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.
There is a unique vibe running in South Africa’s townships, it’s a special experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Nowhere is this truer than in the Eastern Cape where the original township running club, The Real Gijimas, make their distinctive maroon mark seen – and their characteristic choruses heard – all across the province.
When running is in your blood, you can hide – and hike, cycle and swim – but you’ll eventually have to run.
Karen Brough has hiked all over the world. She’s completed the Annapurna Trail in the Himalayas, walked the El Camino from France, trekked across the Pyrenean Mountains to Santiago in Spain (900kms in 20 days) and climbed Kilimanjaro just for the views.
Karen has also cycled thousands of kilometres on her bike – her greatest achievement in this space was raising over a million rand for charity by doing a series of long distance peddles from Johannesburg to Maputo, Johannesburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg to East London.
She’s “always been a very active person” but none of her regular endurance exploits ever broke out into a run – until recently. At the age of 56 Karen set her sights on completing the IronMan – and accidentally fell into running, “I have always wanted to do a full IronMan. I could swim and cycle with ease, but soon realised my dream would never come true if I couldn’t run a marathon.”
This story was confessed to me by a club mate who made a terrible mistake during her first Two Oceans Marathon in 2004. It still haunts her to this day and she doesn’t want other novices to repeat the same grave error of judgement.
She is still acutely embarrassed by her naïve blunder – so much so that she only agreed to share her story under condition of anonymity. Therefore, I have decided to respect her wishes and will refer to the protagonist of this story under the code name BN4991.
Rikki’s mom had lost contact with her favourite cousin-once-removed, Wesley Tiedt, for over 40 years until Facebook intervened and facilitated a happy family reunion in Johannesburg.
The blood ties were quickly rekindled and Rikki immediately formed a strong bond with her new-found family member. She says, “It was clear we were all cut from the same cloth and had the same wacky sense of humour.”
They spent the Christmas of 2017 together on Wes’ farm in St. Francis Bay. Rikki was paging through a photo album when she stumbled across the picture below of Wes running the 1987 Two Oceans Marathon. Photo finishes are commonplace in athletics but this photo was about initiate a major change in Rikki’s life.
On the 6th of April 1985 two men completed their 10th Two Oceans Marathon voyage in just under four hours to cap their Blue Number run with a silver medal. Louis Massyn, clocking in at 3:57:30, received Blue Number 35 and less than a minute later Tony Abrahamson, 3:58:18, lined up behind him to collect Blue Number 36.
That was 34 years ago – a year in which Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, Michael Jordan was named NBA “Rookie of the Year”, a 17-year old Boris Becker won Wimbledon for the first time and Marty McFly went Back to the Future. It was a long time ago but neither of these proud 1985 Blue Number recipients has missed a Two Oceans Marathon since then.
Together, they have a combined grand total time of 211 hours 25 minutes and 54 seconds on the Two Oceans route (that’s about 17.5 days). Although Louis has a faster PB (3:41:15 to Tony’s 3:52:12) and six silver medals (to Tony’s four), Tony ‘s average time of 4:55:01 betters Louis’ average of 4:59:07.
I’ve been gathering Two Oceans advice from a number of different athletes of all abilities. There is one common answer across the spectrum – take the first half of the race easy because you’ll pay significant interest charges over the much tougher second half.
Therefore, I wanted to make sure we got some input from the person best qualified to inform us what happens on race day when “a push comes to shove” – and that person is undoubtedly Hilton Murray.
Hilton will be piloting Anita Engelbrecht in a “wheelchair jogger” that they’ve named ‘Blitsie’ for the fourth year in a row at the Two Oceans Marathon. Team Blitsie have traversed the country but there is one hill they fear more than any other – an “absolute killer” that they dread more than Polly Shortts or any of the ‘big five’ hills at Comrades. According to Hilton, getting to the top of Constantia Nek stands out head and shoulders as the most difficult hill in the country when pushing a wheelchair jogger. Continue reading “When a Push Comes to a Shove, Constantia Nek is the Toughest Hill in South Africa”
Darrin Mail never thought he’d be an ultra runner – let alone one who hopes to join the illustrious Blue Number club. Looking back he says, “What was I thinking?” and lays the blame squarely at the feet of his mother-in-law.
[MARATHON #173 / UNIQUE MARATHON #90 / 20 January 2018]
Pretty much everything shuts down in South Africa over the December / January school holiday period. Unfortunately, marathon running is no different: there is a total Sub-Saharan marathon shutdown between 16 December and 20 January.
Some people spend forty days fasting in the desert – so I thought it was appropriate to break my 40-day marathon drought with a run in the desert! The location was Lime Acres – a small town of about 4,500 people in the middle of the “green” Kalahari desert.