Mapungubwe Marathon (off with their heads)

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[MARATHON #262 / UNIQUE MARATHON #158 / 2 March 2024]

These days the Limpopo running scene is a bit like Hydra from the Marvel universe: Every time you knock the head off the “final” Limpopo marathon on your list, two more pop up. And so it was that I returned to Polokwane for the inaugural Mapungubwe Marathon.

I got hold of race director Phateng Kgomo to check the details I was missing on my March monthly marathons article and he had a very short and simple route description for me, “Out-and-back. Hard.” Polokwane routes tend to be very hot but fairly flat (and I’ve run over most parts of the city in the various marathons I’ve done) so I was intrigued to see what the race would offer in terms of hills.

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Two Oceans 2024: Copycat cutoff chaos

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Two Oceans are known to copy whatever Comrades does. Comrades’ prestigious Green Number Club was followed by Two Oceans’ Blue Number Club. When Comrades added an hour to their finish time, Two Oceans extended the same favour. When Comrades introduced qualification marathons, Two Oceans added the same criteria to take part. When Comrades introduced the Bill Rowan Medal between silver and bronze, Two Oceans quickly followed with the Sainsbury. I really didn’t think Two Oceans would copy Comrades’ cutoff debacle but here we are.

This article provides an in-depth independent investigation of organisational deficiencies, statistical analysis of previous results data and first-hand accounts of what happened at the Two Oceans marathon cutoff and top of Constantia Nek. It aims to drop a series of logic bombs amidst Two Oceans’ sea of debatable decisions and questionable explanations.

Executive Summary:

  • The 2024 marathon cutoff was 10 minutes stricter than for the 2022 and 2023 event (and 13 minutes stricter than pre-Covid events).
  • The change in cutoff conditions was not communicated effectively to participants.
  • Data from previous Two Oceans events was not used to determine the stricter cutoff times.
  • Data analysis shows that 55 participants who earned a medal in 2023 would have been cutoff with 2024 times. With entry number increases, this equates to +/-70 runners robbed of a medal in 2024.
  • Data analysis shows that Blue medallists typically run far faster than the 8:11/km allowed over the final 14km in 2024.
  • Female runners, who typically pace ultras better and finish faster, were negatively impacted dramatically more by the stricter marathon cutoff than were men.
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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Cutoffs: Unedited Runner Stories

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The following are unedited correspondence I’ve received from various 2024 Two Oceans ultra runners who were impacted by the the marathon and Constantia Nek cutoffs. I have just removed any identifying text like names and race numbers.

I believe that this is a valuable resource to understand that there are always humans who are impacted in different ways by these unfortunate decisions. Some are angry, others disappointed, others disillusioned – there’s a wide variety of different emotions.

I will be publishing an in-depth analysis of the cutoff issue in the next few days (I’ve just received answers to my detailed questions from the Two Oceans Organisation). The article will draw from some of these stories.

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“Worst thing I have witnessed in 20 years of running” says International Runner with 418 marathon finishes in 77 countries

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Danish runner, Tor Rønnow, travelled to Cape Town especially for the 2024 Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. Rønnow is an accomplished runner with 418 marathon finishes in 77 different countries across all 7 continents. He’s run all 6 world marathon majors but, surprisingly, the Two Oceans was his first ultra marathon.

The calm before the cutoff controversy storm.
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Capital City Marathon (humans versus humidity)

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[MARATHON #261 / UNIQUE MARATHON #157 / 25 February 2024]

After a shoddy 2023 where not one family holiday was planned around a marathon, I am pleased to report that the Capital City Marathon was the focal point for our first family holiday of 2024. My top tip for Gauteng runners participating in Pietermaritzburg marathons is to avoid staying in Pietermaritzburg itself. Instead look for accommodation in the Midlands which makes the drive slightly shorter, your stay a lot more scenic and (even if you are staying on a working farm like we were) probably a lot better smelling too.

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Kloppers Marathon (and overcoming my Afrikaans angst)

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[MARATHON #260 / UNIQUE MARATHON #156 / 10 February 2024]

Afrikaans was never my strongpoint. Afrikaans teachers and I regarded each other with mutual contempt throughout my school career. One of them even banged her head on the desk in exasperation when she realised that my younger brother was in her class during his first roll call in standard 6. Let’s just say that my free-spirited schoolboy antics did not blend well with the strict (and sometimes sadistic) ethos of the average Afrikaans onderwyser.

Perhaps it is the psychological scarring I endured on the top floor of Rondebosch Boys High (I think they put the Afrikaans bloc there so that the other classes would not be disturbed by the screams) that has resulted in a subliminal avoidance of Bloemfontein marathons. To date I have just one credit, the OFM Music Marathon (which has not taken place since Covid) in the City of Roses. Therefore, I decided to face my fears and take my running shoes into the domain where Englishmen fear to tread by entering the Kloppers Marathon.

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The Lunatics are Ruining the Asylum (the fight against idiotic athletics officialdom)

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Picture a new runner who has just discovered the joy of running. They’ve gone from being a couch potato to struggling through a 5km parkrun to running a comfortable parkrun every Saturday morning. They are proud of their progress and look forward to a new challenge by entering the Firgrove 15km in Constantia, Cape Town. This is the furthest that they have ever run and, at the start line, they are not even sure that they’ll make it. As they near the finish, dreams of entering a half marathon and maybe even Cape Town Marathon later that year fill their head. They cross the finish line with a broad smile, the pain of sore legs disappears with the exultation of the runner’s high and the endorphins of achievement course through their blood.

Then, all of a sudden, it all comes crashing down when some prick with a badge and an orange vest starts obnoxiously shouting that you are disqualified for violating a rule you knew nothing about. How many social runners that bear the brunt of antisocial refereeing are lost to the sport of road running?

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