannesburg – and received plenty of unsolicited advice. Most of it I either completely ignored or quickly forgot. However, the one piece of advice I took to heart and still apply 20 years later (probably because of the gravity with which it was delivered) was, “Stick to the north of Johannesburg. You can’t go wrong in the north of Johannesburg. But whatever you do – stay clear of the south!”

Two decades is a long time to survive in Johannesburg – overall I have come through relatively unscathed, I’ve only had one car stolen and have avoided most of the pitfalls one associates with life on the highveld (like being hijacked, mugged or becoming a Lions supporter). I attribute much of the success of this survival strategy to heeding the above advice – and, other than for weddings and marathons, I have avoided the south of Johannesburg like KPMG avoids due diligence. Just like in Game of Thrones, people of the north need to limit the amount of time they spend in the south if they want to survive!

If you survive two-laps of the steepest hills Joburg south can throw at you, this is the great medal you’ll earn.

Continue reading “Jackie Gibson Marathon (Where The Hills Have No Name)”

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Mall Of The North Marathon (The Pick of Polokwane)

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[MARATHON #184 / UNIQUE Marathon #99 / 7 April 2018]

I’ve spent three nights in Polokwane.

There are three marathons in Polokwane.

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce the reason for each visit!

Having now run all three of Polokwane’s standard marathons, I can confirm that the Mall of the North Marathon is my favourite.

Acacia Thorn trees are distinctive in the Limpopo bushveld and line the route. First National Bank (FNB) also chose this tree for their logo (I’ve been told that this is because there’s a prick in every branch – but I’ve also been told that this applies to all the banks).

Continue reading “Mall Of The North Marathon (The Pick of Polokwane)”

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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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