Giving the last chance to qualify everything you’ve got? Improving your time or just getting in time? Running Mann’s got all your options
15 March 2019
Woah – we’re already well into March… Time flies when you’re having fun. Personally, I’ve loved every minute – and every step – of the eight marathons I’ve managed to run all around our beautiful country so far this year!
Unfortunately, the corollary is that time drags when you’re tired – and will come to a complete standstill if you hit the ‘wall’ going up Constantia Nek on Easter Saturday. The longest couple of hours in many an unprepared runner’s life have been from the marathon mark to the finish line at OMTOM.
OMTOM is my favourite ultra and, for my money (and my legs), the last few hundred metres over the University of Cape Town’s rugby fields is the best finish straight (above and below) in the country. To ensure that the cheering crowds get to see you putting your best foot forward – and the photographers capture your winning smile as you cross the line – here’s the last set of qualifying marathons.
Your 16─17 March Options
There are only a handful of road ultras in the world boasting over 1,000 finishers – and they are all in South Africa.
Om Die Dam
The biggest of the 50k races is Om Die Dam (above) which, quite literally, is one long lap around the Hartbeespoort Dam – with the route highlight being the stretch over the dam wall. Like Cape Town’s best-loved race, OMTOM, this race has two big hills. The first is Saartjies Nek (below) – legend has it that Saartjie was a nasty witch who now haunts the pass (making this a real hek’s nek). The second is Kommando Nek which, like Constantia Nek, comes just after the marathon mark and ensures that only the worthy earn their finisher’s medal.
‘Fast and beautiful’ are normally mutually exclusive when it comes to long-distance running but the two Sunday marathons offer just that.
The Deloitte Challenge
The Deloitte Challenge (above) is one of the highlights on the KwaZulu-Natal running calendar. The race is run point-to-point from Ballito to Durban along the coastal road. This enables runners to enjoy great North Coast beach views on a fast course while the gentle sea breeze counteracts the Durban heat and humidity.
The Knysna and Outeniqua Marathons
The Knysna Marathon (above) and Outeniqua Marathon are two of my favourites; this year I’m looking to complete the Garden Route trilogy at the Knysna Heads Marathon. With a maximum altitude of 30m, this out-and-back course looks to be one of the fastest unassisted courses in the country. The waterline dominates the route with almost 40km of the marathon run along Knysna’s famous lagoon, estuaries and river banks.
21 March ─ Celebrate Your Human Right to Run a Marathon in Standerton #RunAsOne
Thursday, 21f March is Human Rights Day in South Africa and what better way to celebrate with your fellow humans than to #RunAsOne at the Goldi Standerton Marathon. Standerton is your typical small agricultural and mining town a short drive from Johannesburg. The race is perfectly timed to enjoy magnificent meadows of bright cosmos flowers that are in full bloom at this time of the year. Goldi are known for their frozen chickens but if you prefer your birds in the bush, the area has some of the best birdwatching in the country.
Your 23─24 March Options
There are just two options this weekend and both are worth travelling for.
The Langebaan Country Estate Weskus Marathon
The Langebaan Country Estate Weskus Marathon (above) is an absolute stunner of a race through the West Coast National Park. You start on the beach to the crashing sounds of the Atlantic Ocean before heading up and down the fynbos-covered sand dunes while the tranquil turquoise waters of the Langebaan Lagoon (the largest of its kind in the world) keeps you company. Worried about twisting your ankle or getting your shoes dirty? No need to fear; only the initial 2km are on (smooth) dirt road and the remainder on tar. As an added bonus, the route is entirely traffic free, so you don’t need to worry about crashing into a parked car if you spend too much time at the Langebaan Country Estate beer table at the 36km mark.
Last chance to qualify for OMTOM!
Your last chance to qualify for OMTOM is the Umgeni Water Marathon. This was one of my favourite races last year and, although the route has switched dams from Midmar to Baynesfield, you can expect the same great organisation from Collegians Harries and an even more beautiful route through the Baynesfield Estate and surrounding forests.
Need a bit more time on the legs? Your 30─31 March options
In my sensible days (before I started running a marathon every weekend), I was a fan of the three-week taper. If that suits your training plan, you might want to take a look at one last long run on the final weekend of March. Although the qualifying period for OMTOM is over, here is a quick summary of your six ‘training marathon’ options:
- The African Wildlife Artistry Bruintjieshoogte 50k is a 25km climb out of Somerset East to the top of the Bruintjieshoogte mountain and then back down again. The oldest ultra in the Eastern Cape and a real hidden gem on the calendar.
- The Mall of the North Marathon is my favourite run in Limpopo’s capital city of Polokwane. This is an out-and-back route that takes you straight from the mall parking lot into pristine African savannah and keeps you there for over 40km.
- The Gert Sibande Marathon is your stock, standard small-town marathon through the Mpumalanga agricultural and mining town of Ermelo and her surrounding countryside. At R60 this is the cheapest marathon in the country.
- The Real Gijimas 50k starts in the township of Zwelitsha, passes through rural Eastern Cape countryside and villages before finishing in the township of Mdantsane (the second largest in the country).
- The Tronox Marathon is out-and-back route through the sugar cane fields of northern Kwazulu Natal. For the bipodal (who enjoy a bit of running in the rough), you get the best of both tar and trail on this course.
- Turning 74 this year, the Jackie Gibson Marathon is Johannesburg’s oldest race – and the oldest standard marathon in the country. A tough double-lapper that has so many hills that no one has bothered to name them. This is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of marathons – connoisseurs of pain, horror and gore will love it whilst the weak and squeamish will hate every minute.
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!