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Home >> History >> 1970's


Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon History | 1970's

The race was never intended to be anything more than a training run to enable Cape Town runners to prepare for the Comrades Marathon. The 26 runners who set out on the 35-miler from Impala Park were not aware that they were the pioneers of an event that in later years would attract more than 9 000 entrants. Entry fee was 50 cents and 15 people finished the race. Dirkie Steyn won the event in 3:55:50 and ran barefoot.

The entry fee doubled to R1 and the number of finishers swelled to 31. Rob Knutzen won in 3:42:31.

96 of the 115 entrants lined up on 6 May 1972 and the entry fee was doubled to R2. Don Hartley won in 3:25:12.

This was the first year that the Two Oceans Marathon event was held over the Easter weekend but it took place on Easter Monday and not Saturday, as was to become the custom in the years that followed. This was also the first time that a young doctor named Tim Noakes entered the race. Tim was to go on to become a world-renowned authority in sports science, particularly long distance running. Don Hartley won again in 3:24:06.

Theresa Stadler, who was 40 years old at the time, was the first female runner to enter for the Two Oceans Marathon. She completed the race in 07:33:00, which was outside the official cut-off time, but inspired other women to follow her example. A new tradition was created in 1974 when the race date was officially established as the Saturday of the Easter weekend. Derek Preiss became the first and only male runner to win both the Two Oceans and the Comrades in the same year. He was to repeat this feat in 1975.

In 1975, the government of the time had a policy that allowed different race groups to mix, provided permission had been obtained to hold a 'multi-national' event. The Minister of Sport, Dr P G J Koornhof, gave his official approval on condition that the 'different race groups would not mix unnecessarily'. Everyone ignored this and the runners happily united in their quest to conquer the distance. George 'Goodenough' Qokweni, a male nurse from the Ernest Oppenheimer Hospital, and eight runners from Paarl East Athletic Club, were the first runners to demolish the racial barriers. Ulla Paul, a petite mother of three, became the first woman to complete the race within the official 6-hour limit. First male: Derek Preiss 3:22:01; First female: Ulla Paul 5:14:51.

Gabashane Vincent Rakabaele became the first black runner to win an ultra marathon in South Africa in 3:18:05, after dicing with Alan Robb for most of the way. Marie Jeanne Duyvejonck from Belgium came close to breaking the 5-hour barrier by finishing in a time of 5:01:07. She won the first trophy to be awarded to a female winner.

By now, it was becoming clear to the organisers that the race had the potential to develop into a mammoth event. This led to the introduction of more stringent rules about seconding and runners were no longer allowed to enter on the day. Brian Chamberlain won the race in 3:15:22. Marie-Jeanne Duyvejonk was the first woman to cross the line in 5:03:52.

Janet, supported by Sybrand Mostert, finished the race in 4:34:28 and uttered the famous last words 'never again'. Even though her feet were badly blistered, she managed to beat the previous women's record by 26 minutes and 49 seconds. Brian Chamberlain won the race that year in 3:15:23, only 1 second slower than his winning time in 1977.

In 1979, it was decided to award permanent numbers to all runners who had achieved three wins, or five gold medals, or 10 finishes. Hugh Amoore pipped PJ Sullivan (the only other contender) for the coveted Permanent Number One. 1 229 runners from 88 clubs entered for the 1979 race. Two new course records were set: Vincent Rakabaele broke the 3 hour 10 minute barrier in a time of 3:08:56 and Di Alperstein smashed the 1978 women's record by finishing in 4:22:58.