Top 10 South African Races

Featuring... Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50K, Two Oceans Marathon 56K, Loskop Marathon 50K, Joburg City Marathon, Comrades Marathon 89K, Spar/Mercury Women's 10K, Knysna Forest Marathon, Foot Of Africa Marathon, Soweto Marathon, Winelands Marath

Posted: 17 October 2008
by Alison Hamlett

Two Oceans Marathon 56K [Getty Images]

South Africa is home of the world’s biggest ultra, the Comrades Marathon, so it’s no surprise that many of the country’s other most popular races are long-distance extravaganzas that combine a festival atmosphere with supremely scenic running. Think of the ultra distances as the ultimate in value-for-money racing.

This top 10, put together by Runner’s World South Africa’s Online Editor Sean Falconer, should provide some inspiration if you decide to go south.. 

Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50K & Half-Marathon (March)

2009 Date: March 21
The Hartbeespoort Dam lies about 40-minutes’ drive from Pretoria and is a wonderfully scenic place to run. The ultra runs around the dam, affording lovely views over the water, and includes a dramatic crossing of the dam wall and sluice gates. Just watch out for Saartjies Nek, the big hill at 38K that can really take it out of you, hence the signboards placed halfway up the hill saying "Saartjie’s got you!" The accompanying half-marathon makes it a great family event, with both races starting at the same time.
Race website:

Two Oceans Marathon 56K & Half-Marathon (March/April)

2009 Date: April 11
The Two Oceans Marathon claims to be the world’s most scenic race, and the ultra lives up to that description as it courses around the cliff-face roads of the Cape Peninsula near Cape Town, providing runners with breathtaking views over the ocean below. The accompanying half-marathon has quickly grown into the country’s biggest 21K and despite being fairly hilly, it is an ideal race for first-time half-marathon runners thanks to its large field and great vibe. Add in the various shorter fun runs and you have a great event that offers something for everyone. The race always takes place on Easter weekend.
Race website:

Loskop Marathon 50K & Half-Marathon (April)

2009 Date: tbc
Run from the town of Middelburg in the province of Mpumalanga to the Loskop Dam, this scenic route starts with typical Highveld (High fields) vegetation before the scenery gradually changes into the Lowveld (Low fields). Crisp morning air with the scent of cosmos flowers greets the runners along the way, but don’t think it’s all downhill – there are a few monster climbs, notably Varaday’s Hill just before the finish. But the view of the dam and the nearby finish as you crest Varaday’s makes it all worthwhile. The accompanying half-marathon is almost entirely off-road and is extremely hilly, but equally scenic.
Race website:

Joburg City Marathon & 10K (May)

2009 Date: July 25
Johannesburg is known to the locals as Egoli, the City of Gold, thanks to the lucrative gold-mining industry that started in the 1800s and continues today. This single-lap marathon route leads you through the heart of the city and takes in many sights and sounds of the unique cosmopolitan blend that make Jozi stand out in Africa. The start and finish are in the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens at Emmerentia Dam, so leave some time for a bit of sight-seeing and relaxing after your run.
Race website:

Comrades Marathon 89K, May

Comrades Marathon 89K (May)

2009 Date: May 24
The Comrades is the world biggest ultra-marathon, usually attracting around 12,000 runners, and is internationally recognized as one of the world’s greatest races. Unsurprisingly, the point-to-point race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban is the pinnacle event of the South African road running calendar, with many local runners planning their whole running year around this race. It’s very hilly, whichever way you run it – the start alternates every year between the two host cities – and the names of the hills on the route, such as Polly Shortts, Botha’s Hill and Inchanga, have become part of running folklore.
Race website:

Spar/Mercury Women’s 10K, Durban (June)

2009 Date: tbc
This is one of six in a national series of women’s 10K races, and by far the biggest of the series. Around 16,000 women – and a few cross-dressing men – turn out for the race and the streets of Durban are jam-packed with runners and walkers of every shape and size. It’s one of the biggest races in the country and the predominantly flat course, great vibe and large field make it ideal for beginners new to the road-racing scene.
Race website:

Knysna Forest Marathon & Half-Marathon (July)

2009 Date: July 11
Knysna on the Southern Cape in July is the place to be for the annual Oyster Festival, complete with sports events, live music, great food and wine, and a real party atmosphere. The Festival culminates with the running events, with the half-marathon the bigger, more popular event that attracts many beginners, but the real gem is the marathon, which runs through virgin forest terrain and offers one of the most the most serene, though challenging, runs you’re ever likely to enjoy. Make sure you pack warm gear, as it can be cold at night at this time of the year.
Race website:

Foot of Africa Marathon, Half-Marathon & 10K (October)

2009 Date: tbc
The Foot takes its name from Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of the African continent. The marathon is run off-road for the first half and on Tarmac for the second, with the first half featuring challenging climbs and single-track mountain paths – but the multitude of refreshment stations in the second half will keep you going if your legs become tired. The half-marathon and 10K are like mini versions of the marathon, and both offer a challenge until a fast finish that brings you home in style.
Race website:

Soweto Marathon & 10K (November)

2009 Date: tbc
The sprawling township of Soweto in Gauteng gained international notoriety during South Africa’s Apartheid years as the home of the Freedom Struggle, but today it is a vibrant hub of life in the greater Johannesburg conurbation. The route passes many historic landmarks, including former President Nelson Mandela’s home, and the race is known as the People’s Race because the residents of Soweto take to the streets to welcome the thousands of runners into their community. A 20K walk is also offered.
Race website:

Winelands Marathon & Half-Marathon (November)

2009 Date: tbc
Stellenbosch in the Western Cape is surrounded by beautiful vineyards, forests and mountains – making it a lovely area for a road race. The undulating course means you’ll need to do a bit of work, but it is so easy to forget those hills when you look either side of the road and take in the awesome views on offer. The half-marathon includes a little off-road running and is just as scenic as the full. Stellenbosch also has many wonderful restaurants and wineries where you can treat yourself after the race.
Race website:

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