Following on from the in-depth look at the Comrades Marathon Association’s decision not to refund 2020 entrants, this article evaluates the ‘refund / no refund’ decisions of South Africa’s other large marathons and ultras who’ve been forced to cancel their 2020 events during the coronavirus pandemic.
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 pairing nicely with the seven standard marathons on offer. There are just six road ultras in the world with over 1,000 finishers – five are run in South Africa and three of them are held in April (my own personal favourite ultra is the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon over the Easter weekend).
This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s January 2020 marathons including race descriptions and recommendations.
South African marathons go on hiatus from the beginning of December until the middle of January. As a marathon running obsessive, I normally get withdrawal symptoms during the break (symptoms include a lethargy in the legs and a noticeable swelling in the belly) so I try to get my first marathon of the year done at the earliest opportunity. The good news is that there are seven magnificent options to choose from in January.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”