Old Mutual Two Oceans 56km – Why I Will Return To World’s Most Beautiful Marathon

Bronze 56km #OMTOM2017

Last Easter weekend I flew to Cape Town to enter my first race in the Mother City. Although I have been here before (part of Comrades race and Cape Town tour), there was something special about coming back to South Africa. Clearly I adore this continent with all its unique and colourful identity.

As its name suggested, the race took my legs to discover few towns that connect Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. Race started in Main Road, Newlands and finished at rugby field of University of Cape Town (UCT).

South African Olympic marathoner Lungile Gongqa won the 2017 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon with 03:09 hour as male winner. South African Caroline Wöstmann did not manage to defend her title for female winner – pulled out due to hamstring issue. Instead Belarus runner, Maryna Damantsevich came first with 03:37 hour as female winner. Course record yet to be broken – the R1m prize money by title sponsor Old Mutual was not in anybody’s hand.

Having completed this race once (though not the longest distance I’ve participated in), I asked myself – will I return to the course? Not a difficult one to answer, the following are why and I hope you agree too:

1.First Class Expo 
Part of entering a race is to experience all about running under one roof through various stands selling new gadgets, apparels, equipment, food supplements and others like sporting tour. The 2 Oceans Expo held at the CTICC, Convention Centre was well organised over 3 days from Wednesday to Friday. I saw plenty of healthy food and supplement stands from UK and local brand such as Futurelife, 32Gi, racefood, The Primal Pantry, TREK, and Nakd. For first time, I came across meat substitute product ranges such as Quorn (using mycoprotein derived from fungus) and FRY’s Family (soya and wheat based). Sampled most of them, bought some Nakd bars, got myself a running Mizuno top (really good prize), stocked up on my favourite Falke socks and then purchased 1000mile socks (blister-free guarantee and double layer innovation enticed me!). Next time, I would like to stop by at stage to listen on talks such as given by Coach Norrie Williamson.

Very well organised expo
Love the buzz at the expo #whyrunCapeTown

2. Generous Goodie Bag and Buzzing Finishing Atmosphere

I paid R1570 (USD 120) for entrance fee, it is not by all mean a cheap race for international runner. In a normal race, runners usually take away a medal and a t-shirt. In 2 Oceans, additional items such as nutrition bars, Arnica Ice cooling gel, a mouse pad with 2 Oceans route, a balaclava, and deodorant for men are included in the race pack. At the finish, international tent readily welcome runners and refreshment provided – water, lunch bag (muffin and sandwich). Great service – my only complaint is the tent location was a bit too far for walking and lack of signage for guidance.

Generous goodie bag #OMTOM2017
Picture courtesy of Old Mutual Two Oceans. Spotted myself in the queue after finishing the race

3. Something For Everyone
Ivalue races that offer multi distances but it has to be very organised – 2 Ocean is high up there. Apart from Ultra and Half Marathon, there were trail races – 12km and 24km covering area of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Newlands Forest. This require strong climb a fantastic challenge to add to my bucket list.

4. Friday Social and Faithful Run
I looked forward for the International Friendship Run on Good Friday – a complimentary run (no charge for international runners). Around 3000 signed up which showed popularity of this race being a world class event. Together with my club members from Dubai Creek Striders (DCS), we enjoyed the 5.6km easy run holding flags from own country through the city waterfront covering important landmark such as Cape Town Stadium, Sea Point Promenade, and Green Point Park. Friends and family join along for a small fee. I think this is also great way to encourage non runners to start running as evidenced that day one of DCS runner’s visiting friends ran their first 5.6km. On this day, I met a Singaporean runner (one of two as per published statistic) who was on his way in completing his 7th continent marathon – David Tay from Athlete’s Journey.Very pleased that I say hi. 

As for local runners, Fun Runs was organised to share spirit of running with family and friends. A strong believer in diversity and inclusion, I am inspired to know that there was also a Friday Special Run for runners who could not run on Saturday for religious reason – maximum of 100 runners. Imagine racing 56km  with just a small number of runners with no road closure.

Very entertaining host at International Friendship Run
They ran in the cool jackets
Dubai Creek Striders – at start of International Friendship Run with UAE flag
Dubai Creek Striders – with Table Mountain backdrop at V&A. 

5. Shosholoza Smooth Start 
I did not have a good qualifying time so I was placed in last seeding E. However, I tried to be as front as possible before the race start. It’s crucial to have an efficient start at any race. After few misorganised races in Asia, I was pleased with the punctuality and smooth start at 2 Oceans. Before that, passionately sang national anthem and classic Shosholoza filled in the air among the positive running spirit. Didn’t felt too crowded in first 5 km like any big city marathon races.

6.  Beautiful Course
Is this the world’s most beautiful marathon? Initial skeptical exist about the marketing of this race but it is indeed appealing. As a trail runner, I’ve blessed to experience picturesque mountain scenery as well as tranquil desert oasis. I read somewhere that Lisbon is possibly the world’s most beautiful road marathon course. But beauty is on the eye of runner. I am referring to the run around Chapman’s Peak (Chappies) where runners trot along the gradually increasing slope to 180m peak like a long train. The view from the ocean, the rugged cliff and secluded pristine beaches simply took my breathe away. Magical moment of beauty.

Conquering Chapman. Can you see the cat’s eye?

7. Build Up For Longer Ultra Races
I enjoyed the distance of 56km (not too short and too long). It is a good training run for racing a longer ultra distances later in the year. Most South African enter this race as mileage buildup for the mighty Comrades 87km/89km. The course has good combination of up and down which is lacking in most road races at marathon distance. There were 6 sections of the course: 1. Start to just before Chappies 2. Chappies 3.Hout Bay to Constantia Nek 4.Up the Nek 5. Top of Nek to M3 left turn 6. M3 to UCT. If I was  do this differently, I would held back my pace just before Chappies, and get myself up the notch coming down the My legs were tired coming down hill which I felt longer than gradual gradient itself (about 4.5km Little Chappies and proper Chappies). I recovered my strength through little stops and refueling (Cokes, cold drink and energy bar) between Hout Bay and Constantia Nek. I interchanged run with walk up the Nek (156m), then came down strong in the last 10km where I visualised the finishing moment. A happy training run catching up from the back seeding to finish just under 6 hours.Though, there’s always room for improvement to better my race time. 

8. Responsible Running
I like to know that entry fee I paid for the race is not entirely for profit making. It claimed to have contributed for sustainability of community and environment. The first time ever, an official study has been conducted in economic impact of the entire event. In 2016, it is revealed an amount of R672m (USD51m) been brought into the economy of City of Cape Town and Western Cape Region through jobs creation. The green initiatives are applauded through anti-littering movement and Throw Zone area provided so runners can shoot waste while keeping road clean (though I still found cups thrown on street at runners convenience). Wonderful to know that those waste being collected and then turned into estimated 500 school desks through waste management initiative. School kids got new desks as a result from runners quenching thirst.

9. Easter Weekend
2 Oceans event is schedule during Easter weekend which means runners can plan some time-off around this. Whether it’s about family get together, meeting international runners friend or extend race with long vacation – timing of this race is just perfect to plan ahead of time. The 2018 race is already announced to be on 30th and 31st March.

10. Mother City
Finally, Cape Town indeed is a beautiful city to visit with so many things to do or simply relax post the marathon. There are beaches, mountain, wildlife, wineries, and culture to explore. Few pictures to justify how stunning Cape Town is.

All in all, I adore the concept of RUN AS ONE which encompass the rainbow nation value of incorporating everyone; from fast to slow runner, from poor to disable, trail to road, and accommodating different religions too. Does not matter where you live, where you come from or what you do or whatever your life situation: juggling life, tight work schedules, stress about commitments, or frustration – for one day we could run as one together and united. I surely had a fabulous time. I came back to little red dot feeling enriched not simply due to the bronze medal but from entire experience that brought positivity and passion of life above running.

I leave you with some housekeeping regarding travel and tips on the course:

Weather: Between March and April is best time to visit as temperature is mild in range of 20 degrees Celsius. Although Cape Town is a four seasons in a day kind of city with quick passing clouds – but never snow.

Accommodation: Southern Sun Waterfront due to its proximity to sports expo and very central position in CBD. Many runners stay here too. Southern Sun Newland also a popular one – nor far from starting line.

Race: 2 Oceans has a cut-off of 7 hours and is run from gun to mat. It’s crucial to be in right seeding based on qualifying time to get a good heads up from the start. Pace wisely. Stay away from cat’s eyes and beware of uneven road. Study the course and watch the route profile published by organiser – totally recommend it. More details here

Flights: Flew Qatar Airways as it was on good deal; from Singapore to Doha (6 hours), transit Doha then to Cape Town (9 hours).

Ground Transportation: MyCiTi is the bus service operating between airport and city center – I didn’t use this at all. Instead, I used Uber as it is handy and safe. Rental car is another option. We walked most of time in CBD during day time.

Training: Not in specific training for 2 Oceans myself as I’m in the middle of a different training block for an important trail race in early September – meaning not much long run and interval as supposed to be. However, I do recommend to follow training plan published here as guidance. Better still, get a coach to tailor to your requirement and if you aim for certain race time.

#Run As One with my E, Ellen Pavlovic and Nikki Buckle post race snap at University of Cape Town

Dankie (thank you in Afrikaan) to my DCS club members for the company; special mention Margaret Rafferty and Nicolas le Roux (again you are champion) for wonderful arrangement and South African hospitality – second to none. 

See you again Mother City.

Live To Thrive,x

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