Easing the qualifier crunch: Tips, techniques and suggestions for qualifying for OMTOM 2019 between 16 – 24 February
13 February 2019
In this, the first in a series of three by this middle-of-the-pack athlete who has completed over 200 marathons and ultras – with OMTOM being his favourite Ultra – Stuart Mann, aka Running Mann, will help you navigate the road to qualification with his usual wry and witty insights. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for rolling updates
By: Running Mann*
So, you’ve entered the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon 2019 because, let’s face it, who wants to miss the milestone 50th marathon event? Perhaps you always run OMTOM but maybe you were even swept up by sentiment – whatever the case is, you now need to qualify. Or, you’ve run your qualifier but want to get another marathon under the belt to get your legs ready for Africa’s biggest running event.
Let’s break it down to two-week time periods
There’s just a short six weeks left until the qualification period closes on 5pm, 25 March. I’m going to cover all your remaining options in three articles, with each article covering a two-week period.
Go into OMTOM2019 with a marathon for each ocean on the legs
You’ll #RunAsOne on Easter Saturday but I always recommend going into the race with at least two marathons on the legs (one for each ocean!). Many people fixate on seedings and are tempted by the fast-and-flat options. But I’d strongly recommend a ‘flat-free’ running diet by picking at least one of the tougher races. This will ensure your legs – and your head – are ready for what comes after halfway at OMTOM.
If you haven’t qualified for Cape Town’s best loved race yet, getting a qualifier done in February is highly advisable. This takes the pressure off in March – the last thing you want is to get the flu before your last-minute qualifier and miss lining up at the start of TOM’s momentous 50th milestone on a technicality.
Your 16—17 February options
The weekend of 16-17 February has six standard marathons. There are three fast-and-flat options:
- The Mayor’s Marathon in Polokwane (below) is an out-an-back course through Limpopo’s capital city.
- Cape Peninsula Marathon is usually a nice easy stroll along the Cape coastline from Green Point to Simon’s Town unless the south-easter blows and ruins your party.
- Sasol Secunda (above) is an industrial double-lapper to the backdrop of massive cooling towers, smoky chimneys and giant steel constructions – but exceptional refreshment stations make this one worth considering.
I’ve not had a chance to run either of the next two but they both look like great undulating marathons that are worth travelling for:
- The Beaufort West Marathon is run through the Karoo Desert with the majority of the running within the confines of the Karoo National Park. This looks like the ideal marathon for the introverted runner. Last year just ten athletes – all men ─ completed the course. You’ll need to run a 2:40 marathon to win the men’s race but just need to finish a hot desert marathon to become the women’s champion.
- The Reitz Bieliemielie Marathon (above) is part of a full weekend of festivities in Reitz – a town small in size, but big on mielies. This is an out-and-back route over rolling country roads taking in the atmosphere of the eastern Free State. For those with energy to spare, you can take part in the ‘Boeresport-kompetisie’ later on Saturday afternoon together with your favourite local soapie stars in events like eiergooi (egg-tossing), mieliepit eet (competitive corn consumption), trekkerband trek (tractor tyre pull) en baaldra (hay bale tossing).
As for me, I’ll be practising what I preach and hitting the Bestmed Tuks Marathon. Some say tertiary education standards are falling, but this is by far the toughest course on offer at the University of Pretoria: an undergraduate degree of stringent tests and rigorous examinations that crams almost every hill in Pretoria into one marathon. However, those who do graduate know that they’ve earned a quality undergraduate degree – and are a certainty for honours at OMTOM.
Your 23—24 February options
The last weekend of February is jam-packed with eight great options.
The standout marathon is the Assegaai Marathon (above) in Piet Retief/Mkhondo. The route is really simple – you plummet down to the Assegaai River, turn around and then run back home again. This means that the Assegaai stabs you in the back with lots of climbing over the second half.
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!
Once again, our capital city provides the toughest option with the Deloitte Pretoria Marathon – a double-lap route that winds you up Waterkloof Ridge and to the top of Klapperkop Hill before murdering your quads with a rapid descent all the way down into the beautiful grounds of Pretoria Boys’ High School.
Your other choices are all easy routes:
- The Township Marathon south of Jozi is full of community participation and provides a chance to soak up the unique township vibe over a flat double-lapper.
- The Cango Marathon is a tempting option for those that want to improve their seeding on a downhill course from the famous Cango Caves to the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.
- The Witness Maritzburg City Marathon (below) is an exceptionally well-organised double-lapper in Pietermaritzburg.
- Groot Gat is centred around Kimberley’s Big Hole and is a great way to knock-off a marathon in the Northern Cape. Although the route is fairly flat, there is a testing off-road section through a working quarry (which I loved). Another lovely touch is that much of the marshalling is done with the assistance of the residents of the Yonder Home for Mentally Impaired (a great reason to give your marshals a friendly greeting).
- I’ll be running the inaugural Hippo Marathon in Richards Bay – the most easterly marathon in South Africa. I am assured that this is a super-flat double lapper with old school methods like sponges and ice-baths to compensate for the expected heat and humidity.
- For those that want to go a little further, Bloemfontein provides the only ultra option with the Swasap 52km race.
Have fun deciding which of these great races to use as part of your preparation for Africa’s biggest running event.
See you on the road!
*Have a question for Running Mann? We’ll pick the best few and pass them on. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
*His mission is to run every marathon in the country and share his adventures.
*Stuart also writes the popular www.runningmann.co.za blog and his articles have featured in numerous local and international publications.