Run With The Rainbow Nation
Fancy an overseas event in 2023? South Africa has plenty of options...
With its glorious climate and testing terrain, South Africa is becoming a popular destination for British runners. The country has several iconic and unique endurance events held against a stunning backdrop, that all make impressive reading on any runner’s CV. With almost guaranteed sunshine, it’s also the perfect place to soothe sore muscles after completing a gruelling challenge too.
South African Robert McEwan moved to the UK in 1996 but still remembers great events in perfect settings. He is a repeat finisher of the iconic Comrades marathon in his native country and has also taken part in Cape Town’s Two Oceans Ultra marathon. Of the Comrades, he says: “It’s completely different from any other marathon. For a start it is an ultra-distance event. It is always between 54 and 57 miles - depending upon roadworks.
“The race alternates between what we call the ‘up run’ and the ‘down run’. That means one year it begins at sea level in Durban and goes up to altitude at Pietermaritzburg and the next it goes in the other direction. For the leading athletes, they are quicker on the ‘down run’, but it can be very painful for the quadriceps of regular runners. Both ways it is still undulating.
“It is just a great challenge. It’s a really big deal in South Africa. The whole event is covered live on television from about 5.30am and people get up early to watch it all.
“There is, as the name suggests, great comradeship between the runners, as there are cut offs from different grades of medal, not one simple finishers medal. You find a lot of encouragement between other runners too. It is a race I would recommend to anyone. I know how hard some runners from the UK train and if they are willing to train from January until June, I think it’s a good one to take on.”
One of his club-mates Russell Whittington, was also charmed by the idea of the Comrades and completed the event in 2005. He said: “It’s a very beautiful race. It’s not an event to run if you’re not used to running great distances. But I thought it was brilliant. I can’t think of a better running event. We also enjoyed a great holiday afterwards.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Lebohang Mokhesi, UK Country Manager for South Africa Tourism. He said: “South Africa is a top destination for keen athletes to embark on a new challenge. The diverse selection of terrains makes this destination a top choice for runners and spectators alike; there is something for everyone. It is a privilege to represent South Africa here in the UK as it has quickly become a destination recognised for providing opportunities to satisfy all interests.”
runABC's official travel partner Marathon Tours and Travel are now the only operator that offer event entry to the Comrades marathon, now that general entries have closed. Marathon Tours & Travel will offer the experience of a lifetime, with travel packages that take care of all trip logistics; from transfers and accommodation, to meals and race entry. Having all the finer details taken care of by their expert team means that the runner can focus on making it to the start line and simply focusing their mind on the challenge ahead of them. Get a little flavour of the event via this excellent video:
South Africa’s biggest and best running events...
BIG FIVE MARATHON
The Big Five Marathon takes its name from the most famous African beasts: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. This race takes runners right through the habitat of the Big Five with no fences or rivers to separate them from the wildlife.
Although you are unlikely to come into contact with the big five, antelopes, zebras and giraffes are regular features on a route of unrivalled natural beauty. The event takes place in the Entabeni Game Reserve in the Limpopo Province in the north of the country, sitting between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park. (June)
One of the iconic endurance events in the world. The Comrades event was first launched by South African infantry soldier Vic Clapham as a tribute to the spirit of the men he had fought alongside, who had perished in World War I.
The race begins in Durban and finishes in Pietermaritzburg, covering an astonishing distance of 56 miles. The event has been embraced by the nation as a whole and even cut across the racial divide during apartheid. It is covered live on national television and extensively in the South African media and attracts huge crowds. Organisers describe the event as ‘the world’s greatest race’. (June)
TWO OCEANS ULTRA MARATHON
Organisers have billed this as ‘one of the world’s most beautiful marathons’. The Two Oceans ultra marathon is set in Cape Town, South Africa’s stunning coastal capital city with the majestic Table Mountain looming large on the landscape.
Launched inauspiciously in 1970 as a training event for Comrades, the event has become a huge festival of running in its own right over the Easter weekend. Organisers also host two trail running events, fun runs and children’s races on Good Friday and a half marathon on Easter Saturday alongside the main event. The ultra marathon covers a 56K route, taking in peaks, forests and ocean in a visually-stimulating, yet leg-numbing run. (April)
Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is now an Abbott World Marathon Majors Candidate. The City of Cape Town proudly presents this marathon to running enthusiasts around the world. This will be Africa's first World Marathon Major. The running festival includes the Gold Label Status road Marathon, the 10K and 5K Peace runs, and two incredible trail runs. (October).
Image and video courtesy of Marathon Tours UK via Comrades Marathon