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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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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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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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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The High Stakes Runderwear Gamble (Risking it all on the nought)

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The Runderwear Experiment

The Time: Just after 05h00 on a Saturday morning

The Place: Room 114, The Desert Palace Hotel and Casino, Upington

The Subject: The Running Mann

Setting the Scene: An alarm rings. A bleary-eyed marathon obsessive sits bolt upright after a restless night’s sleep. With well over 200 marathons under the belt, there is little that keeps our protagonist awake at night – but last night he slept a little less easy and there was a lot more stirring. Continue reading “The High Stakes Runderwear Gamble (Risking it all on the nought)”

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Surrender Hill Marathon (Overdosing on Maluti Muti)

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[Marathon #208 / Unique Marathon #118 / 2 March 2019]

One of my wild running ideas is to pick the best and most beautiful small-town marathons from all around the South Africa and create a ‘Hidden Gems’ series – the objective being to add a finish at each one to your lifetime marathon running CV. It’s still very much in the formulative stage but I would ensure that there is at least one race per province.

There are so many great small-town marathons scattered all over our beautiful country that whittling the list down to a manageable size, say a dozen, is going to be a challenge. However, I expected a bigger challenge to be finding a Free State marathon that meets my stringent selection criteria. Although there are many great Free State runs, ‘beautiful’ is not adjective one readily associates with their routes.

Nevertheless, as an optimist by nature, I held out hope that a hidden gem could still be unearthed in the Free State. Many marathons ago, I got chatting to some runners from Bethlehem (if memory serves me correctly it was one wise man and two wise women) who told me of a neighbouring town called Clarens and a marathon called Surrender Hill. Continue reading “Surrender Hill Marathon (Overdosing on Maluti Muti)”

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Hippo Marathon (Getting hot & sweaty in Richards Bay)

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[Marathon #207 / Unique Marathon #117 / 23 February 2019]

When a holiday is announced in our household, the first question my daughters ask is not, “Where are we going?” but “What marathon is dad running?”. The answer this time was “The Hippo Marathon”, with a mid-term break enabling my daughters to spend four nights with their Nana in Pinetown while my wife and I were able to sneak off to Richards Bay for two of those nights.

After twelve years of marriage, two nights of peace and quiet sans kids far outweighs the attraction of a dirty weekend. However, one thing is for sure – if you want to get hot and sweaty, Richards Bay is the perfect place to do it. Continue reading “Hippo Marathon (Getting hot & sweaty in Richards Bay)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to April/May Marathons & Ultras

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

April is ultra month, with seven ultras dominating the lonely three marathons on offer. There are just six road ultras in the world with over 1,000 finishers – they are all run in South Africa and four of them are held in April (my own personal favourite ultra is the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon over the Easter weekend).

May is much quieter as the South Africa marathon calendar revolves around Comrades qualification which ends on 1 May. Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to April/May Marathons & Ultras”

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Klerksdorp Marathon (You Shouldn’t Judge A Town By Its Main Road)

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[Marathon #205 / Unique Marathon #115 / 9 February 2019]

Klerksdorp was never high on my list of marathons to run. I almost ran it last year but then “got a better offer” and ended up doing Potties instead. There are some marathons that I look forward to doing and others I look forward to getting done – and I was expecting this to be one of the latter.

My only previous exposure to Klerksdorp has been driving through the city on the N12 – normally on the long drive to Kimberley for one of their marathons. People slow down to look at car crashes but they avert their eyes when driving through Klerksdorp. The only redeeming factor for Klerksdorp is that her N12 façade is slightly less ugly than that of her close neighbour Potchefstroom.

On top of this, the towns Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom are both are incredibly irritating with lots of slow, exasperating traffic and dozens (may well be hundreds) of infuriating, stop-start segments. Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom are like the mosquito and the fly – everyone tells you that they serve some kind of purpose, but no one can tell you what that purpose is. Continue reading “Klerksdorp Marathon (You Shouldn’t Judge A Town By Its Main Road)”

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The Running Mann’s Guide to March Marathons & Ultras

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

The combination of a five-weekend month and a late Easter (and therefore Two Oceans)  makes March the busiest month on the South African marathon running calendar with 27 marathons and ultras. There are fantastic options in every corner of our beautiful country which makes this the ideal month for a running vacation (that’s a holiday planned around marathons – not a break from running!). Continue reading “The Running Mann’s Guide to March Marathons & Ultras”

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