3 Cape Town half marathons you just have to run

From September to April you’re likely to find a race in or around Cape Town every weekend. But every runner — even casual weekend warriors — should try these three Cape half marathons at least once.

1. The Two Oceans Half Marathon: Undoubtedly the biggest and most anticipated half marathon in Cape Town, the Two Oceans Half Marathon attracts 16 000 runners each year – and those are just the ones who manage to secure an entry. The half marathon, which has been run since 1998 and always takes place over the Easter weekend, doesn’t actually take runners alongside either ocean;, although you might catch a glimpse of False Bay from the top of Edinburgh Drive.

Southern Cross Drive, which you’ll hit about halfway through the 21.1 kilometre race, is quite tough, but the sheer number of runners means that there’s a limit to how quickly you can plod up the hill anyway. Given the congestion, you’re not likely to run a personal best, but the festive atmosphere and phenomenal support along the way more than makes up for it.

2. The Gun Run: With a field about half the size of that of the Two Oceans, the Gun Run is still festive, but – barring the first couple of kilometres – not as annoyingly congested. The race, which is organised by the Atlantic Athletic Club and was first run in 1992, originally started at 09H30 so that the Noon Gun fired from Signal Hill marked the cut-off. These days, the Cape Field Artillery signals the start and end of the race with the firing of a battlefield gun.

For the most part the Gun Run, which takes place in October, is relatively flat, making it a fun and easy first half marathon. The hill on Kloof Road is fairly taxing, but you are rewarded with stunning views of the ocean and a fairly easy descent into Camps Bay. The last few kilometres, along the Atlantic coastline, are mostly flat and picturesque. Water stations compete for a “best table” prize, so the vibe is always great.

3. The Cape Peninsula Half Marathon: The Cape Peninsula Marathon, which is organised by Celtic Harriers, was first run in 1964 with 19 runners. The full marathon starts in Cape Town and finishes at the Naval Sports Field in Simon’s Town. The half marathon starts in Bergvliet – adjacent to the halfway mark in the marathon – and the two routes quickly merge.

Except for a few hills as you make your way into Simon’s Town, this is a pretty flat route and the fact that you run much of it along the coastal road makes it an enjoyable one. The full marathon usually attracts a big crowd running qualifying races for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, so the mood at the finish is festive. Once you’re done, you can simply catch a train back to the start with the other runners.

Two Oceans is a lie…and 3 other marathon myths busted!

It’s not really the Two Oceans…and other myths to remember while running South Africa’s favourite ultra-marathon, the Two Oceans Marathon, in Cape Town.

The Two Oceans Marathon has been described as “the world’s most beautiful ultra-marathon”, and that much is certainly true. The 56-kilometre endurance race winds its way around the dramatic Cape Peninsula, taking in the waters of False Bay before crossing over to Noordhoek on the Atlantic coast. Then it’s a breathtaking jaunt along Chapman’s Peak before the gruelling climb up Constantia Nek and the sweet relief of the downhill towards the finish at University of Cape Town.

But the name of the race itself is a white lie. The marathon derives its name from the popular myth that the Cape Peninsula is where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet. Some Capetonians will even go so far as to cheekily tell you that you can see a line where these two oceans butt up against one another at Cape Point. In fact these two bodies of water only meet 200 kilometres east at Cape Agulhas (sans the line in the sea), but it still makes for a good story. Here are three more ultra-marathon myths you should be aware of before race day.

1. You need to run all the way

Many would-be marathon runners (yes, you) get put off by the idea that you have to run all the way. That’s not true. In fact, unless you’re amongst the top groups it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to run the entire distance. Old hands will tell you that stretches of brisk walking actually help break up the more daunting sections of the run and you can use these walking breaks to make the distance more manageable. Just be sure to make the cut-off times at the demarcated points – 28km halfway on Noordhoek Main Road by 10h00 and 42,2km at Hout Bay Main Road by 11h50.

2. Drink as much as you can

The long-held belief that you need to drink as much as you can, even if you don’t feel thirsty, has been heavily challenged in recent years. Instead, there’s a growing trend in ultra-marathon circles to “drink when you are thirsty”. Over-hydration may in fact decrease performance and even be dangerous, according to Professor Tim Noakes in his book Waterlogged. Instead try a balanced approach, taking into account the heat and humidity of course.

3. You can’t have enough electrolytes

In fact, you can. Electrolytes are essential for balancing fluids in the cells and keeping you hydrated and your muscle function in check. But research has shown that your body can only store and process so much of these vital minerals. After that, your body will either just push them out (think pee and sweat). Or even worse, too many electrolytes can cause cramping, diarrhoea and vomiting. So remember to go easy on the sports drinks.

Why I’ll always return to the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon

Few races show off Cape Town in all its glory better than the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. Not only do you get to see some pretty spectacular views, you also get to experience just how welcoming and supportive locals can be.

At 30 kilometres, around about the time I reached the top of what my mind had construed to be The Longest Hill in the World, my left calf scrunched itself up into an angry little bundle of protest. Every few steps, it would remind me that it was not happy. At 46 kilometres, with another 10 kilometres to go, the nausea hit me. Wave after wave reduced me to a cautious hobble, raising the spectre of Not Finishing.

But I did. Somehow, thanks in part to the amazing support all the way along the route, I managed to cross the finish line of the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. The experience was simultaneously glorious and awful. But you soon forget about the awful. You forget about wanting to swear and cry and quit. You forget about the cramps and the vomiting. But that warm glow that comes with achieving something you once thought impossible persists. Before you know it, you’re training for your next race.

Arguably one of the most beautiful races in the world, the Two Oceans Marathon is the biggest race on the Cape Town running calendar, with the half-marathon attracting 16 000 runners and the ultra marathon another 11 000.  In addition to the 21-kilometre half marathon and the 56-kilometre ultra marathon, runners can also enter trail runs that take place over the same weekend.

While the congestion caused by so many runners can be a little difficult to navigate, the spirit and camaraderie that come with so many participants more than makes up for it. Every year — even in the pouring rain — Cape Town locals do the city proud by coming out to enthusiastically support the runners all the way along the route. When your spirits are flagging, little kids with trays of oranges or energetic brass bands are there to pick them up.

Whether or not you regard yourself as a runner this race, which always takes place over the Easter weekend, should be on your Cape Town to-do list. Entries get snapped up really quickly, so make sure that you keep an eye on entry dates. And be warned: once you’ve done it, you’re going to want to do it again!

Cape Town Helicopters brings you the Two Oceans Experience.

The tour of the Two Oceans is all about the jaw dropping scenery, it is non stop panoramic bewilderment from the seat of one of the helicopters from the most high class helicopter fleet in all of Cape Town, whilst in the hands of the Western Capes most professional pilots that belong to Cape Town Helicopters. Not only will you have the experience of viewing marvelously amazing sights from the skies above the Mother City including the horizons that the open seas provide, but you will also receive a free City Sightseeing Bus for every two who book this flight. The extent of the tours available from the iconic red double decker tour buses that have become resident in almost 100 locations world wide, is emmense, so a tour with City Sightseeing after a magnificent aerial wonder from Cape Town Helicopters is a thrilling experience in itself. Continue reading “Cape Town Helicopters brings you the Two Oceans Experience.”