Before I started running there were three marathons that I wanted to complete: Two Oceans, Knysna and the Voet van Afrika. I’m pleased to say that I managed to place large green ticks next to each race in my first year of running in 2002.
After I started running there were three marathons that I wanted to complete ten times to earn a permanent number. No prizes for guessing that the same three entries made the list. I managed ten in a row at Two Oceans and Knysna but the arrival of my second daughter meant that my tenth Voet was delayed by one year*. Continue reading “Voet van Afrika Marathon (Scratching the seven-year itch)”
[MARATHON #227 / UNIQUE MARATHON #130 / 5 October 2019]
In South Africa we are privileged to be able to run several marathons inside our National Parks and World Heritage Sites. I am always keen for the chance to add another National Park run to my collection and therefore jumped at the opportunity to enter the inaugural Clarens Golden Gate Marathon.
Having run Surrender Hill Marathon in Clarens earlier this year, I was familiar with the scenery (= stunning) and terrain (= gruelling) so I knew we could expect a run of unsurpassed beauty and unrelenting hills just down the road in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Continue reading “Golden Gate Marathon (The National Park run)”
[Marathon #226 / Unique Marathon #129 / 28 September 2019]
Although South Africa is known for being “ultra mad”, in reality our runners only have sporadic bouts of insanity with a select few races. The two main delirium inducing culprits are Comrades and Two Oceans (the only two ultra marathons in the world to record over 10,000 finishers) – and there are just three other ultras (Loskop, Om Die Dam and Irene) that boasted more than 1,000 finishers in 2019.
Furthermore, the second half of the year is particularly lucid with just a handful of road ultras on the calendar – and all these races have to be content with a few hundred institutionalised patients participants. You’d have to be crazy to voluntarily check yourself into the nuthouse. Likewise, there are no rational explanations for entering ultra marathons in the desert, only justifications – here are mine.
At 80 kilometres, Laingsburg’s Karoo Ultra is the only race on the calendar between the Two Oceans and Comrades distances making it what long distance snobs call a “proper ultra”. As such, it is a race that any self-professed running connoisseur must have on his CV. I also love a bargain – and with an entry fee of just R100 ($7/€6), this is the cheapest rand per kilometre race in the country (the further you run the more you save!).
[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.
[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!
[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.
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.
[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.
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)”
[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.
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.
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?)”
[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)”