TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THERE’S gold in Table Mountain. At least, there is according to the organisers of the Cape Town Marathon – which came under starter’s orders at a press launch in the city on Wednesday.
“This is the year of gold,” WP Athletics board member Allen Barnes said with reference to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“And we want our share of gold.”
Not necessarily from the Games but from the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), which has awarded the Cape Town Marathon a silver label since 2014.
This year’s race, which will be run on September 18, starting and finishing in Greenpoint and unfolding to a backdrop of the city, the southern suburbs, Table Bay, Groote Schuur, Newlands cricket ground, the waterfront with Robben Island in the distance, and, of course, the mountain, is also pegged at that level.
But the organisers are after the coveted IAAF gold label, which would put the event in the company of the marathons run annually in London, Paris, Berlin and New York.
To achieve that requires, in part, the entries of five men and five women who have run standard marathons in under 2:10 and 2:28 respectively.
Sounds simple, what with Ethiopians and Kenyans routinely starring in races around the world.
But there’s a catch: those elite runners have to be drawn from five different countries. And, of course, they don’t come cheap.
Organisers will also have to improve access for the disabled and guarantee full road closures along the route.
The latter condition is bound to cause friction in a society that lacks efficient public transport and suffers under the burden of the entitlement taken for granted by drivers of private cars.
“That’s something that we, as a partnership with the city, are grappling with,” race director Janet Welham said.
“We don’t have an underground transport system; we have certain arterial roads that link others.
“From an accessibility perspective, it does pose certain problems. But they aren’t insurmountable.
“If we want to get gold level status and claim the status of the African major, we have to focus on them.”
Non-running Capetonians whose lives are disrupted by all that, but 1992 Olympic silver medallist Elana Meyer does not think the marathon harboured the potential to be divisive.
“Our vision is to become a global city marathon,” Meyer, who serves as an ambassador for the race, said. “Obviously, that incorporates SA and the rest of Africa.
“We want to become an IAAF gold event and Africa’s major marathon. But to achieve that we need locals and runners from our continent, as well as runners from all over the world.”
The other ambassador, Francois Pienaar, who led the Springboks to glory in the 1995 World Cup, said: “Elana came to see me a couple of years ago, and we asked the question, ‘Why do we not have a world marathon in Cape Town?’
“We’ve got one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We have magnificent, smart people. Why don’t we have a marathon that everyone in the world wants to run? And so we started this journey.”
Entries for the marathon, the 12km and 22km trail runs, the 10km road run and the 4.2km fun run, are open and close on September 5.
The target is a total field of more than 20000 runners from 50 countries with a foreign contingent of 10% and 40% from other parts of SA.
Total prizemoney is R2.1-million, R1.79-million of which has been allocated to the marathon itself. The women’s and men’s winners will earn R265000 each.