New Era for Two Oceans Following Move Off Easter Weekend

The long-standing tradition of the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon taking place on Easter Weekend has come to an end, following today’s announcement by the Two Oceans Marathon NPC (TOM NPC) that the next edition of the Western Cape’s biggest road running event will take place on 15 and 16 April 2023.

This marks the first time since the fourth edition of the Two Oceans Marathon in 1973 that the race will not be held over the Easter Weekend, but on the following weekend instead. The race will be held over two days, with the 56km Ultra Marathon scheduled on Saturday 15 April 2023 and the Half Marathon taking place on Sunday 16 April 2023. (More thoughts on this below from the Modern Athlete team.)

Two-Day Format

The TOM NPC says its long-term plans to grow the capacity of both the Ultra and Half Marathon have made it necessary to adopt a two-day format. This was first implemented during the 2022 Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon, and will once again be the case for the 52nd edition of the Two Oceans Marathon in 2023. This provides the only feasible framework for accommodating the upscaled logistics requirements, with runner safety at the core of these considerations.

In turn, the two-day format necessitated the move away from the Easter Weekend, as agreed with various public, hosting and supplier stakeholders. Following consultations, negotiations and an agreement with the City of Cape Town, business stakeholders, and sporting affiliations, the date for the 2023 Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon has now been finalised as the 15th and 16th April 2023.

“After extensive consultations and negotiations, it is good to be able to provide the many runners – not least our international athletes – with the clarity they have been seeking,” says Two Oceans Marathon Chairperson, William Swartbooi. “Moving to a new date is never easy. While we can’t please everyone, we have tried our utmost to factor in all considerations – and there certainly were many. Building on the success of the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon 2022, we look forward to delivering an even better edition of our globally iconic race in 2023.”

He adds: ‘The move away from the Easter Weekend is a watershed moment for Two Oceans Marathon. It was not an easy decision, but a necessary one, in order to future-proof the event and gear it for growth. When the sum of all factors is considered, we believe we made the most practical decision we could in order to achieve best outcomes not only in 2023, but over the medium-term, and indeed the long-term future of the race.”

Mixed Reactions

The Easter Weekend trip to Cape Town has been a much-loved tradition for half a century, even more so since the Half Marathon and Fun Runs were added to the event programme in the 1990s, making it possible for the whole family to participate. Judging by comments on social media as well on within running club WhatsApp groups, the announcement of the new date has met with both strong approval and disapproval from the South African running community.

Some who approve say they are glad to see that the event will no longer clash with one of the most religious weekends on the Christian calendar, but some in the Muslim community have expressed disappointment that the 2023 date still places the Two Oceans within the Festival of Ramadan, making it extremely challenging to train for and participate in the event.

The most outspoken criticism has come from up-country runners, many of whom have said that the Easter long weekend made it possible to travel to the Cape for the race without it impacting too much on work commitments, whereas a normal weekend may prevent them from travelling next year. On the other hand, some have said the cost of flights may be lower if the race is not on Easter Weekend, which is traditionally one of the busiest periods for travel across SA.

Our Take on Things

The Modern Athlete team believes that in spite of some negative initial reactions, the running community will adapt and get used to the new norm for Two Oceans – just as the running community adapted to the Comrades Marathon moving off the 16 June public holiday and becoming a normal weekend event. It remains to be seen where (or whether) the Trail Runs, Fun Runs and International Friendship Run will fit into the event programme. These events used to take place on Good Friday of the Easter Weekend, but have not been held since the last pre-COVID edition of the race in 2019.

Also, we feel that many runners who are against this new date for the event may not comprehend the bigger picture, that the Two Oceans Marathon has to be slotted into an incredibly congested event calendar in the Mother City, and thus finding an open weekend is not as simple as it sounds. Around that time of year, the city also hosts the Cape Town Cycle Tour as well as many other sporting and cultural events, and we have no doubt that it took a lot of hard work for the race to arrive at the decision that the weekend of 15-16 April will be Two Oceans weekend.

From a tourism perspective, the move away from Easter may have some negative effects on the city. Studies in past years showed that the Two Oceans Marathon contributes up to R672 million to the local and provincial economy annually, making it Africa’s biggest running event when measured by this metric. This was partly due to entire families decamping to Cape Town for the Easter Weekend for the race, then spending the rest of the weekend, or even week, enjoying the Mother City’s attractions. We may now see less families travelling to the Cape for the event, especially if the Fun Runs are not reinstated for now, but we think that with time, the people will come back to the event.

Lastly, it has been widely reported that the 2019 and 2022 editions of the Two Oceans faced considerable challenges, on various levels, including widespread objections this year to the running of the Ultra on Easter Sunday. The 2023 edition will be an opportunity for the event not only to avoid a repeat of those objections, but to consolidate and focus on getting the essentials right, then build on that by growing numbers, reinstating supplementary events and activations, and more. In short, Team Modern Athlete is excited to see where the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon goes from here.