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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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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Umgeni Water Marathon (One Dam Marathon After Another)

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[MARATHON #182 / Unique Marathon #98 / 25 MARCH 2018]

After Om Die Dam the previous week and Kosmos (around Lake Umuzi) the week before that, I headed down to Midmar Dam for the Umgeni Water Marathon – in what was quite literally a case of just one dam marathon after another!

Another dam fine marathon I got myself into (& around)!

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Uniwisp Fast 50 (The Fastest Ultra in Africa)

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[MARATHON #179 / UNIQUE MARATHON #96 / 3 March 2018]

The runners in Mbombela like to go down. They have one marathon (Kaapsehoop) and one ultra – and both are certified quadkillers – plummeting you from the highest points in the Lowveld down to Mbombela (in the lowerveld).

How low can you go? You have the choice of doing the Uniwisp Fast 10, 21.1, 42.2 or 50km. Having just done the 50km option (what else!), I can certify that this is the fastest ultra in country and makes Loskop look like Longtom.

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Maritzburg City Marathon (A Return To The Mainstream)

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[MARATHON #178 / UNIQUE MARATHON #95 /  25 FEBRUARY 2018]

As a marathon running connoisseur, I consider small town marathons to be the craft beer of the running world – they’re harder to locate, are a bit more expensive to consume and should always be savoured rather than sprinted. Having consumed five fantastic craft marathons already in 2018, it was with some trepidation that I approached a return to the mainstream for the Witness Maritzburg City Marathon, the biggest standard marathon in Kwazulu Natal.

It’s nice to stand in front of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall with just 15km left to run during the Maritzburg City Marathon. Will be standing here again on 10 June (along with 20,000 other Comrades) with a slightly more daunting 90.1km to go.

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Assegaai Marathon (Can You Judge A Marathon By The Shirt?)

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[MARATHON #177 / UNIQUE MARATHON #94 /  17 FEBRUARY 2018]

I am trying to run a different marathon every weekend to reach my goal of 100 unique marathons before Comrades (it is not wise to plan anything post Comrades). As a marathon slut (I like to run around and will get my legs onto whatever I can), I’ve found some great marathons all around South Africa (and the world) on this quest. Occasionally I get the opportunity to tick off one of my “bucket list” races – and on the second weekend in February it was time for the Assegaai Marathon to come out of the bucket and into my legs.

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