PetroSA Marathon (Fossil fuel in Mossel Bay)

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[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.

This finish line makes a powerful first impression.

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.

My bad. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a marathon by its name. Continue reading “PetroSA Marathon (Fossil fuel in Mossel Bay)”

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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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Dorothy Nyembe Marathon (Surviving the battlefields)

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[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.

Although the Dorothy Nyembe Marathon was a bit of a shambles, I decided not to make a mountain out of a mole hill (but no one said anything about termite mounds!)

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.

The warning signs were there but I failed to heed them. Continue reading “Dorothy Nyembe Marathon (Surviving the battlefields)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to September Marathons & Ultra

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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.

Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to September Marathons & Ultra”

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MiWay Wally Hayward Marathon (Can I be Frank with you?)

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[Marathon #217 / 2nd Wally Hayward Marathon / 1 May 2019]

Foreword

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?)”

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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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Pongola Marathon (The Zululand Sugar Rush)

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[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)”

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I offered Comrades runners trust-based loans: This is what happened

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The Scenario

It is the middle of October 2018 and entries have just opened for next year’s Comrades Marathon. The entries are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Runners, particularly those from lower income groups, raise concerns that all 25,000 entries will be sold before they get paid at the end of the month and have the funds to enter.

After seeing several social media posts from anxious athletes, I decided to do a small good deed aligned with the spirit of Comrades: Offer an interest free, trust-based loan to five Comrades runners. I’d pay for their entry and they can pay me back when they have the money to do so. This is the story of what happened…

The spirit of Comrades.

Continue reading “I offered Comrades runners trust-based loans: This is what happened”

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How a 70-year-old man with a bad back won the Comrades Ladies’ Race (The story of #483)

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There is no human alive who loves the Comrades Marathon more than Dave Jack. He’s had had a six-decade long love affair with the race – and his unbridled passion shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Dave’s run it 14 times, done live reports on the event for Radio 702 for 18 years driving alongside the race leaders, stadium announcing and prize-giving MCing for over a decade. He’s served on the Comrade Organising Committee (the forerunner to the Comrades Marathon Association) and is one of the very few people to have earned a ‘running’ Green Number (for 10 finishes) and well as a ‘serving’ Green Name (for 10 years or more in service of the race).

Dave Jack finishing his first Comrades in 1968.

Dave told me, “I’ve done everything there is to do at Comrades except win the race!” Well, actually that’s not quite true – and that is why I am writing this article. But the story of how Dave Jack won the 2018 ladies race takes some explaining and requires a detailed backstory – so here goes…

Continue reading “How a 70-year-old man with a bad back won the Comrades Ladies’ Race (The story of #483)”

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Fuelling the Comrades Gold Rush (The story of Charles Mkhonto)

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On a cool spring morning in September 2016, Dani Smith pulled into the Engen Service Station in Woodmead. He was looking forward to filling up quickly and getting back home after visiting his local garden nursery. Dani Smith is a Comrades runner – and was easy to identify as such because, like most of his ilk, he proudly wore his Comrades race shirt as standard weekend attire. Continue reading “Fuelling the Comrades Gold Rush (The story of Charles Mkhonto)”

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