This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s January 2024 marathons including race descriptions and recommendations. You can find the full 2024 marathon / ultra calendar here.
A summary of your choices is below:
Weekend One (3-4 Feb)
Marathon running is in full steam in February with 20 confirmed qualifiers at the time of writing. However, the first weekend gets off to a slow start with two choices. The Meerkat Marathon provides an excellent on foot tour of some of Kimberley’s historic sites like the Big Hole, Rhodes Memorial (with canons and other artefacts from the Anglo Boer War), the Northern Cape houses of parliament and the Star of the West (the oldest pub in South Africa). Your other option is the point-to-point Bhekizizwe Joseph Shabalala Marathon from Watersmeet to Ladysmith which honours the legacy of the late Ladysmith Black Mambazo leader.
Weekend Two (10-11 Feb)
Joburg runners are spoilt for choice with the Aquelle Joburg North City Marathon and Balwin Sport Jeppe Marathon on the second weekend. The latter makes a return to the running calendar after an extended absence. Another big event this weekend is the Rolando Hillcrest Marathon which provides two-laps of terror for those wanting to get acquainted with the hills on this section of the Comrades route. For those who like city running in the Free State, take a look at the Kloppers Marathon which provides a good test around the streets of Bloemfontein.
There are also some great out-of-town options this weekend. The City of Mbombela / Jock of the Bushveld Marathon from Barberton to Mbombela has plenty of testing climbs to provide some ideal training for Comrades’ hills. However, if you want to keep things fast and flat, then the Aurum Klerksdorp Marathon is a good option. The good news is that there is just one hill in Klerksdorp, the bad news is that the organisers do make sure to show it off to their visiting runners.
Weekend Three (17-18 Feb)
The fast-and-flat trend continues post Valentine’s Day with the Sasol Secunda, CDM Polokwane and Balwin Sport Peninsula Marathons. Secunda is an industrial double-lapper around the coalfields of Mpumalanga whilst CDM Polokwane provides a tour of Limpopo’s capital city where the biggest challenge is usually the heat.
Peninsula in the Cape boasts a scenic point-to-point route from Green Point to the naval base in Simon’s Town with plenty of coastline running along the second half. This is an excellent option for upcountry runners who want to make a weekend of it and get the benefit of the thick sea-level air over a pancake flat route – it’s all fun and games unless the South Easter wind blows!
There is also the Zabalaza Marathon from Cato Ridge in KZN this weekend. However, buyer beware, last year runners arrived at the start only to find that the organisers had not actually organised a marathon but only had a 10km. According to eyewitness reports, it was the first time anyone has seen the normally amiable Julian Karp ‘spitting mad’.
Weekend Four (24-25 Feb)
February’s final weekend is jam-packed with nine options. For those who’ve been holding out for a ‘downhill special’, the Cango Marathon (from the famous caves to Oudtshoorn) and the SA Home Loans Buffs Marathon in East London deliver popular qualifiers.
The Free State also provides a pair of options. The Santam Bielie Mielie Marathon forms part of the annual festival in Reitz with an out-and-back route over undulating country roads and plenty of picturesque farmland scenery. The first ultra of the year is the Anco 48km in Welkom. This is three laps around Circle City which is ideal mental preparation for Harrison Flats.
One of my favourites on the calendar is the TWK Assegaai Marathon close to the Swaziland border. The route is really simple – you run all the way to the Assegaai River and then you turn around and run back again. The first 8km provides a gentle climb and then you have a long gentle decline before a final plummet to the river. This means that the Assegaai stabs you in the back with lots of climbing over the second half but some of the best support tables in the country will get you back home again.
Local legend has it that if you drink from the Assegaai river, it will forever be in your blood. Local common sense has it that if you drink from the Assegaai river, you will have a severe case of explosive diarrhoea. The motto of the organising club is “Laat waai, Assegaai,” which translates as “Let loose, Assegaai.” – one glass of unfiltered river water and you’ll definitely be letting loose all over the place!
The Balwin Sport Pretoria Marathon in our nation’s capital is one of the tougher marathons out there. The double-lap route winds you up Waterkloof Ridge to the top of Klapperkop Hill before murdering your quads with a rapid descent that takes you all the way into the beautiful grounds of Pretoria Boys’ High School. And if you like RUNNING in capitals, then another option is the Capital City Marathon in Pietermaritzburg. For those nostalgic about the Comrades Down Run start, the race starts in from of the iconic City Hall but the rest of the route explores new territory around KZN’s capital.
For those who like running in Joburg’s townships without the hills of Soweto Marathon, the Township Marathon provides plenty of community participation over a relatively flat double-lapper. The race promises a unique township vibe and the route takes in several points of interest and historic sites like Walter Sisulu Square where the Freedom Charter was signed in 1955.
Your final February choice is the 50km Runified City ultra marathon in Gqeberha. This is the first year that the Runified 50 will be a mass participation event open to all runners and not just elites chasing world records. The route has changed to a 10km loop, followed by a 34km out-and-back stretch and then a final 6km loop to conclude the ultra.
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