Where The Two Oceans Meet

The name of the Two Oceans Marathon was only adopted for the third edition of the race, and it required some serious brainstorming and debate to arrive at the now-famous name. – By Sean Falconer

After two successful editions of the Celtic 35 Mile Road Race in 1970 and 1971, Celtic Harriers agreed to make it an official club event, and authorised Dave Venter to look for a sponsor for the 1972 race. His employers, BP Southern Africa, declined the opportunity, and that saw Venter approach a keen supporter of the race, Bryan Grieve of The Argus newspaper, who introduced him to The Argus Promotions Department. The newspaper agreed to sponsor the race, with the proviso that it had a definite Cape flavour.

This led to a meeting of Celtic Harriers members at the Grand Hotel in Strand Street, Cape Town, to discuss a new name for the event. Among the suggestions tabled was Harold Berman’s ‘Inter Oceans Marathon,’ while Venter proposed ‘Oceans to Oceans,’ but it was eventually Noel Stamper who came up with the winning name, the ‘Two Oceans Marathon.’ This new name was welcomed by The Argus, who agreed to publicise the race, print race numbers and certificates for finishers, and present a new trophy for the winner. Thus the race became known as The Argus Two Oceans Marathon.

Putting Plans in Place

Next Venter formed a Celtic Harriers sub-committee, comprising John Masureik, Noel Stamper and himself, to plan the race and handle negotiations with sponsors and partners. This included another meeting at the Grand Hotel, where the Lions Club agreed to organise various refreshment and activity stalls at Brookside on race day. Furthermore, the Celtic Harriers team wanted spectators at Brookside to be kept entertained, so they organised a programme of sports events, including seven-a-side rugby and a demonstration of para-sports. It was decided to make two trophies available for the ‘Fastest Last Lap’ of the field at Brookside, one for veterans (40 and older), and one for non-veterans.

The sub-committee undertook to advertise the race to runners from other provinces, buying up postcards with Terence McNally’s portraits of the Cape and sending them to runners all over the country. This resulted in a record number of 115 entries, including runners from Laingsburg, East London, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg, and even two entries from Botswana and one from Australia.

 

At the post-race prize-giving, His Worship the Mayor of Cape Town, Dick Friedlander, told the runners that the Two Oceans Marathon was quickly growing into a Cape Town tradition, and this sentiment was echoed by The Argus committing to another year’s sponsorship. Meanwhile, the runners themselves also gave the race their wholehearted approval. As Boet Rabie of East London put it, “Your race has everything, and after the wonderful time we had, you can rest assured of a good entry from East London in future years.” Roland Davey of Durban summed it up in even fewer words: “A long distance to travel, but well worth the effort.”

A Hotly Debated Topic

Some believe that Cape Point at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula is where the warm Agulhas Current flowing down from the tropics in the Indian Ocean meets the cold Benguela Current flowing up from Antarctica in the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, others maintain that they meet at the southernmost point of the African continent, Cape Agulhas, about 175km south-east of Cape Town

The Two Oceans Marathon has always had one foot in either ocean. This is because the race runs past the warmer waters off Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek on the eastern side of the Peninsula, then passes the much colder waters off Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the western side. Ask any runner who has stopped for a dip along the way and they will tell you there is a big difference in temperature between east and west!

As a result, while the International Hydrographic Organisation officially recognises the waters of False Bay as part of the Atlantic Ocean, the Two Oceans Marathon prefers to think of the False Bay side of the route as the ‘Atlantic Ocean touched by the Indian Ocean.’ Meanwhile, given the debate over where the two oceans actually meet – Cape Point versus Cape Agulhas – there have been people who objected strongly to the name of the Two Oceans Marathon. As former Celtic Harriers Club Secretary Harold Berman explains, “The event was actually threatened with legal action twice in the 1980s, unless we agreed to change the name of the race. These weren’t actual lawsuits, just a threat to issue summons, because we were told that we were assuming incorrectly that the two oceans met at Cape Point. We never argued that point, but felt that the name of the event should stay.”

Official 2023 Comrades Pacesetters Announced

On Sunday 11 June, the Comrades Marathon will once again take to the roads between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, for the 96th edition of the Ultimate Human Race. As the thousands of runners tackle the 87.7km route, many will look to the guidance of the official Comrades Marathon Pacesetters to help them reach the finish within their target time, by hopping on to a pacing ‘bus’ led by these pacesetters.

The Comrades Pacesetters are all volunteers who regularly pace in races all over South Africa, under the auspices of one or more of the provincial pacesetting organisations. Being selected as a Comrades Pacesetter is considered a prestigious honour amongst the pacesetting community, and all the selected athletes have proven their pacing ability, fitness and reliability in the months leading up to Comrades. All of the Comrades Pacesetters have run the race a number of times before, and many have paced at Comrades before as well, so they bring a collective wealth of experience to the job.

While unofficial pacing has been part of the Comrades for many years, official pacing busses were first introduced to the race in 2003, with nine-time winner Bruce Fordyce (sub-9 Hours) amongst those first seven pacesetters, who led sub-9, sub-11 and sub-12 buses. Since then the pacing buses have become a big part of the Comrades Marathon, with the sub-12 buses in particular proving hugely popular as runners desperately try to beat the final cut-off, and many bus drivers are known for their singing, chanting and joking, which helps the runners get through the hard kilometres.

Permission Granted
As per strict rules introduced at the beginning of 2019 by Athletics South Africa (ASA), there is a clear difference between ‘pacing,’ which benefits contenders for prizes, versus ‘pacesetting,’ which is aimed at slower, non-contenders. Pacing is only allowed when officially sanctioned by athletics officials (national or provincial), while pacesetting is allowed as long as the race organiser has approved it. In this case, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has once again given permission for the official Comrades Pacesetters to carry flags in the Ultimate Human Race, and runners should take note that these are the only official pacesetters in the race.

Each bus driver will carry a distinctive flag denoting their target time, ranging in 30-minute intervals from sub-9 to sub-12, so that runners can easily spot them, hop on the bus of their choice, and rely on the Pacesetter to guide them home on time. This year, for the first time, the CMA has agreed to produce the flags that the bus drivers will carry, and Mr Price has come on board as well to kit the Pacesetters out for the Comrades Expo. (They will still run the race in their club colours.) Modern Athlete magazine is an official media partner of the Official Comrades Pacesetters, and will thus feature the Pacesetters in the mag before and after the race.

Tried and Trusted Pacers
The list of 2023 Comrades Pacesetters once again includes some well-known and highly experienced stalwarts of previous years, as well as a few new faces. Several important factors were taken into consideration in the selection process, including previous Comrades record, knowledge and experience of the route and distance, as well as historical pacesetting record, consistency and ability to lead a group home.

In the list below, they are arranged according to the target time they will be aiming for, and the list includes their name, home province, number of Comrades medals (for completing the race), and the number of times they have officially paced before in the Comrades. (Please note that where it says the runner is making their pacing debut, that pertains specifically to the Comrades. All are highly experienced Pacesetters, with many pacing races under their belts.)

SUB-9:00 (Bill Rowan medal)
Joe Faber (KwaZulu-Natal) – 24 Comrades (3 as Pacesetter)
Lizo Siko (Gauteng) – 3 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-9:30 (Safe Robert Mtshali medal)
Johan van Tonder (Gauteng) – 20 Comrades (11 as Pacesetter)
Nkosinathi Singonzo (Free State) – 3 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-10:00 (Robert Mtshali medal)
Maropeng George Mojela (Limpopo) – 12 Comrades (5 as Pacesetter)
Sbusiso Mlangeni (Gauteng) – 5 Comrades (2 as Pacesetter)
Wendy Mangena (Gauteng) – 11 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-10:30 (Safe Bronze medal)
James Nkosi (KwaZulu-Natal) – 14 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Tankiso ‘Moss’ Seabo (Free State) – 5 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Youssef Kanouni (Western Province) – 9 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)

SUB -11:00 (Bronze medal)
Jeff Ramokoka (Gauteng) – 22 Comrades (8 as Pacesetter)
Tumo Mokhatla (Free State) – 6 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Ashraf Orrie (Western Province) – 7 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-11:30 (Safe Vic Clapham medal)
Rahuma Lucas Seleka (Limpopo) – 14 Comrades (4 as Pacesetter)
Shaunie Maregele (Western Province) – 16 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
Frans Ramoshaba (Mpumalanga) – 1 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-12:00 (Vic Clapham medal)
Shahieda Thungo (Gauteng) – 5 Comrades (4 as Pacesetter)
Lazarus Malebana (Gauteng) – 12 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Sibusiso Mthembu (Gauteng) – 4 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

Where to Find the Pacesetters
The Pacesetters for each bus will aim to run the whole race together, and runners looking to join a bus early in the race will find them in the following seeding pens at the race start in Pietermaritzburg:
SUB-9:00 – Front of C Batch
SUB-9:30 – Back of C Batch
SUB-10:00 – Front of D Batch
SUB-10:30 – Back of D Batch
SUB-11:00 – F Batch
SUB-11:30 – G Batch
SUB-12:00 – H Batch

Please note: Given the nature of the challenge of the Comrades Marathon, runners can fall ill or pick up an injury near to race-day, and should there be any changes in the line-up of Pacesetters, Modern Athlete will post updated info on social media, and the provincial pacesetting organisations will also publicise any updates on their platforms.

For more info…
For more info on the official 2023 Comrades Pacesetters, please make contact with Joe Faber, Chief co-ordinator of the 2023 Comrades Pacesetting team, on 072 180 3769 or faberj532@gmail.com.

If you would like to know more about becoming a pacesetter, you can contact one of the pacesetting organisations via their Facebook groups:

This media release was compiled by Sean Falconer, Editor of Modern Athlete magazine. He can be contacted on 083 273 6289 or seanf@modernathlete.co.za. Photo by Tobias Ginsberg.

Two Oceans Champ Gerda Steyn Joins Phantane AC

It was announced today that three-time Totalsports Two Oceans Ultra Marathon winner, Gerda Steyn, has joined the KZN-based Phantane Athletics Club. Steyn, will be running in the club colours of Phantane for all of her races on South African soil in coming months, including the 2023 Totalsports Two Oceans Ultra Marathon on Saturday 15 April.

In 2022, Steyn broke Frith van der Merwe’s longstanding Two Oceans course record (3:30:36, set in 1989) when she clocked 3:29:42 for the 56km ultra as she won her third consecutive title in the event. She also won in 2018, clocking 3:39:31, and scored a repeat win in 2019 with a 3:31:28 finish, less than a minute outside the then course record. (The race did not take place in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID pandemic).

Steyn therefore currently has three wins, placing her joint second on the all-time list of Two Oceans winners alongside fellow three-time women’s winners Bev Malan (1982, 1983, 1985), Angelina Sephooa (1997, 1998, 1999) and Olesya Nurgalieva (2008, 2010, 2011), as well as men’s winners Siphiwe Gqele (1983, 1984, 1985) and Marko Mambo (2004, 2005, 2008).

Only two athletes have won the race four times, and both are women: Monica Drögemöller (1988, 1990, 1991, 1992) and Elena Nurgalieva (2004, 2005, 2009, 2012). If Steyn wins again in 2023, she will join them on four wins, but will also become the first athlete to post four consecutive wins in the event, and she will become the first athlete to win a fourth title while also being the course record-holder.

When asked about her decision to join the Phantane club, Steyn said, “It is such an honour to represent Phantane Athletics Club. The club prides itself on the development of athletes and to be part of the club feels incredible.”

On behalf of the club, the Club Manager, Mdu Khumalo, said that Gerda joining the club is a huge milestone for Phantane: “It is a privilege to have an elite runner like Gerda running in our colours.”

Totalsports, as sponsor of Phantane Athletics Club as well as title sponsor of the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon, welcomes Gerda to the team and looks forward to watching her in action this coming year.

Mgabhi’s Ultra-Asia exploits to foot the bill for much-needed school shoes

She’s run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents and now Nontuthuko Mgabhi has set herself a new challenge: the 160km Ultra-Asia race from 6-9 March.

For Nontuthuko, it’s not about personal achievement or conquering the ultra-running world but rather a mission much closer to home – rural schoolchildren. So far, the Richards Bay runner has raised over R3 million through her various athletic adventures to better the lives of kids living in poverty.

There were five new classrooms, an admin block and new toilets for Khiphinkunzi Primary School in Mtubatuba, food packages, face masks during the Covid pandemic, and now – school shoes.

“Kids from rural villages have to walk far to get to school because there aren’t many schools,” explained Nontuthuko, who apart from training every day also works as General Manager of Human Resources at Richards Bay Coal Terminal.

She adds, “A school shoe, therefore, becomes a mode of transport, yet some families can’t afford them due to socio-economic factors. A school shoe competes with bread and butter…. These children come from communities and schools that are underserved. A school shoe should not stand in their way. Every child should have a fair chance at success. So this is about reducing or removing barriers to finishing school.”

Nontuthuko’s mission is to raise another R140,000 to provide 500 new pairs of school shoes to learners at five different schools in Mseleni on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast. That’s why she’s been running 130-1340km per week in preparation and will board a plane to Vietnam on Saturday to take on the gruelling Ultra-Asia race.

The four-stage event includes a brutal 6000 meters of positive elevation and 7000 meters of negative elevation and requires runners to carry their own supplies. Each night they sleep over in local villagers’ houses.

“I do not run for the podium, I run for the joy of it and for social impact – to make a small impact,” explained Nontuthuko, adding “This race is particularly special because during the event, we will spend the nights in traditional houses on stilts. This kind of experience keeps me grounded and aligns well with the causes I run for. I run for children from the deep rural villages, with special focus on the North Coast. Running a race where I will immerse myself in the villages is spiritually awakening. I love that!”

Asked whether she is daunted by the task ahead, Nontuthuko reckoned: “You need a strong mind, legs, and back. I am also in the right mood and mental state for it. I feel calm. Running for a cause has helped me to enjoy the process more, knowing I am running for something. This is how my initiative called: ‘Go Beyond for a Child’ was born. I run long and far for a child in need.

“Running for a cause has ignited me. I have always loved adventure and have taken on daring challenges before, but since 2019, my love for adventure has grown immensely as I get to achieve a lot through my passion for running. I get the opportunity to give back and change lives, thanks to generous sponsors. They make it happen, they believe in me and the causes I run for,” added Nontuthuko, making special mention of kit sponsor Salomon, MANI Industries, Hollywood Foundation and Bidvest Tank Terminals for their support of her previous challenge.

Those wanting to donate to the cause can do so online at: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/primary-school-children or for more information email: nontu.mgabhi@icloud.com

Mad About the Traverse

As a spectator at the Rhodes Dryland Traverse in 2021, I could already see why it is considered an aspirational, must-do, bucket-list event by many in the South African trail running community, and having ‘graduated’ to stage racing during 2022, I jumped at the opportunity to run it myself this past November. It turned out to be a wonderful running experience, in spite of a few challenges my side, and left me wanting more of the Swartberg trails, awesome vibe and banana bread! By Nicole Hayes