Cape Town leg of SPAR Women’s Challenge Series Cancelled

SPAR Western Cape has taken the difficult decision to cancel the SPAR Women’s Challenge in Cape Town, one of six road races in the SPAR Grand Prix series, run throughout the country. The race was to be held on Sunday, 5 April in Green Point.

The announcement follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent address to the nation in which he laid out drastic measures to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. These include the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people, and an embargo placed on large events.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to cancel the event for this year,” commented Elsabe van Zyl – Felix, advertising manager for SPAR Western Cape. “The race has a loyal following and we are mindful of how disappointed the women who have entered will be.

“However, we fully embrace the bold initiatives of Government and all their healthcare partners, who are doing everything in their power to overcome the global threat of this virus.”

Race entry cut off was scheduled for Sunday, 22 March. SPAR has taken the decision to refund the R120 entry fee to all entrants. The race organisers have requested patience in this regard, as they prepare all the reconciliation and administrative needs. They further confirm that entrants will receive official correspondence from the Race Office regarding refunding details and the process thereof. No refunds will be made via any SPAR store, please refer refund queries to: info@topevents.co.za.

The sponsors have also committed to honour the race beneficiaries, and an amount of R100 000 each will be donated to Operation Smile SA and the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.

“This is a time for all of us to pull together and beat this deadly virus. We need to stay positive and be sensible if we are to flatten the curve.” Van Zyl – Felix said that she would like to thank Western Province Athletics for all their hard work to date. As well as media partners, Heart FM and Die Burger, and all other stakeholders.

Update on the SPAR Grand Prix series

The Port Elizabeth race, which would have been run on Saturday, 28 March has been postponed. The organisers have reserved Saturday October 17, 2020 as a revised date for the race.

SPAR Group Marketing Executive, Mike Prentice, said the sponsors of the Challenge were disappointed but needed to act in the best interests of all South Africans.

“We live in uncertain times,” said Prentice.

“We have to act in accordance with the Government’s directives, and with the best interests of all South Africans in mind.  Our chief concern is the health and safety of everyone.

“We will review the situation in six weeks and make any further announcement then, when we will also announce a decision on the Durban SPAR Women’s Challenge, which is scheduled for the end of June.”

The SPAR Women’s Challenge Series is run annually in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban, Tshwane, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg, with top runners earning points towards the SPAR Grand Prix. Despite the cancellation of the Cape Town event, the SPAR Grand Prix will continue but will be calculated over five instead of six races.

The Tshwane and Maritzburg races are scheduled for August and the Joburg SPAR Women’s Challenge for October 5.

Race Status Update by Province

With the South African Government declaring COVID-19 a national disaster and putting strict interventions in place meaning no mass gatherings of more than 100 people till the 15th April a lot of running, triathlons and cycling events have been affected. We are doing our best to keep runners updated with the status of upcoming events status, please see all immediate events listed below with links to race contacts, courtesy  Runners Guide, to guide runners on affected races.

JHB_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Zwartkop Nite Race Series 4
Date: 18 March 2020
Venue: Zwartkop Country Club
Organiser: Bout Time Events
Status: Postponed TBC Date
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Adventure Trails Simparica Avianto Run/Walk
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Avianto Clubhouse
Organiser: Adventure Run
Status: Cancelled
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Sunnypark Right to Run/Walk
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Sunnypark Mall
Organiser: Arcadia Running Club
Status: Cancelled
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Vaal Mall 4 in 1 Challenge
Date: 21 March
Venue: Vaal Mall
Organiser: Arcelo Mittal Athletics Club
Status: Cancelled
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AdventureRun Rockfalls Trail Walk/ Run – Rock Falls Ranch
Date:22 March 2020
Venue: Rockfalls Ranch Conference Centre
Organiser: Adventure Run
Status: Cancelled
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Joburg North City Marathon
Date: 22 March 2020
Venue: Marks Park Sports Club
Organiser: RunZone
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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West Rand Marathon
Date: 22 March 2020
Venue: Greenhills Stadium
Organiser:
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Barn Pizza Adventure Night Trail Run
Date: 25 March 2020
Venue: The Big Red Barn
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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J.P Morgan Corporate Challenge
Date: 26 March 2020
Venue: Wanderers Athletic Club
Organiser: Wanderers Club
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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AdventureRun Sunset Trail Run/Walk
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Komga Show Grounds
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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AdventureTails Barn Walk/Run – Big Red Barn
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Big Red Barn
Organiser: Trail Adventure
Status: Cancelled
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Kingskloof 4 Seasons Trail Run-Autumn
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Kingskloof at Laurentia Farm
Organiser: Master Event Timing
Status: Cancelled
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Barn Adventure Trail Run/Walk – Big Red Barn
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: The Big Red Barn
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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Jackie Gibson Marathon & Alan Ferguson Half Marathon
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: Klipriversberg Recreation Centre
Organiser: Johannesburg Harriers Athletic Club
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Kosmosdal 8 & 5km Fun Run/Walk
Date: 29 March 2019
Venue: Kosmosdal Checkers Shopping Centre
Organiser: Kosmosdal Athletic Club
Status: Unknown
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Kimiad Adventure Night Run/Walk
Date: 1 April 2020
Venue: Kimiad Golf Course
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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AdventureRun Houghton Golf Course Night
Date: 2 April 2020
Venue: Houghton Golf Club
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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AdventureTails Cow Trail Run/Walk
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Hazledean Valley Trails
Organiser: Trail Adventure
Status: Cancelled
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Cool Ideas Cradle Mountain Trophy Trail Run
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Maropeng Amphitheatre
Organiser: The Leverage Corporation
Status: Unknown
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Ford 3-in1
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Ford Motor Company Sports Grounds
Organiser:
Status: Unknown
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Alan Robb 32km & 15km
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Germiston Stadium
Organiser: Germiston Callies Harriers
Status: Cancelled
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Fresh @ Wolwespruit Trail Run
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Wolwespruit Trail Park
Organiser: Fresh Trails
Status: Postponed to 3 May
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Gandhi 12 & 6km Walk
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Gandhi Hall
Organiser: Gandhi Walk Committee
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Ingaadi Spa AdventureRun
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Ingaadi Spa
Organiser: Trail Adventure
Status: Cancelled
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JointEze Irene Ultra Marathon
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: ARC Irene Campus
Organiser: Irene Athletics Club
Status: Cancelled Now Virtual Race
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Smuts Irene River Night AdventureRun
Date: 8 April 2020
Venue: Smuts Irene
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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Randburg Harriers Easter 100
Date: 10 April 2020
Venue: Ranbdurg Sports Complex
Organiser: Randburg Harriers
Status: Cancelled
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AdventureTails River Walk/Run – Smuts Irene
Date: 11 April 2020
Venue: Jan Smuts Irene River
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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Frenus Zietsman Race Against Drugs 10km
Date: 11 April 2020
Venue: Pilditch Stadium
Organiser: Mamelodi Athletic Club
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Ekurhuleni Chris Hani Half Marathon
Date: 12 April 2020
Venue: Vosloorus Stadium
Organiser: Vosloorus Runners Athletics Club
Status: Cancelled
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CT_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Hero Adventure Night Trail Run Series
Date: 18 March 2020
Venue: Spice Route Estate
Organiser: Hero Adventure Trails
Status: Cancelled
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Die Poort Half Marathon & 10km
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Uniondale Show Grounds
Organiser: Grasshoppers Outeniqua Harriers
Status: Cancelled
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Paarl Mall Half Marathon & 10km
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Paarl Mall
Organiser: Boland Masters
Status: Unknown
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Tyger Half Marathon & 10km Run/Walk
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Tyger Valley Centre
Organiser: Top Events, Durbanville Athletic Club
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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Trail Series Super League 4 of 7 – Paarl Mountain
Date: 22 March 2020
Venue: Oak Valley
Organiser: Wild Runner
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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VWS Nuweberg Trail Challenge
Date: 22 March 2020
Venue: Cape Canopy Tours
Organiser: Volunteer Wildfire Services
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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Merrel Autumn Night Run Series powered by Black Diamond
Date: 25 March 2020
Venue: Simon’s at Groot Constantia
Organiser: Mountain Runner Events
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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Outeniqua Quest 108km Nonstop & Ultra
Date: 26 March 2020
Venue: Millwood Hut
Organiser: CSM Sport & Entertainment
Status: Cancelled
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KKI Volstruiswedloop Half Marathon & 10km
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Wesbank Primary School
Organiser: Oudtshoorn Athletic Club
Status: Unknown
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Leapfrog Gordon’s Bay Half Marathon & LabourWise 10km
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Gordon’s Bay Primary School
Organiser: Strand Athletic Club
Status: Leapfrog 21.1km will be replaced by the False Bay 50km for 2020 on 10 May
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Tygerberg 30km
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: Tygerberg Athletic Track
Organiser: Tygerberg NLC Athletic Club
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Merrell Autumn Night Run Series powered by Black Diamond
Date: 1 April 2020
Venue: Groot Constantia Wine Estate
Organiser: Mountain Runner Events
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Kingfisher MTB & Trail Run
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Beyond the Moon
Organiser: Chain Gang Events
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Ravensmead 15km
Date: 4 April
Venue: Florida Park
Organiser: Ravensmead Athletic Club
Status: Cancelled
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SPAR Women’s Challenge
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Green Point Precinct
Organiser: Western Province Athletics
Status: Cancelled
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Merrel Autumn Night Run Series powered by Black Diamond
Date: 8 April 2020
Venue: Simons at Groot Constantia
Organiser: Mountain Runner Events
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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AdventureRun Barn Run/Walk
Date: 10 April 2020
Venue: Big Red Barn
Organiser: AdventureRun
Status: Cancelled
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Two Oceans 24km & 12km Trail Run
Date: 10 April 2020
Venue: UCT Grounds
Organiser: Two Oceans Marathon NPC
Status: Cancelled
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Two Oceans Fun Run
Date: 10 April 2020
Venue: UCT Grounds
Organiser: Two Oceans Marathon NPC
Status: Cancelled
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Legends 10 & 5km
Date: 11 April 2020
Venue: Church Square
Organiser: Worcester Athletics Club
Status: Unknown
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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon
Date: 11 April
Venue: Main Road
Organiser: Two Oceans Marathon NPC
Status: Cancelled
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EC_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

SPAR Women’s 10km – Port Elizabeth
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Pollok Beach
Organiser: Walmer Athletics Club
Status: Postponed to 17 Oct 2020 (Provisional)
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Real Gijimas Ultra Marathon
Date: 22 March 2020
Venue: Masizakhe Children’s Home
Organiser: Real Gijimas
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Cabbage Patch 15km
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Komga Show Grounds
Organiser: Border Athletics
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Correctional Services 10km Classic
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Farmers Market
Organiser: St Albans Correctional Services
Status: Unknown
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Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Challenge
Date: 10 April 2020
Venue: Royal St. Andrew Golf Course
Organiser: Kowie Striders
Status: Postpone, New Date TBC
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Status:
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FREESTATE_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Standard Bank Black Mountain Challenge – Two Days
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Black Mountain Hotel & Spa
Organiser: Cityrun (Pty) Ltd
Status: Postponed to 22-23 August 2020
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Mwelase Half Marathon, 10 & 5km
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: HTS School
Organiser: Real Lions Athletic Club
Status: Unknown
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Potato Pride Wilge Marathon, Half & 10km
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: GJ Humans Sports Ground
Organiser: Goudveld Multisport
Status: Unknown
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Date:
Venue:
Organiser:
Status:
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KZN_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Drakensberg Northern Trail Run
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Border Post
Organiser: KZN Trail Running
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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The Solly M Crescent Challenge
Date: 22 March
Venue: Kings Park Stadium
Organiser: Crescent Sporting Club
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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AdventureRun Port Shepstone Golf Course Run/Walk
Date: 25 March 2020
Venue: Port Shepston Country Club
Organiser: AdevntureRun
Status: Cancelled
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Route Six 2 Two Trails
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Oaksprings Farm
Organiser: Six 2 Two Trails
Status: Postponed to November 2020
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Checkout Half Marathon & 10km Run/Walk
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: King Park Athletic Stadium
Organiser: Checkout Verulam Falcons AC
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Rocky Bay Trail Run
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: Rocky Bay Resort
Organiser: KZN Trail Running
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Tronox Umhlathuze Marathon & Half
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: Umhlathuze Athletic Club
Organiser: uMhlathuze Athletic Club
Status: Cancelled
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Umgeni Water Marathon, Half & 14,47km Run/Walk
Date: 29 March 2020
Venue: Baynesfield Recreational Club
Organiser: Collegians Harriers
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Giba Gorge Night Fun Trail Run
Date: 1 April 2020
Venue: Giba Gorge MTB Park
Organiser: Giba Gorge MTB & Adventure Park
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Arthur Creswell Memorial Ultra Marathon & Half Marathon
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Oaklahamba Municipality
Organiser: Ladysmith Athletics Club
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Bushman’s Trail Run
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Wagendrift Dam Campsite
Organiser: KZN Trail Running
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Durban City Marathon and Half
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Kings Park Stadium
Organiser: KwaZulu-Natal Athletics
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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Holla Trails Classice
Date: 5 April 2020
Venue: Fairview Estates
Organiser: Holla Trails
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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MPUM_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Standerton Goldi 4-in-1
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Standerton High School
Organiser: Standerton Marathon Club
Status: Cancelled
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Gert Sibande District Marathon
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue: Gert Sibande District Office
Organiser: Ermelo Marathon Club
Status: Unknown
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Richkim & John Henry Consultants 10km & Fun Run
Date: 1 April 2020
Venue: Kees Taljaard Stadium
Organiser: Midack Athletic Club
Status: Unknown
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Buffalo Gorge Trail Series
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Buffalo Gorge Eco Adventure Centre
Organiser: Buffalo Gorge Eco Adventure Centre
Status: Continuing limited to 90 people
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Great East 3 in 1
Date: 11 April 2020
Venue: Great East Sports Club
Organiser: Great East Athletic Club
Status: Cancelled
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York Dusk Till Dawn Race
Date: 12 April
Venue: York Engelhard Park
Organiser: Fresh Trails
Status:
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NW_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Bushveld 32 & 10km
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Hoerskool Brits
Organiser: Amanzi Athletic Club
Status: Postponed to 5 December 2020
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Carletonville Half Marathon
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Carletonville Mall
Organiser: Pulsesport
Status: Unknown
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Ale Trail Run
Date: 28 March 2020
Venue:  Black Horse Brewery
Organiser: Wild Africa Experiences
Status: Still Continuing Limit of 90 Runner for two Days, pls monitor website
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NC_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Phakamile Madija Human Rights Half Marathon
Date: 21 March 2020
Venue: Galeshewe Stadium
Organiser:
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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Konica Minolta Kimberley Road
Date: 28 March
Venue: Bishops Old Boy’s Club
Organiser: Vodacom Kimberley Road Runners
Status: Postponed New Date TBC
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LIMPOPO_HEADER-BANNER-600x97 Race Status Update by Province News

Mall of the North Marathon
Date: 4 April 2020
Venue: Mall of the North
Organiser: Polokwane Athletic Club
Status: Postponed, New Date TBC
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2020 SPAR Grand Prix Likely to be Closest on Record

Closest Series Yet!

The 2020 SPAR Grand Prix appears likely to be one of the closest in its 14-year history. The SPAR Grand Prix, which is one of the most important contests in South African road running, recognises the most successful athlete in the six SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge races, which take place around the country from March until October.

Prize money this year amounts to just under R550 000, not counting the prize money for individual races.

Runners accumulate points according to their position in each race, with the winner earning 20 points and the 20th placed runner earning one point.  They can also earn points by beating the winning time in the corresponding race in 2019.  All runners who beat this time receive 10-time incentive points.

Will Helalia Dominate Again?

Namibian runner Helalia Johannes dominated the 2019 SPAR Grand Prix winning all six races in record time.  She finished the competition with a full house of 180 points – the maximum possible. She was the first person to achieve this. In several races, the fast pace set by Johannes saw several other runners earning bonus points as well.

SPAR Grand Prix coordinator, Ian Laxton, says this is what will make the 2020 SPAR Grand Prix so competitive. “I don’t think we will see so many runners earning time points this year,” said Laxton, adding, “In fact, I think even Johannes will find it hard to beat the times she set last year.  This means that every point will count – I think there will be just two or three points between the top runners.”

“They won’t have that nice cushion of 10 points and they will have to run every race,” said Laxton.

Rewards for Up and Coming Runners!

Young up and coming runners will also be eligible for an exciting new award – the Breakthrough Runner of the Year.  This will be awarded to a South African athlete, who, in the opinion of the panel of judges, has shown the most improvement, and who has made an impact on the SPAR Challenge Series for the first time.  The winner will receive prize money of R20 000.

Race Ambassadors!

Three-times SPAR Grand Prix winner Rene Kalmer has once again been named an ambassador for the SPAR Grand Prix and this year she has been joined as ambassador by the 2017 winner, Kesa Molotsane.

“I am very happy and excited to be an ambassador for the SPAR Grand Prix,” said Molotsane. “Through the Grand Prix, SPAR has done much to empower women and I am very pleased to be able to give something back.  I believe I can offer hope to other women.”

Modern Athlete have been named media partners of the 2020 SPAR Grand Prix season and the series is endorsed by Athletics South Africa.

The first SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race takes place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday March 21 and the second in Cape Town on Sunday April 5. The Grand Prix then moves to Durban (21 June) followed by Tshwane (1 August), back to KwaZulu-Natal for the Maritzburg race on 16 August and ends in the City of Joburg (4 October) which this year celebrates its 30th race Birthday.

Globetrotting FrontRunner

Had you asked a younger Wandisile Nongodlwana if he could see himself someday travelling the world for work and running, while inspiring people to follow a healthy lifestyle and develop the self-belief to get out and go for a run, he would probably have stared at you blankly. Yet in spite of his incredibly humble background, this inspirational athlete is the reason many people have started running. This is the story of his journey from the rural areas of the Eastern Cape to the farthest corners of the globe.

By Manfred Seidler

If you are an ardent follower of running on social media, you may have seen Wandisile Nongodlwana’s trademark jump as he crosses the finish line of his latest event or adventure. You may also have seen recently that the 43-year-old Wandi, as he is known to many, was part of an international team of runners that took on the London to Paris Challenge organised by Asics in April this year. 10 runners from all over the world, all part of the global Asics FrontRunners programme, were selected to run from London to Paris and then finish the journey with the Paris Marathon. “We had to send a motivational letter to Asics on why we should be doing this, and I got in. The goal was to test various shoes for Asics. We ran in their new Metaride and had to give feedback, and it was quite an experience,” says Wandi.

While the challenge was supposed to be a marathon distance every day for 10 days, including the Paris Marathon, it turned out differently, with one day even being 75km long. “We had to deal with blisters, and people had shin splints. We had to carry our food with us during the day, as only breakfast and dinner was catered for. So the first day was a marathon, day two was over 50km, and day three became 75km. We were not all at the same fitness level, and ran at different speeds, so that did cause some friction, which was made even more difficult by the language barriers. We had a massive blow out in the group on day three, but that seemed to be needed, as from then on there seemed to be a better understanding and tolerance level. It was very interesting to see how people reacted to different stress levels and situations.”

Unsurprisingly, the trip left Wandi with many memories and indelible impressions. Perhaps the most profound came on the morning of day four, as the group ran along the famous white cliffs of Dover in the UK, before departing Newhaven on the ferry to cross the English Channel to France. “That was really special. And high!” he exclaims. “I lay down on my tummy, crawled to the edge and looked down. I was literally looking down on the seagulls flying around the cliffs. But lying there was also a spiritual experience for me. It was so peaceful. I lay there looking down for about five minutes. Initially the adrenaline was pumping, but then I calmed down and felt this amazing sense of peace and awe. It seemed that all the troubles in the world had become insignificant. I was that much at peace.”

Humble Origins

This jet-setting life as an international runner and brand ambassador is a far cry from Wandisile’s humble start to life. He was born on 24 December 1975, in the remote village of Soto Location in Mooiplaas, some 40km outside of East London, the eldest of five siblings. Life was challenging for Wandi and his family: Water had to be fetched from the river in buckets, there was no electricity, the family slept in one hut, and afternoons and weekends were spent herding the cows and goats. His mother had no education, and his father had left school in Standard 2. Life was a battle… so for Wandi, the escape was education. He learnt from a very early age that he needed to excel at school if he wanted to leave the rural and humble surroundings he was growing up in.

Wandi is a talented runner, but not in the realms of those select few who could earn a living from it – only a tiny number of South Africans fall into this category – and his running started much later in life, anyway. At school his first love was soccer. “I was a number nine, a striker,” says Wandi with that infectious laugh of his. When asked who his idol and inspiration was amongst the world’s top players, he replies that he didn’t have any specific heroes that he followed. “We did not have TV when we grew up. It just happened that way.”

Once Wandi hit Standard 8, he moved in with his uncle in Duncan Village, a township in East London. As with primary school and his junior high school years, Wandi threw himself into his studies in East London, and when he matriculated, he was awarded a full bursary from Liberty Life to go study Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Wits in 1994. The hard work was beginning to pay off!

The Big Smoke

That bursary literally changed Wandi’s life, but it was a big move for the 18-year-old. “I literally only had 50 bucks, which my grandmother gave me. I also had the clothes on my back and a tog bag full of other clothing and toiletries. That was it.” As he says that, he holds up a regular sports tog bag to demonstrate how little it actually was. “Fortunately, the bursary covered everything, all my tuition and my accommodation. I went into a fully-catered res, so all meals were catered for. All my books, stationery, everything.”

The bursary also changed the fortunes of Wandi’s family, as it effectively made him the ‘bread-winner’ in the family. The small amount of pocket money he got from the bursary funds was supplemented by tutoring on weekends and in school holidays, and all that money went back home to help the family. After Wandi finished his studies and started to work, the money continued going to the family. “My first job, my first salary cheque went straight to my younger brother, who was in his first year at PE Tech.” That trend continued with his other siblings, too, and he then brought one sibling after another up to Johannesburg, paid for their tuition and also rebuilt the family home in Soto Location. His parents have passed on, so he is now the head of the household.

Today Wandi works for De Beers in IT, as a system manager, a position that sees him travel frequently to places as far-flung as Canada. His travel schedule for work, on top of frequent travels for running, means that he needs to spend as much quality time as he can with his wife and two children. “It isn’t always easy, but I make sure that the time I spend with them is the best time ever.” Wandi is a very private person and keeps his family life away from the exposure of social media, even though he is very active on social media as part of his running. “That is my life and is separate from my running, and the columns I do for Asics as an Asics Front Runner. That will always be sacred to me, and I will not expose them to that side of my life.” 

The Running Bug

Wandi’s introduction to running came some years back when he was part of a business relay event for work. “My leg was 7km long and the guy I handed over to was to run 11km, but at the changeover, he wasn’t there. You know, at these changeovers, there is always a big crowd and the person you hand over to is not always right there, so you sometimes have to look for them. But this guy wasn’t there, so I ran through the changeover point, thinking that maybe he would be further down the road. He wasn’t, so I just ran the next leg. I ran 18km that day, and I was like ‘Hmmmm, I can do this running thing.’ And that is how the running bug bit.”

“I then met a guy in the gym who would get there in the morning for training, but he was already sweating. He told me he was training for Comrades and ran in the mornings before doing his gym. It was quite funny… I knew nothing about having to qualify for Comrades. I knew absolutely nothing about running, I just knew I had to do Comrades.” And with that Wandi began training for and ran his first Comrades in 2008, finishing in 9:55:59. Having now run the race 12 consecutive times, he has posted a best of 6:39:45 in 2018 and has seven silver medals to his credit, including six in the last six years.

These days Wandi races in the veteran category and occasionally finds himself on the podium, which he says has reignited his passion for racing, but adds that his focus has changed from always trying to improve his times and chasing medals and podiums, to rather trying to inspire others to run. “In the past three, maybe four years, my focus has changed. It is now more about inspiring people. I want to show people that you can do well, whatever ‘well’ means to each individual. I won the Golden Gate stage trail race a few years ago with no sponsor. It was literally through dedication and hard work, so that is the message I am now trying to send.”

Becoming a FrontRunner

The biggest impact on his running career has been in the last three years, thanks to his successful application to become an Asics Frontrunner. In 2016 Asics advertised on social media that they were looking for brand ambassadors, or as they call it, FrontRunners, and Wandi’s friend Charmaine Mohokare encouraged him to apply. “She told me I had nothing to lose, so I applied and I became part of the crew in 2017. Through being a FrontRunner, I have had so many opportunities and experiences to run races, so it has been really good for me. But being an Asics FrontRunner does come with responsibilities, and I still want people to just be inspired to be their best. After all, I became a Frontrunner because of trying to motivate people.”

By far the biggest opportunity that has come Wandi’s way through his association with Asics is the London to Paris Run, which he describes as a life changing experience. “I learned so much. We had runners from Russia, Portugal, the UK, Germany, and more, 10 runners from 10 different countries, and of course very few spoke decent English, which made communication very difficult. There were also different cultures, different outlooks on life, which made it a very interesting trip. For starters, not all of us ran at the same level, so we had to figure out how each person would run, and subsequently ended up in broadly two groups. Obviously there were also interpersonal dynamics.”

Having gotten through the longer than expected first few days and overcome the initial problems of communication and approach within the group, the 10 Frontrunners duly made it to Paris and lined up for the marathon, which they all ran and finished together. Wandi says the sense of achievement they felt as a group was immense, of having conquered a huge challenge, but even more gratifying was the newfound friendships, and all that they learnt along the way.

“That journey was one of deep introspection for me. I learnt so much, grew as a person, and discovered things about myself of a deeply personal nature, which show me that your background does not limit you. Work hard, look for opportunities and when these are presented to you, embrace them with open arms,” says Wandi. “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity provided to me by Asics, and I am looking forward to new adventures.”

Dave’s 50 in 50 Dream

For most ultra-runners, tackling the Two Oceans Marathon once a year is more than enough, but this year Dave Chamberlain tackled the ultra route 50 times in 50 days in the build-up to the 2019 race. Here is the story behind this incredible feat.

By PJ Moses

When it comes to long distance running, Dave Chamberlain has done quite some distance on his feet. In years gone by he ran the length of Argentina, then ran across Canada, and followed that up with a run through the Namib Desert. Then in April this year he undertook his most recent running adventure, tackling the Two Oceans Marathon 56km route 50 times in 50 days, including running the race itself as his 50th ‘Voyage,’ to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the race in 2019.

So, the last thing you would expect to hear the man from Pretoria say is, “I don’t actually like running. I think I might even hate it.” Well, he sure has a funny way of showing it, given his various running exploits, but he quickly explains further: “Running is just plain uncomfortable for me, so I have a strong dislike of running just for the sake of running. It makes little sense to me.” However, add a charitable cause to the run, and then whatever the distance, Dave is your man!

For the Penguins

Thus in March he began his 50-day challenge, to raise much-needed awareness and funds for BirdLife SA, with the goal to raise over one hundred thousand rand to help save the African penguin from extinction. His daily run along the race course soon caught the attention of the Cape running community, and the media, and he was given plenty of support, sometimes had running company, and did a number of interviews as well. Naturally, he was asked again and again why he was doing such a seemingly crazy thing, and he gave the same answer each time.

“Over the past seven or eight years, I’ve completed other running projects, but what drew me to this most recent one was the desire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Two Oceans in a way that had local appeal. Also, I mostly try to run for environmental causes, and so chose penguin conservation due to the position that penguins hold, especially from a tourism perspective and the threat of their extinction. They are even more endangered than rhinos! All those times spent birdwatching with my Dad when I was a kid just made them the obvious choice. Also, I chose to run for BirdLife SA, because they do amazing work, even while being under financial pressure to simply continue being viable,” says Dave.

Calling the campaign 505050 and working in conjunction with BirdLife and Utopia (who did the marketing pro bono), Dave started a crowdfunding campaign and even had a dedicated website where people could follow his journey on a daily basis, through vlogs and updated stats. With the logistics and marketing taken care of, all he needed to do was concentrate on the running, but a lot more went into the challenge than just doing 50 kays a day!

Preparing to Run

Initially, all planning for the event went along the lines of ‘that seems doable,’ says Dave, and he made sure not to let himself think too much about the distance, or else it may have become a major stumbling block to his success. “I’m actually the laziest person I know – sometimes even too lazy to order Uber Eats. In that case, I’ll usually just drink two litres of milk for lunch. So if I did any deeper research, then it might have scared me off from the idea entirely. Instead, I spent three months leading up to the start of it, travelling around SA and Lesotho, looking for hills to run up and scenery to photograph.”

He used the Sport Science Lab at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria for his base during his training, and focused especially on strengthening his core during this conditioning phase. He also had to work on his mental preparation for what lay ahead. “I seem to always learn – or perhaps re-learn is more accurate – that I’m an idiot. Mostly in a charming, naïve way, thankfully, but still. The repetitive nature of running the same route for 50 days, through a city, was interesting from a psychological perspective. It’s certainly opened my eyes to looking at different ways to approaching future projects.”

He says that he is lucky to count on a supportive family to back him up during his running adventures, although he says that it is a challenge trying to live up to his two sisters. Both are accomplished ultra-distance athletes themselves, having completed iconic races such as Comrades, Maraton Des Sables and IronMan, and Dave says they are a tough crowd to impress. “I am sure they were impressed at the beginning of my running exploits, but I think they have become used to it now.”

Looking Within

Given his apparent dislike of running, it comes as no real surprise that Dave did not really enjoy running when he was younger, either. “I was at an all-boys school and sport was always a part of the culture at the school. It was used as a tool to promote participation and a chance to try out different codes, but for me it was just a way to pass the time and nothing really stuck. I never developed a passion for any one particular sporting code.”

He may not have found a passion for running back then, but somehow it found him again some years after school. “My first running project was motivated by the need to catch a boat at the southern tip of Argentina, before it sailed, but since then these challenges have morphed into finding a way to travel cheaply, while supporting conservation, and also while fulfilling a desire to understand human psychology. Finding someone to be my ‘crash-test dummy’ seemed like a tricky undertaking, so I decided to ‘experiment’ on myself.”

Doing such long distances by oneself can appear to be a lonely experience, but Dave enjoys the time spent in his own mind. “I never get lonely on my runs. There is so much happening, whether in the world that I am running through, or inside my head. It is very exciting to see what is around the next corner. Also, when I run, I don’t listen to music, because it serves as a distraction. My big motivation for running is travelling, and I want to be present in the environment that I am passing through, so I don’t want to intrude on that experience with music. Also, from a safety perspective, I want to be able to hear approaching cars and bicycles.”

Challenging Undertaking

Even though this was not his first running project, Dave says it was by far one of the toughest. “The lowest point of the project came on days 19 and 23. “I am not a big fan of cities, but ironically I went through a dark space because I could not participate in and enjoy the city life that I saw everybody else immersed in. Being in Cape Town and not being able to go to a Kirstenbosch concert, for example.”

One of the other challenges he faced was getting himself out of bed in the mornings. “Once I was at the start in Newlands and began running, I was fine. I think that it helped to not have a reason not to do it. In much the same way that many people don’t have a reason not to go to work, in spite of the rush-hour traffic that they know awaits them.” And when running became hard and the pain and discomfort felt like it may overwhelm him, Dave would remind himself that “This too shall pass.” He uses this phrase as his “reminder to endure the bad times, enjoy the good times and to embrace life, because they are all just transitory.”

But no man is an island, and even though he was the one running solo most days, the support of others helped to carry him through. “You can’t do these big runs without some much-needed support from others, and I was lucky to have some very good friends who live on Constantia Nek, so I could get sandwiches to nibble on and jump into the pool to refresh. I was also ‘adopted’ by Harfield Harriers as an honorary club member, and their support meant the world to me. All the help just meant that I only had to focus on doing the actual running and not much else.”

With a Little Help from Friends

The project was initially a self-funded and self-supported effort, but Pick n Pay stepped up and joined Dave in making it a success. “Being self-supported, I was looking for three watering holes along the route where I could maybe buy a snack and drink. I approached Pick n Pay with a request for a couple of drinks and an energy bar discount, per day, but they came back and sponsored my entire nutritional needs for the project. For that I owe them a very big thank you.”

“Also, the people I encountered on the route each day were fantastic. It meant a lot to me, even if it was just a hoot or a wave as I ran by them. It was interesting seeing how the various suburbs along the route responded to my repeated presence, but if I am to give out medals for support then it would have to go to the folks of Muizenberg, Noordhoek and Hout Bay.”

Ironically, his biggest obstacle came during the actual race, at kilometre 17, when the crowd of runners around him felt like it was suffocating him. “I’d run the course for 49 days, with all the space in the world, and found the crowds on race day claustrophobic. Luckily, I was able to start running along the pavement, and escape the crush. And after that, with the gradient starting to kick up to the base of Ou Kaapse Weg, the road opened up nicely. So, I stopped being grumpy.”

Next Challenge, Please

This former scuba diving instructor is a man trying to keep busy, and when he is not working in the family business, Dave is usually looking for his next running adventure. “The moment that I finish, I’m already thinking of the next possibility. I think that it comes down to the fact that I don’t do these projects for running reasons, so the physical completion of the project is merely part of the cycle towards the next chance to travel, or to explore my psychological state.”

He is not a bucket list type of guy, but he has a few ideas for interesting adventures that may be worth a go. “I already have my eye on something for January. Without running projects, I would quickly turn into a blimp. I am keen to find out how many marathons I can do in a row, other than that I would love to run the original routes of the Tour De France, Giro Da Italia or the Vuelta Espana, just to annoy the cyclists.”

He is even considering a run across Japan or Nepal, but that would depend on how much cash he can save between projects. Other than running vast distances, Dave is also a keen photographer… or at least, he tries to be. “I sometimes try to take photographs, but then I’m struck with the dreaded thought of having to hop in a car, and drive five kilometres to my sister’s house, to go develop them in my darkroom, so I have a lot of undeveloped film in my camera bag.”

Dave the Dreamer

Dave is a big believer in chasing dreams, and doing the things that bring joy to your life. “We have no control over the past, nor the future. And, we only have marginal control over the present. When presented with these brief moments, take control, no matter how silly they may seem. Kids live in their own realities, and I challenge you to find a happier sound than a bunch of little hooligans running around living their best lives. Taking control of the present is the best way that I know to add value and direction to my life, and a sense of peace,” he says.

“How you choose to manifest that control is up to you. If you like stamp-collecting, dedicate an hour a week to completely immersing yourself in stamp-collecting. If you love to bake, but don’t know how to give back to society, go to a nearby orphanage, get a list of birthdays, and bake each child a cupcake for their birthday. The sense of recognition that that child will receive is far greater than anything that I can achieve through running, and it takes so little of one’s time. Change is possible, and opportunities are all around us. You don’t need to save the world. Bringing a smile to a strangers face is all that is required.”

The challenge he sets for all of us is a simple one, but one that many people struggle to fulfil in their own lives. “Never let anyone destroy your dreams, and never destroy anyone else’s.” Dave is doing his best to live true to those words, and so should we.

13 Peaks to Solve a Quarter-life Crisis

The 13 Peaks Challenge was conceived by Ryan Sandes and after he had run the roughly 115km route, he invited all trail runners to give it a go, with the aim to summit the 13 peaks of the Table Mountain Range on the Cape Peninsula. One of the most recent to finish the challenge was Leigh De Necker, and this is her story of an epic two days of summiting.

A quarter-life crisis is an odd thing. Mine started about a year ago, and included one (and a half) unsuccessful romantic relationships and their respective break-ups, family dramas, moving house, financial struggles and career uncertainties. So, stuff we all have to go through… In order to deal with this, I run. I converted all my frustration into the energy that got me running faster and stronger than ever. I was fired up and ready to take on my second ultra-marathon. But, two days before the Two Oceans 56km, I got chicken pox. A vaccinated, 28-year-old, on Easter weekend, with chicken pox!

I was forced to miss the race and was quarantined. I screamed, cried, swore, threw tantrums threw things, scratched a little, ate a lot. I was incredibly unpleasant to be around, and to look at. Turns out, viruses and anti-virals really mess with your heart, physically, and rob you of all your fitness (and happiness). Okay that is dramatic, but stubborn as I am, I decided to train anyway, and as my luck would have it, I got injured. By that stage, I was sitting with about 23.1% sanity remaining.

So before I went around kicking children, I decided to allow myself time to recover and I entered a consolation race, the Knysna Marathon. Fast forward to training for said marathon, running it, and doing pretty well, considering my misfortunes, I fell in love with trail running all over again in the process. Things were looking up! But, then I lost my little dog, Gigi, in a tragic accident, and with that experience, I lost my last little bit of sanity. So, before sanity would return (or in order to regain it), I decided to take on the 13 Peaks Challenge. I’m not sure if I was literally trying to run away from all my problems, or if I was really just in search of some kind of perspective. Hope?

Up for the Challenge

So yes, this was a fantastic idea, considering I had never run more than 56km on the road and only 25km on trail. A two-day, 115km, 6585m elevated mission up 13 of Cape Town’s most iconic mountains definitely seemed realistic… especially since I have zero sense of direction. So bad, in fact, that I still get lost looking for peanut butter in the supermarket I visit weekly. So, if I were to do this, without accidentally navigating my way off Chapman’s Peak, it would have to be with a little (or lot) of help.

Luckily, it didn’t take much to convince my friend Sean Altern to join me. He is always over-prepared for such things, while I am always underprepared. Sean is patient, I’m not. Sean doesn’t swear, I do. Sean is always calm, I’m not. So Sean basically prepped everything, while I contributed snacks, bad ideas, inappropriate jokes and wet wipes (that nobody ended up using anyway).

Leading up to this, I could not think of anything else but the challenge. I spent a lot of time running (and getting lost) in the mountains to prepare, but I knew it was 90% a mental game! The combination of nerves and excitement was overwhelming, but also a relieving distraction from all the issues causing the above-mentioned quarter-life crisis.

Very Early Start!

Before I knew it, it was 4:30am on 2 August 2019. Breakfast was chicken mayo and vegetables on toast. Since I’d never taken on a challenge of such proportions, I figured I’d eat a bit of everything, and hopefully the body would find something useful. JJ Bell and Sean picked me up and we were on our way to Signal Hill (Peak #1). Alex Topliss met us there for the start, and we took a few photos before setting off at 5:07am. It was dark, but a perfect winter’s morning! As we trotted on and up, reaching the summit of Peak #2 (Lion’s Head), we looked down at our fellow Capetonians also sitting at their peak… peak traffic.

Waves of fog and cloud slowly crept in from the sea and over the city lights as we looped down, but it didn’t take long to start the next climb up Kloof Nek, and we enjoyed a jog along the edge of Table Mountain. We looked back every so often to see the top of Lion’s Head peeking out above the blanket of clouds, which we were now well above. The sound of waterfalls, traffic, hooting owls, hooting cars, rustling leaves and trees is an endemic remix only Cape Town can offer. As the city lights dim and the sun lights up the mountain, a sensory overload of magic is experienced. It was all fun, laughs and inappropriate jokes, Sean listening quietly while Alex and I spoke a bunch of nonsense. Sean must have known what was coming, as it didn’t take long for the infamous Platteklip Gorge to shut Alex and I up. I had never climbed the gorge before, but people always spoke of it being quite nasty. It was.

Upon reaching the top, we started running again. It felt like we were running on the moon, leaping between cratered rocks and dodging puddles. Well, Sean just ran through the water, clearly not too concerned about the dreaded “trench foot,” despite his constant referrals to the condition. We skipped and slipped our way over a few frosted boardwalks to reach a big pile of rocks triangled to form Peak #3, Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain as well as the Cape Peninsula. The view included beautiful sneak peeks of bits of mountains, city and sea between patchy clouds.

Slip-Sliding Away…

After a few majestic poses on top of the beacon, we said goodbye to Alex and descended the back of the mountain. It was surprising to see so many frosted board walks, and Sean slid right down one into a bush. I had a long, loud laugh, before asking whether he was ok. He was, and our fall scores were officially, Sean 1 – Leigh 0. This side of the mountain was shaded, so it was a little chilly, but the descent allowed us some time to move faster and warm up. This was also the first water refill point. We relied largely on drinking water from the rivers, waterfalls and mountain streams, and nature provided us with ice cold, fresh water for the duration of our adventure.

Another cool thing about this challenge is that the journey between and to the top of each peak is so different, from the vegetation, to the rock formations, to the paths leading to the summits. Grootkop (Peak #4), was no exception. The path (or sometimes lack thereof) was overgrown with dense bushes. In between some rocks we found the occasional Aloe hiding, which was awesome to see. This one was a real Bundu-bash getting to the top, where the clouds did not really allow us too much of a view, but the mission up there with our legs in full 4×4 mode was great fun!

As we bush-whacked back down, creating our own path for most of the way, it was a little cold until we made our way down through the clouds, passed the shadow of the mountains and back into sunlight. There was a fair amount of single track to Judas Peak, #5, and for any trail runner, a stretch of good old single track is pure bliss. Judas Peak was one of the easier climbs for me, but one of the most spectacular views. Hout Bay was clear in sight now and so was our next peak.

Stunning Views

The decent down Judas was incredibly steep, taking us through all kinds of gullies and cracks, but with some really awesome views. The ocean was flat, 50 shades of blue, making it look deceptively tropical. We did experience a small rockfall at one point, which I initially thought was a baboon, bergie or caveman coming after us (your imagination goes a little wild after being in the mountains for six hours). The path eventually spat us out on Suikerbossie Road in Hout Bay and then it was literally straight up Klein Leeukoppie (Peak #6).

We definitely underestimated this one. It is terribly named, because there is nothing “Klein” about it. The path sometimes just ends randomly, forcing some rather intense rock climbing. In a lot of ways, the climbing was actually great – using our arms to pull ourselves up gave the legs moments of relief. Fatigue was definitely being felt, though, but it is so important to stay focussed, as the smallest foot misplacement could result in a nasty fall.

We eventually made it to the top, to yet another breathtaking (literally) view. We decided this was a good time to take a 15-minute break to have something a little more substantial to eat. Up until this point, we had been snacking on biltong and energy bars mostly, so a peanut butter and jam sandwich for me and a bag of Big Corn Bites for Sean (and simply just sitting down), really gave us the boost we needed to proceed.

Spot of Trespassing?

Straight back down and we got in touch with JJ de Villiers from CCP in Hout Bay. Sean and I had a WhatsApp group with JJ, Ray Chaplin and Ryan Sandes to send progress updates and share the adventure, but also for safety reasons. Due to security concerns in the Hout Bay area, JJ had offered to meet us on Sandy Bay beach and watch us go up and down Suther Peak (#7) safely. However, finding JJ and Sandy Beach was a laugh… The map led us to an electric fence and closed gate (which we only later discovered had an intercom for someone to open for us).

Not knowing this at the time, we missioned through woody vegetation to find a way around, but ran straight into another stretch of fence. The top was barbed wire, so the only way through was under. Gentleman Sean bent and lifted the bottom of the fence while I squeezed under. I couldn’t lift it high enough from my side to help him, though, so he lay there wiggling, unable to move past his crotch area. I laughed at him again, but eventually he slipped through. This put us on somebody’s private estate, so the concern of a viscous dog or sniper attack was real! So we ran along the road quite quickly, infused with subtle panic, trying to look as though we belonged there, and eventually we made it out alive. Along the way, we explored a few roads which were interestingly named after either flowers or really old people, before finally making it to JJ.

We had a brief introduction and briefing from JJ and then up Suther Peak we went. I was a little low on water, but was so distracted by how epic this climb was. I do see why it is referred to as “Suffer Peak,” but it’s a beautiful, pleasant kind of suffering, as twisted as that sounds. In between bright green plants were little bright yellow flowers (Sean, the nerd, was dropping scientific names everywhere). There were a few leafless, bare, burned trees, and looking through their frames back down on the ocean, now lit up by the midday sun, was nothing short of spectacular. This was definitely a favourite!

Game Face On!

Back on Sandy Beach, JJ rewarded us each with a strawberry Steri Stumpi, and I sat on the beach chugging from a five-litre bottle of water. Ray was there too, taking photos, laughing, joking – perfect company for a little pit-stop. We refilled on water and refuelled our spirits, then trotted back down the streets named after old people. The next stretch involved a lot of road running, through to the other side of Hout Bay, dodging pedestrians and drivers who should never have been awarded their licences. Meanwhile, Ray leap-frogged us to capture some epic photos. Sean and I walked the ups, but every time we saw Ray and his camera, it was “Game face on, pose, run, look fresh!”

My Garmin’s battery died at the Chappies tollgate, and of course, I had not brought the charger, but Sean’s Fenix was still running, and of course, he had his charger. (Sidenote: I want a Fenix.) A Red Bull before our mission back into the mountains had me fired up to summit Chapman’s Peak (#8) before sunset. Now infused with sugar and caffeine, I think at one point I even suggested the one-day challenge, but there was no comment from realistic Mr Sean. The light was stunning, with sea, sky, mountains, plants all saturated with deep blues, greens, orange and yellows, and we made it just in time to enjoy the sunset at the beacon.

I had set up another WhatsApp group before the challenge for family and friends, where I posted pictures, videos and updates, and where I got the most incredible support and encouraging replies. One of the many things I gained from this experience was a boost in appreciation for all the indescribably awesome people I have in my life, who love me and back me in all my madness! After tagging our eighth peak on the group, I received another unexpected message, from somebody who really, and seemingly carelessly, broke my heart in the past. A message that, a month, maybe even a week earlier, would have really rattled me. I did, admittedly, send a few strong four-lettered words echoing through the mountains, but I quickly settled into feelings of indifference, liberation, healing, forgiveness, contentment and peace.

One More Climb

We spent a while going on in the ‘almost dark’ without our headlamps, just as a safety precaution to not attract too much attention to ourselves in the low light. As we popped over another little hill, we switched our lights on and then it was up and up to our final peak for the day. I really struggled with this climb. It had been a long day on the legs, and I was overwhelmed by the enormity of what we had already done. Every step felt heavy, and the climb felt really long and steep. Now that we were back in the dark, I was also disorientated, which exhausted me further.

When it started to get foggy, I realised we were high up, ascending through a cloud layer again. Sean was constantly encouraging me, which helped too and I could hear my phone buzzing from my support crew. Finally, we hit a steady jeep track, went through a hazy layer and into clear, starry skies at the summit of Noordhoek Peak (#9). “Sean, look how awesome Simon’s Town looks!” I said. “Leigh, that is Hout Bay!” Clearly, I was still disorientated, but on such a high… again, literally!

We took a ‘Blair Witch Project photo’ with our headlamps and then took the opportunity to reflect on the day and say a prayer. We thanked God for newly found perspective, and appreciation for family, friends, nature and the strength we just proved we have in our bodies, hearts, minds and spirits! It was really powerful, and I’m grateful to have shared it with a friend like Sean, and everybody from my support crew, albeit indirectly. I also took the opportunity to honour and pay tribute to my Gigi girl, which was a special moment for me too.

It was auto pilot on the downhill through Silvermine, past the dam, back on the road, out the gate and across the road onto Ou Kaapse Weg. We were pleasantly surprised to hear the legend JJ de Villiers cheering us on for an awesome end to Day one. Ray and JJ Bell were there to meet us with blankets and more Steri Stumpies, and Ray had got me my favourite dinner, a peanut butter bliss smoothie and Prince Wrap from Kauai for the trip home to rest.

Back to the Trails

I did not sleep well. My legs were a little sore, but my biggest ache was the bottom of my feet. I think it was from the sand in my shoes. I was, however, more overwhelmed by the experience, reflecting on it and going through all the messages from family and friends. I slept lightly for about four hours and then got up just before 4am. It was chicken mayo, veggies and chocolate for breakfast, and the running started just before 5am.

Another start in the dark and as we set off, we noticed a set of eyes reflecting the light of our headlamps. It was a little bokkie. This was so cool to see, and on another perfect winter’s morning, we summited Muizenberg Peak (#10) just before 6am, looking down on a lit-up city still fast asleep. This was a nice warm-up peak to get the heart pumping and legs going again, but I was having trouble getting water from my hydration pack, and was concerned that there was an issue with the drinking pipe.

After a crazy amount of fiddling fuelled by frustration, rage and thirst, I finally discovered that by simply twisting the little mouth nozzle to 90-degrees, the free flow of water is unlocked. I have had this pack for months, done countless runs with it, and I only realised this now! I may not have provided too much functional use or benefit to Sean, or myself apparently, but there is no doubt that my moments of being an absolute imbecile provided Netflix-level entertainment. This was followed by a quick toilet stop, which further strengthened our friendship, as Sean graciously passed the ‘white gold’ to me from the neighbouring stall. Then it was a bit of complaining about sore feet, a sand-removing shake of the shoes and back over Ou Kaapse Weg, through the gate, past the dam, this time heading towards Constantiaberg.

Tired Legs, Slow Progress

We found a rather large slug on the path, which we dubbed our mascot and pacesetter, as his pace was representative of the speed at which we were going! I could feel yesterday’s fatigue and was moving very slowly, but moving nonetheless. It was misty as we climbed, but the morning sun shone through, bringing out the saturated colours of our surroundings as we summited Peak 11. I tried to jump onto the beacon for a photo, but my legs were not ready for that kind of commitment and I just ended up kicking Sean instead.

The downhill along a mountain bike track allowed us to pick up some speed again and see from a distance the mountains and surrounds of Hout Bay we had conquered yesterday. Then there was a (relatively) small climb called Vlakkenberg, which I also suggested be renamed to something more appropriate (but inappropriate to repeat here). We came across some trail runners who recognised us from the social media posts Ryan Sandes had been doing, and they gave us a round of applause and encouragement as we passed.

We descended past a pig farm and back onto the road at Constantia Nek, where Ray was waiting with friends Gen and Justin. It was such a nice surprise to see them, and they joined us up to Klassenkop (#12). The company was great and the way up was mainly a steep Jeep track, which made a pleasant change from the millions of rock and stair climbs. As we passed De Villiers Dam on top, the path converted to single track, which then became bushy, then rocky (like the moon again, or what I would imagine a place like Utah to look like), and ultimately involved crossing a gully, via a tree, to get to the beacon (a pile of rocks). This was another of my favourites, being particularly unique, and the laughs with Gen and Justin made it that much more awesome. Gen also fell. I laughed again. Later I fell too, so Karma. And overall fall scores were tied.

Into the Home Stretch

I had done Devilʼs Peak (#13) the week before, so I felt confident about the last stretch, but I had heavily underestimated the mission between Peaks 12 and 13. Day 2 had a lot more distance between peaks than Day 1, and I started to feel a little frustrated, because we would climb up and then go down again, then up, then down. Nursery Ravine was a very steep, technical down, but eventually we entered the forest, so in my head we were almost close to my ‘home turf.’ After more up, down, up, down missions, my feet were starting to burn and for the first time, I was starting to feel a little fed up.

Eventually we came across a landmark I thought I recognised as an area I run through often. White rocks. Well, turns out there are a lot of patches of big white rocks in the forest, and we were in fact 4km further back from where I thought we were. It was, once again, very disorientating, but this time also disheartening. I became frustrated with myself because I already have a complex about how dreadful my navigation is, so this really ticked me off. Sean continued to be encouraging, but I was grumpy and had lost my sense of humour, so I told him to allow me to sulk.

Finally, a waterfall I really did recognise, and Ray standing under it with more Red Bull. My smile was back, because for the first time in the whole challenge, I knew exactly what I was in for. Red Bull chugged, another one in my backpack and up and over Newlandʼs Ravine. Sean was motoring, but I was still going at the pace of the Constantiaberg slug… but I was going. Sean did stop to wee a lot, though, throughout the challenge, which allowed fantastic opportunities for me to snack, often. With the sound of his piddles, coupled with the rustling of my energy bar wrappers (along with my clicking ankles and the bass from my heart beat, compliments of the Red Bull), we created our very own “ode to the peaks” anthem.

Time to Reflect…

Then, Devilʼs Peak was done! In trying to find the appropriate rock to balance my phone on for a self-timer shot, I probably added an extra kilometre to my total distance. Anyway, out onto Tafelberg Road, Ray and Tam were waiting with more Red Bull and an assortment of sugary snacks, and then it was auto pilot to the end. There was no more pain, no more frustration, and I was hardly taking in the views anymore, just the occasional glance up to where we were, and where we needed to be.

Racing to catch the sunset, dodging a string of cars that were trying to do the same, we finished the 13 Peaks loop at Signal Hill at 18:17 on 3 August, having run 37 hours, covering 115.8km and 6585m of elevation! Tam and Ray popped the champagne, and I was climbing the beacon like an ape, and doing handstands all over it. Sean just celebrated calmly like a civilised human being.

At the end of all of this, I found the perspective and hope I was looking for. I learnt a lot from the beautiful heart my Gigi dog had, and increased appreciation and love for the incredible people I have in my life. I found physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength I did not know I had. It was my so-called quarter-life crisis that led me to this point, so maybe a quarter-life crisis is not such a bad thing after all, but rather a blessing.

Recognising the best behind the business of sport at the 2019 Hollard Sport Industry Awards

The very best work behind the business of sport which spans marketing, PR, digital, sponsorship, advertising, community investment, social media and branding were awarded at the Hollard Sport Industry Awards, held in Johannesburg on Friday night.

“We are thrilled by the increased number of entries we saw for this year’s awards as well as the caliber of work that has been done. Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to everyone who submitted entries. Without the work that they do, we wouldn’t see the iconic sport moments that have captured our attention as well as the development work that goes into bringing these sporting moments into our homes and common spaces. As an organisation, we find it meaningful to enable better futures through sponsorship of these important awards” says Heidi Brauer, Chief Marketing Officer of Hollard.

Biggest Winner’s

Levergy, the Sport and Entertainment arm of M&C Saatchi, took home four awards on the night including the Activation of the Year award for their work on “Nedbank Cup #Teamup4kzn” – an initiative which used the Nedbank Cup to drive awareness and raise funds for relief efforts and cleanup operations after the catastrophic flooding which hit Kwazulu-Natal 3 weeks before the Cup was played. The Levergy team also won Best use of PR (sponsored by Belgotex) for the excellent use of public relations around this same campaign as well as the Hollywood Bets sponsored category of Best Digital Platform for their SuperSport TV Twitter activation. Levergy also walked away with the much-coveted Agency of the Year for 2019, sponsored by Gallo Images.

One of the most sought-after awards on the evening, Campaign of the Year sponsored by Nielsen Sports, which was initially erroneously awarded to the wrong agency, went to Openfield for their outstanding work on the Vodacom Super Rugby campaign. Openfield also won Best Sponsorship of an Event or Competition for Vodacom Super Rugby, sponsored by WorldWide Sports.

T&W, winner of Agency of the Year last year, won the FujiFilm Best Audio-Visual content for 2019 for their Orlando Pirates 80 Legends campaign.

Best Sponsorship of a Team or Individual, sponsored by Golf Guys, went to creative sports marketing agency Retroactive for their work for client Biogen and James ‘Hobbo’ Hobson, the journey of a regular South African guy who went from being unfit and weighing 130kgs to completing the Ironman 70.3 in Durban in June. Not surprisingly, Retroactive, which was formed in October 2018 by Bryan Habana, Mike Sharman, Ben Karpinski and Shaka Sisulu also won Young Agency of the Year, sponsored by Modern Athlete.

Other awards on the night included:

  • Best Live Experience – M-Sports Marketing Communications (Carling Black Label Cup Match Day 2019) – Sponsored by Deloitte
  • Best New Sponsorship – Playmakers (Powerade Fit Night Out) – Sponsored by NB Sport Development
  • Development Programme of The Year – Peschl Sports and Spotlight Public Relations (Go! Durban Cycle Academy) – Sponsored by the Thebe Foundation
  • Participation Event of the Year – Stillwater Sport (FNB Run Your City Series) – Sponsored by Thirsti
  • Hollard Brand of the Year – DHL

Honouring The Greats

Highlights on the night include the awarding of the Leadership in Sports Business award, sponsored by Engen, to Francois Pienaar. Francois, who played for the Springboks from 1993 until 1996 winning 29 international caps while captain, is perhaps best known for leading South Africa to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. In 2003, he founded the Make a Difference (MAD) Leadership Scholarship Programme, to produce the country’s next generation of young leaders.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Sue Destombes, who has been the Secretary General at COSAFA (the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations) for the past five years. Sue has a career spanning more than 40 years, primarily in marketing and event management in the soccer industry and was hand-picked by FIFA to act as a mentor in their Female Leadership Development Programme. Sue has worked tirelessly to promote women in football and was instrumental in bringing back the COSAFA Women’s Championship, as well as securing funding for the tournament, despite lack of sponsorship interest.

Personality of the Year, awarded to someone who has had a memorable year in the local sport industry and who has raised the profile of the industry in a manner that demonstrates innovation, leadership and business acumen, was given to Annelee Murray. Annelee has been involved in rugby for the past 20 years, 19 of which as the PR Manager for the Springboks. She is an integral part of the team, having been with them through 225 test matches, 7 coaches and 15 captains and is often referred to as the hardest working Springbok, which is testament to the passion and dedication with which she approaches her life’s work.

The Sports Person’s Lifetime Community Award, sponsored this year by Tshikululu Social Investments, is presented to an individual with a minimum of 20 years of significant philanthropic contribution to community and sports development. This year this prestigious award was awarded to Morne Du Plessis.

A member of the International Rugby Hall of Fame, Morné is the owner and director of Sports Plan. Among its achievements, is the establishment and management of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa with Tim Noakes, and the Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.

The Sport Industry Group, the organiser of these awards in Johannesburg, is represented in South Africa by Creative Space Media and is a networking organisation that sits at the heart of sport. Through editorial content and constant engagement with the industry, the Sport Industry Group looks to celebrate excellence and stimulate conversation, setting the agenda for the world’s most dynamic industry

Can Johannes Continue SPAR Grand Prix Domination?

The 2019 SPAR Grand Prix Women’s 10km Challenge series has reached its midway point, with Namibia’s Helalia Johannes firmly in the lead after three wins in the first three races. Now, can she make it four from four in the Pretoria leg on 3 August, or will her change of focus open the door to her rivals?

On the 23rd of June 2019, Helalia Johannes (Nedbank Namibia) exceeded expectations when she won the Durban leg of the 2019 SPAR Women’s Challenge series in 30 minutes and 59 seconds, the fastest time ever run by a woman on South African soil. That shattered the course record of 31:18, set by Colleen de Reuck in 2000, and also gave Johannes yet another new Namibian national record, in a year that has seen her post five new national marks across various distances. It also gave her three wins out of three in the SPAR series, after earlier wins in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Tadu Naru (Nedbank Ethiopia) was second in 32:36 and three times SPAR Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank Central Gauteng) was third, in 32:57. The top three all received 10 Grand Prix bonus points for finishing faster than last year’s winning time of 33:07.

Johannes now has 90 points, Naru has 86, and Van Zyl, for whom this year’s Durban leg was her first podium finish this year, has 78. They have opened up a big gap between themselves and the chasing pack, with 2017 Grand Prix winner Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts Free State), who finished seventh in Durban, currently in fourth place on the log with 67 points.

After the Durban race, Van Zyl made it clear that her priority had been earning bonus points. “I knew I couldn’t keep up with Helalia, but I was running for bonus points,” she said. “As long as you earn bonus points, you can keep in touch with the top runners. If one of them doesn’t run all six races, you are right up there with them.”

Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton agrees that bonus points could decide the outcome of the Grand Prix title. “Anyone who doesn’t run all six races will battle to win. The top three are so close that if one drops out, another is lying in wait for her,” he said.

Johannes, who is the reigning Commonwealth Games marathon champion, said after the Durban race that she would be turning her attention to training for the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar on 27 September. “I have been concentrating on shorter distances this year, but I will be doing more long-distance training from now on,” she said. “I don’t know how that will affect me if I run in Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg in the SPAR series.”

Van Zyl said the presence of international runners like Johannes and Naru was doing much for road running in South Africa. “They are forcing us all to run faster,” she said. “But it will be interesting to see what happens in the altitude races, in Pretoria and Johannesburg. And we are all really going to struggle to get bonus points next year!”

The Durban race was one of four in which juniors can earn points in their own category. Naru, who is 18, has an 11-point lead, with 20 points from the two races so far. In the 40-49 category, Bulelwa Simae (Boxer WP) leads the category with 14 points from three races, with Janene Carey (Boxer KZN) in second position on 10 points. The leader in the 50-59 category is former Comrades Marathon gold medallist Grace de Oliveira (Murray & Roberts KZN), with 11 points. Olga Howard (Nedbank WP) leads the 60+ category with 23 points.

In the club competition, Nedbank is firmly in the lead with 424 points, followed by Maxed Elite Zimbabwe with 138. Boxer is in third place with 132 points.

SPAR Women's Challenge Celebrates 30 Years in Durban

SPAR Women’s Challenge Celebrates 30 Years in Durban

The oldest race in the SPAR Women’s Challenge series, the Durban race, turns 30 this year, and the organisers predict a fast and exciting race as part of the celebrations on Sunday 23 June.

The Durban Challenge takes place two weeks after South Africa’s most famous race, the Comrades Marathon, and many of the women who did well in the Comrades Marathon cut their road-running teeth on SPAR Challenge races. Gold medallists Jenna Challenor and Charne Bosman are both former SPAR Challenge winners, while Comrades winner Gerda Steyn finished second in the Joburg race last year, after entering as part of her training for marathons.

There will once again be a very strong field for Sunday’s race at King’s Park. Namibian Helalia Johannes (Nedbank), who already won the Port Elizabeth and Cape Town races this year, both in record time, will be attempting to make it three in a row. Meanwhile, the talented Ethiopian junior Tadu Nare (Nedbank), who finished second in Port Elizabeth and third in Cape Town, will also be running on Sunday.

Among the top South Africans competing are 2017 Grand Prix winner Kesa Molotsane (Murray & Roberts) and three-times Grand Prix winner Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank). Last year’s podium finishers, Betha Chikanga (Maxed Elite), Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) and Nolene Conrad (Murray & Roberts) are also expected to compete on Sunday.

The elite runners are expected to put up fast times. In Cape Town, the first 11 were all under the 2018 winning time, while the first seven in Port Elizabeth beat the previous year’s winning time. This trend is expected to continue in Durban.

“Durban is traditionally the fastest race of the series,” said SPAR Grand Prix coordinator Ian Laxton. “It depends on the weather, of course, but I expect a lot of runners to earn bonus points for finishing in less than last year’s winning time.” Laxton adds that he also expects top South African runners such as Molotsane and Van Zyl to make a strong push to get on the podium.

IMAGES: Reg Caldecott

Most Memorable Comrades

Most Memorable Comrades

The 2019 Comrades Marathon will be remembered for many reasons, but the two standout performances of the year were undoubtedly those of men’s winner Edward Mothibi and women’s winner Gerda Steyn. – BY SEAN FALCONER

Winning the Comrades Marathon is considered the pinnacle of achievement in South African road running, and adding that title to your name opens the door to fame, media attention, sponsorships, endorsements and more. However, the way that Edward Mothibi and Gerda Steyn won the Comrades titles in 2019 went a step further, and their performances in the Up Run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg will long live in the memory.

After an eventful men’s race that featured several changes of the lead and then an exciting breakaway group of five contenders, it eventually came down to Mothibi, who finished fourth last year in his debut Comrades, going head-to-head with three-time winner and double defending champ Bongmusa Mthembu as they hit the final ‘Big Five’ climb on Polly Shortts. With most people following the race expecting Mthembu to once again use his strength on the hills to pull clear, it looked like things would go according to script as he opened a small gap on the challenger, but instead it was Mothibi who threw in a surge of his own and made the decisive move on the notoriously steep hill.

The old adage once again proved true, that the first runner to crest the top of Polly’s with 8km to go will go on to win the race. By the top, Mothibi had pulled 20 seconds clear of Mthembu, and he then powered his way to the finish at the Scottsville Race Track in Pietermaritzburg to claim the win in 5:31:33. Mthembu finished 25 seconds adrift in 5:31:58, with World 100km record holder Nao Kazami of Japan taking third in 5:39:16 in his debut Comrades.

After the race, Mothibi said that he had dug deep into his reserves of strength to overcome Mthembu up Polly’s, but that he had actually surprised himself by winning: “I didn’t plan to win; I just wanted a gold medal! I gave it all. I just pushed harder.” For his part, a gracious Mthembu conceded that the better man on the day won, and he added, “I could see Edward had a plan… everything I did he could respond to.”

Other notable finishers in the men’s race included Justin Chesire coming home sixth to become the first Kenyan to win a Comrades gold medal, and Zimbabwean Marko Mambo finishing eighth and first veteran. Also, in a heartbreaking finale, Nkosikhona Mhlakwana made a late surge to overtake Gordon Lesetedi and Siya Mqambeli to go into ninth position with just a hundred metres to go, only to stumble and falter, then watch helplessly as the last gold medal eluded him. Further back in the field, 1995 winner Shaun Meiklejohn finished his 30th Comrades in 6:56:16, while the two leading Comrades medallists of all time, Barry Holland and Louis Massyn, achieved their 47th consecutive medals in 10:29:42 and 11:51:52 respectively.

Majestic Gerda
The early leader in the women’s race was 2017 Down Run winner Ann Ashworth, who was on pace to run a 6:03 and smash Elena Nurgalieva’s Up Run record of 6:09:24, but it was Gerda Steyn who took control of the race just before the 30km mark, then flew up Botha’s Hill and further extending her lead to just under two minutes over Ashworth by the halfway mark in Drummond. For the rest of the race she serenely extended her lead, never looking troubled, and reached the finish in an incredible 5:58:53, smiling, waving and even doing a jig on the line.

Steyn had won the Two Oceans Marathon for a second time just seven weeks before the Comrades, where she missed Frith van der Merwe’s course record by just 53 seconds after deciding not to push too hard and thus save her legs for the Comrades. It didn’t look like the 56km Cape ultra had any adverse effect on her Comrades performance, however, as she became the first woman ever to complete the Up Run in less than six hours. Reminiscent of Van der Merwe’s incredible winning run in 1991, when she finished 15th overall in the Comrades field, Steyn came home 17th overall, winning by a margin of nearly 19 minutes over second-placed Alexandra Morozova of Russia (6:17:40), who was also second in 2017 and third last year. Third place went to debutant Caitriona Jennings of Ireland in 6:24:12, with Ashworth taking fourth in 6:27:15.

Steyn’s performance earned her a cool R1.2 million in prize money – R500,000 for first place, and incentives of R500,000 for a new course record and R200,000 as first South African finisher. Her winning time is the fourth-fastest ever run by a woman in the Comrades (although the three faster times were all on the Down Run), and she is just the fourth woman ever to win the Two Oceans and Comrades in the same year, after Van der Merwe (1989), Elena Nurgalieva (2004 and 2012) and Caroline Wöstmann (2015). After the race, Steyn said, “It is a dream come true! Many years of hard work came together today. It’s a real blessing… it’s the biggest achievement I can ask for.”