Over forty years ago, on Saturday 2 May 1970, twenty-six brave runners lined up at Impala Park, Claremont, to face the unknown: 35 miles (56.3 kilometres) of tarred serpetine roads including a section crossing the spectacularly scenic Cape Peninsula from False Bay in the east to Hout Bay in the west. But none of the participants was in it for the win. Back in the days, the race was organized as a mere practice run for Capetonians who were eager to prepare for the Comrades Ultramarathon (56 miles; 87 kilometres), annually held in Durban on South Africa’s east coast. Little did those twenty-six runners know that they were not only warming up the souls of their shoes… they were pioneering the world’s most beautiful race on two feet: the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon!
The Old Mutual has come a long way since 1970. With 26,000 entrants, 2013 has set a new record high for the combined 21 km half- and 56 km ultra-marathon. Both races started on Main Road in Newlands, at 6:00 and 6:30 a.m., respectively, and led the runners through Fish Hoek via Muizenberg, over Chapman’s Peak and Constantia Nek, before eventually finishing at the University of Cape Town campus. Most folks were perhaps only slowly waking up to the dawning reality of Easter festivities they would have to face and organise later that day – the children’s Easter egg hunt of Sunday morning being top priority, of course! Meanwhile, there were hundreds of rubber soles restlessly polishing the starting line in the early morning hours as the athletes waited for the start signal with bated breath. And, as the night’s veil lifted, it suddenly resonated through the crisp air, and those colourful takkies thundered off unleashed.
It was not until roughly twenty to nine that the first marathoners came running into sight at the foot of Chapman’s Peak Drive, on their way down Main Road through Hout Bay. The next couple of photograhs were taken further along the way, between quarter to nine and half past eleven on Hout Bay Road, before the marathoners headed up and over Constantia Nek for the big finish at UCT.
To all the entrants, to those who won and to those who finished last or even not at all: Congrats folks! It can take more courage to end somehting than to start it. See ya around next year for the 45th annual Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. There’s a reason why it’s called the world’s most beautiful marathon – some say it’s because of the epic scenery and landscapes. But I say, last but not least, this is thanks to the spirit of its participants!