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10 best road running races in South Africa

Road running is very big and getting even bigger in South Africa. Each of  the major metropolitan areas is certain to host a road race every weekend. So, making a short selection of the best events is both taxing and controversial. We have limited this list to road races, avoiding the increasingly popular trail runs along wilders paths around the country.

1. Comrades – 90 km

The road running calendar revolves around the Comrades Marathon in June. This 90km ultra marathon has its roots in  veterans of the First World War who started running  the point to point race to honour fallen comrades. For years is was compulsory television viewing, making South Africans familiar with points along the course and causing delight when a South African man or woman beat elite runners from around the world, Comrades became hugely popular because of  South Africa’s sporting isolation during the apartheid era. Sportsmen and women  precluded from international competition by the boycott turned to the Comrades to find a significant challenge.
The race from the East Coast port of Durban to the KwaZulu/Natal capital Pietermaritzburg alternates annually between the up and down runs.
 
Today fields are around 20 000 which are for an even of this length unique. The race requires committed  training, about 1000kms between January and May. Aspirants generally join a local running club to find fellow competitors of similar standard. These clubs have weekly 8km time trials which are an excellent barometer of fitness: same course, same time, same day. At the weekend, to complete their distance work, runners either join local club runs or travel to races.
 
Preparation for Comrades generally requires running three ultra marathons and at least half a dozen standard marathons.

2. Two Oceans Marathon – 21 & 56 km

The two Oceans Marathon run on Easter Saturday is probably the most popular and certainly the most scenic event on the calendar. A half marathon attached to the event has become the best supported 21km in South Africa.

The 56 km route around the Cape Peninsular starts from Newlands in Cape Town and winds along the Indian Ocean sea board to Fish Hook where it turns westwards towards the Atlantic coast. There is a stiff climb up Chapman’s Peak to the high point of the course at 32kms. The run down to Hout Bay is particularly taxing on the legs. The marathon marks is passed going up to Constantia Nek which is the  high point of the race. The cambered run down Rhodes Drive eventually yields to a flat final few kilometers to the finish at the University of Cape Town.

The conventional wisdom is that the two above events occur too close together for any elite athlete to attempt a double victory. Tradition among the bulk of club runners is that a solid Two Oceans is the best possible training for Comrades.

3. Om Die Dam – 50 km

OM DIE DAM (Around the Dam) is a 50 kilometer run around Haartbeespoort Dam 40 minutes outside Pretoria in March.

The run includes a spectacular dash across the dam wall and a climb up the tough Saartjiesnek at 38 kilometers. The event also features a 21 km race.

4. Loskop – 50 km

In April, upcountry runners head for Middelburg in Mpumalanga province for the LOSKOP 50km and half marathon. This is another run around a dam. It features both Highveld and Lowveld vegetation and climate. Varaday’s His takes its toll on runners heading up to the finish.

5. The Spar Women’s 10km Durban – 10km

There is a lull in the calendar following Comrade, but only for a few weeks. Fun runners, many inspired to attempt their first marathon and ultra marathon join a series of run orga used by the SPAR chain of supermarkets. The Spar Women’s 10km Din Durban in June is probably the most popular of these and is certainly not limited to female participants – provided one is not shy to don feminine running gear.

6. The Johannesburg City Marathon – 10 km

The Johannesburg City Marathon and 10 km in July sees the usual suspects back in training for the year ahead. It runs south of the city known as Egoli forcing runners to some climbing in the closing kilometers.

7. Knysna forest Marathon – 21 & 42 km

Also in July the Knysnaforest Marathon and Half Marathon takes runners into the hills above the lagoon and into the forest still pouted by elephants and the colorful Knysna turacao.

9. The Foot of Africa Marathon – 10 km

In October, the Foot of Africa marathon half marathon and 10 kilometers takes runners to the southernmost point of the continent.

10. The Soweto Marathon – 10, 21 & 42km

The Soweto Marathon in November is the pride of this Johannesburg township. The residents line up along the road to encourage runners

11. Winelands Marathon – 21 & 42 km

Back to the Western Cape one has the Winelands Marathon and half marathon which is growing in popularity and spectator support.

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