Friendly City Marathon (the one with a tequila sunrise)

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[Marathon #224 / Unique Marathon #128 / 7 September 2019]

The week leading up to this marathon had been one bad news story after another in South Africa. The perfect antidote for a bad week is a visit to Port Elizabeth, otherwise known as the Friendly City – especially if you get to run the Friendly City Marathon whilst there.

On arrival Port Elizabeth quickly reminded us of her other nickname, the Windy City, and the small amount of hair that I have left got given the full Alex Ferguson-hairdryer treatment on the short walk from the plane to the airport terminal.

Port Elizabeth plants are largely leafless – and evolutionary response to the constant wind.

Continue reading “Friendly City Marathon (the one with a tequila sunrise)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to November Marathons

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

Although there are no ultras on offer, November is the busiest month on the South African distance calendar since April with 13 marathons  available:

Weekend One:

  • Queenstown’s longstanding Bonkolo Marathon is by far the smallest marathon on offer this weekend. This looks like a great race centred around the dam that bears the same name.
  • Mbombela’s flagship marathon, Kaapsehoop, starts amongst the wild horses before plummeting down to Mbombela Stadium (where those who go out too fast finish like donkeys).
  • Soweto was the largest marathon in the country in 2018 and will be aiming to maintain their status in 2019. With 40,000 entrants across the various events, expect the South Western Township to be buzzing even more than usual on the first Sunday of November.

Weekend Two:

  • Bloemfontein marathons seem to be disappearing but the Music Marathon is back on the playlist. A vibey event with plenty of colour and music-themed support tables to keep you going over the hilly course.
  • Bela Bela celebrates its 30th year and is an excellent reason for an away running weekend in the resort town famous for her warm baths.
  • Another great running weekend away is offered by the Winelands Marathon in Stellenbosch.

Weekend Three:

  • Life is tough with just two laps around Durban’s Bluff on offer this weekend. If you call their bluff you can expect to see plenty of hills and sea views along the way.

Weekend Four:

  • Die Vlakte is a point-to-point race from Heidelberg to the Witsand beachfront – a lowkey marathon that’s well worth running.
  • Another point-to-point option is the Josiah Gumede Marathon in rural Kwazulu Natal. I enjoyed the inaugural marathon last year and expect those running in 2019 will do as well.
  • A new event is the Mogoeba Plunge Marathon which, as the name suggests, is a downhill flyer from Haenertsburg to Tzaneen.
  • Those keen for a challenge can look into the Platinum Belt Marathon from Marikana to Phokeng (near Rustenburg). I ran the inaugural event in 2017 and it was a complete shambles. After being cancelled in 2018, they are having another go in 2019 but I would approach this one with extreme caution.
  • The busiest Saturday on the running calendar is rounded off with the Sani Stagger. This is my recommended run for November (see below for extended details) but you’ll have to wait until 2020 or get a substitution entry as the 2019 event is sold out.

Weekend Five:

  • Just one option this weekend. Another new marathon, the Riana van Niekerk Run/Walk for Bibles who are offering two laps of their well established half marathon route this year.

Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to November Marathons”

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Tony Viljoen Masters Marathon (Pure unadulterated running erotica)

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[Marathon #223 / Unique Marathon #127 / 1 September 2019]

“Just erotic. Nothing kinky. It’s the difference between using a feather and using a chicken.” – Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett was one of most creative writers of all time. However, I doubt that even within the zaniest recesses of his wild imagination did he ever imagine that these lines from his book “Eric” (1990) would be used to describe a marathon route. But then again Terry Pratchett never visited East London. Had he done so, the Discworld would have looked rather different!

Just Feathers, nothing kinky at the Masters Marathon.

Continue reading “Tony Viljoen Masters Marathon (Pure unadulterated running erotica)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to October Marathons & Ultra

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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.

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

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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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