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Your TOM2020 last minute qualifiers – The Running Mann’s guide
Your TOM2020 last minute qualifiers – The Running Mann’s guide

6 March 2020

The qualifying period for the 2020 running of the World’s Most Beautiful Ultra Marathon is almost up. If you’ve left it to the last minute or are looking to upgrade your seeding, the good news is that there are some excellent options spread out all over the country.

Here’s a summary of all your choices:

Saturday 7 March

Powerade Marakele Marathon, Thabazimbi, Limpopo

The magnificent Marakele – run a marathon in an unfenced Big 5 national park.

The Marakele Marathon is written in pen in my provisional list of Top Ten South African Marathons. It doesn’t get any better (or more South African) than running a marathon in an unfenced Big Five national park with armed rangers ensuring your safety. The out-and-back route involves a 600m climb to the top of a spectacular cliff in the Waterberg before heading back to the sanctuary of basecamp. Don’t be too disconcerted if you notice that you’re being followed by circling vultures – the reserve is instrumental in the conservation of Cape Vultures with 800 breeding pairs (the most in the world).

Kosmos 3-in-1, Secunda, Mpumalanga

You’ll never go hungry in Secunda. Biscuits, biltong, boerewors, Easter eggs, pretzels, jelly babies, marshmallows and potatoes (but thankfully no polony) – and that’s just at these 2 tables.

The biggest event of the weekend is the Kosmos 3-in-1. Most races force you to select your distance, but Secunda’s showpiece allows you to run them all them. The day begins with a flat circular marathon but most of the 2 000 participants stick around to run another half marathon at lunchtime as well as a further 10k in the evening for a total haul of 73.3k. The race has superb refreshment tables hosted by the local community – so you’ll be well fed and supported over the course of the day (Fats Cats AC were still just Slightly Overweight AC before they started their annual pilgrimage to Kosmos). All races start and finish at the Lake Umuzi Waterfront – an excellent venue that provides plenty of entertainment options for the kids while mom and/or dad run.

Tzaneen Tuffy Marathon, Limpopo

If the Tzaneen hills don’t leave you breathless, the scenery will (photo supplied).

The Tzaneen Tuffy is as difficult as marathons get. The first half will smash your quads with a skydive that drops you from the highveld (1,200m above sea level) down to the lowveld (650m). After that there’s some mild turbulence before the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign comes back on again for a monster 600m climb over 10k that will test the aviation skills of even the strongest marathon runner. The good news is that with great hills comes great views – If the hills don’t leave you breathless, the scenery will.

Diamond Marathon, Kimberley, Northern Cape

I am looking forward to running the Golden Jubilee of the Diamond Marathon. Most humans learn to walk when they are one years old but Kimberley Harriers went straight into a run – celebrating their first birthday half a decade ago with their inaugural marathon. They’ve now got the oldest marathon in the Northern Cape (and one of the oldest in the country). This year is the 50th running of the Diamond Marathon – a fast and flat route with the friendly runners from Kimberley.

VKB Surrender Hill Marathon, Clarens, Free State

Feel like a rock star in the Free State during the Surrender Hill Marathon.

One should always be wary of marathons with the word ‘hill’ in the title – the Surrender Hill Marathon enhances this reputation. It’s a gruelling out-and-back route that takes one over 1,900m above sea level whilst you enjoy the natural beauty of the Maluti Mountains. It was one of my favourite marathons run in 2019 and a definite candidate for the best and most beautiful race in the Free State.

Swasap Ultra, Bloemfontein, Free State

There are a lot of great 50km race around South Africa but Swasap gives you two kilometres more with. for a 52k ultra. Good training if you want to see what the extra two kilometres at this year’s Two Oceans Marathon will feel like! The route is moderate with a few hills over a circular course in Bloemfontein.

Sunday 8 March

Knysna Heads Marathon, Western Cape

How do you like you pancakes? The Knysna Heads Marathon serves them with a lagoon.

This was another marathon I thoroughly enjoyed running in 2019. Flat and beautiful seldom go together but this race is the exception. Almost 40 of the course’s kilometres are run alongside the Knysna Lagoon, estuary and waterways – and the highest point is only 30m above sea-level. With an entry fee of just R80 this is also great value for money and an excellent excuse to visit the Garden Route.

StaminoGro Edenvale Marathon, Gauteng

This is your stock-standard Johannesburg East Rand double-lapper. However, it’s one of the very few Gauteng races that takes line entries (provided they’ve not reached their 7,000 entry cap) so is a good option if you still need a qualifier or decide your legs need to be treated to another marathon. All money raised from the event goes into the local community.

Gooderson Leisure Willem Boshoff Marathon

This is one of the few races I’ve not yet run but I am told that the out-and-back route has a few good pulls and much more climbing on the way out than the way back. The race also promises beautiful
scenery, friendly locals and well stocked water tables along the way. Enjoy a serene start and finish amongst the natural beauty of the Gooderson resort – and put the natural healing powers of the hot
springs to the test after the marathon and give your legs a good soaking.

Not only has the Two Oceans team added two kilometres in 2020, they’ve also granted two marathons on the following weekend special dispensation to be included as Two Oceans Marathon qualifiers. This really is last chance saloon!

Saturday 14 March
Langebaan Country Estate Weskus Marathon

Water, water everywhere – but you’ll have to wait until the Langebaan Country Estate table at the 36km to enjoy a beer (photo supplied).

This 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 whilst the tranquil turquoise waters of the Langebaan Lagoon (the largest of its kind in the world) keeps you company. Those worried about twisting an ankle (or getting their shoes dirty) need not 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.

Sunday 15 March
Deloitte Challenge, Durban

Which way to the beach? (Photo supplied).

Due to storm damage earlier this year, the race has a new out-and-back route which promises to be even faster than the traditional course between Ballito and Durban. Starting and finishing at The Amphitheatre on the Durban Promenade, the route heads past the spectacular Moses Mabhida Stadium and on towards Umhlanga before heading back to the finish on the beachfront. 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!

The Running Mann has run over 230 marathons and ultras and is on a mission to run every marathon in South Africa. You can follow his adventures on social media Twitter / Facebook / Instagram & on his blog.

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