Karoo 80k Ultra (Flood Levelling-Up in Laingsburg)

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[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!).

When there are more kilometres to run (80) than runners to run them (71) you need to have strong justifications to line-up at the start.

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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.

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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.

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