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Home >> History >> 2000's


Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon History | 2000's

The cut-off time was extended again, from 6 hours 30 minutes to 7 hours. However, this major change almost went unnoticed, because the Two Oceans Marathon was about to face one of the biggest challenges in its history.

In January 2000, Chapman's Peak Drive had to close to traffic after a devastating fire and a series of rock falls. The race organisers were faced with a huge problem, as a Two Oceans Marathon without Chappies was almost unthinkable. They now had to devise an alternative course that would be as challenging and scenic as the route the runners had been using for the past 30 years.

For the next four years, the race would go over Ou Kaapse Weg, with the race distance being maintained at 56 km. Joshua Peterson narrowly beat Vladimir Kotov, a veteran from Belarus, by only 8 seconds finishing in 3 hours 13 minutes and 12 seconds.

In 2001, the organisers had another look at the qualification standards and decided to relax the previous marathon qualification time of 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours. Another change was that the minimum age for ultra entrants was increased from 18 to 20, as Athletics South Africa's new rules stipulated that runners had to turn 20 during the year of competition.

At the other end of the scale, a new prize category was introduced for Great Grandmasters, to honour the ultra runners who are 70 and over. John Coulthard was the first runner to win the Great Grandmaster prize – his winning time was 5:32:32. The oldest finisher was Gert Koen (75) who finished 6 169th out of 6 987 in a time of 6:30:8. AST was appointed the technology partner and implemented an online registration system via the Internet for the first time.

5 251 runners entered for the fifth Two Oceans Half Marathon, an increase of 8.4% over the 2001 field. Many runners and walkers had requested that the cut-off time of 2 hours 30 minutes be extended. The organisers, aware that such a move would mean a considerable increase in the number of entries and realising that the last stretch of the route is too narrow to accommodate both the frontrunners in the ultra and the backmarkers in the half, decided that an extended cut-off would not be possible at that time.

The cut-off for the half marathon was eventually extended to 2 hours 35 minutes in 2004.

Once again, the total number of entries increased, although the trend of diminishing numbers of ultra marathon entries continued. As in 2002, a novice won the ultra marathon. Heavy fog early in the morning hampered television coverage of the race, but the mist lifted a bit later and the weather was fine – quite humid but virtually wind-free.

2003 was the last time the race went over the alternative route via Ou Kaapse Weg.

Mluleki Nobanda won the ultra marathon in 3:09:21, with Hungarian athlete, Simone Staicu taking the women’s title in 3:37:32, the second fastest time ever. Luwis Masunda won the half marathon and set a new course record in a time of 1:03:46. Charne Rademeyer was the first woman home in a time of 1:15:48.

Chapman’s Peak was reopened and attracted a record field for both the 56 km ultra marathon (9 938) and the 21 km half marathon (8 359). Close to 18 000 people lined up at the start line, the most participants in the history of the event. The cut off for the half marathon was increased by 5 minutes, giving participants 2 hours and 35 minutes to complete the race. The half marathon route was also changed slightly to remove the extra “much hated” dog’s leg down Southern Cross Drive.

The ultra-marathon race was won by novice Marco Mambo from Harmony Gauteng North Athletics Club in a time of 3:07:41. He destroyed a field that included the winners from 2001, 2002 and 2003, finishing more than two minutes ahead of the second-placed athlete. Russian twin Yelena Nurgalieva ran neck and neck for virtually the whole distance with her sister before winning the women’s race in 3:37:51. Elijah Mutandiro was first to cross the finish line in the half marathon in a time of 1:04:02, with Ronel Thomas taking first place in the women’s race in 1:15:46. Alex Jones, age 76, became the oldest person to finish the 56 km event.

Incessant rain in the Southern Suburbs on race-day turned the finishing area at UCT sports fields into a muddy quagmire.

Both 2004 ultra winners successfully defended their titles. Marco Mambo predicted at the media conference that he was going to run 3:05:00 and if anyone wanted to beat him, they would have to run faster to do just that. He became only the seventh male in the history of the race to win two years in a row. He won the race in a time of 3:05:39 and was spot on with his prediction. In the women’s race, the Russian Nurgalieva twins repeated their success of 2004, with another Russian Marina Bychkova placing third. Yelena Nurgalieva won the race in a time of 3:38:12. Yelena's close tussle with her twin sister Olesya was again a highlight of the women's race.

New York marathon champion Hendrick Ramaala took line honours in the half marathon in a new record time of 1:03:27. The top 3 athletes all broke the previous record for the half marathon, set by Luwis Masunda in 2003. Mamorallo Tjoka won the women’s race in 1:15:58.

The entrants did not reach the record levels of 2004, but this was to be expected as 2004 had been the year when the race returned to Chapman's Peak after a four-year break. Even so, it was still the second-biggest field ever, with entrants in the half marathon exceeding those in the ultra marathon for the first time.

The 2006 event saw close to 18 000 participants line up for the ultra and the half marathon. The half marathon had just under 10 000 runners, a record field. This year’s event also saw the introduction of more changes, all aimed at improving the race for all involved. The half marathon cut off was extended to three hours and the race started at 06h20, followed by the ultra at the new start time of 07h00. This was not a popular start time and was changed to 06h20 in 2007.

A new medal, the Sainsbury Medal, was introduced for ultra runners completing the event between 4 and 5 hours. 2006 is the 37th consecutive running of the race and the Expo and Race Registration moved to the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town.

Just over 19 000 people took part in the ultra and the half marathon. Combined with the fun runs on Good Friday, the total number of people that took part was close to 25 000 runners and walkers. Bethuel Netshifhefhe, who won in a time of 03:07:56, was the first South African to win the ultra since 2003, when Mluleki Nobanda took line honours. Since then Zimbabwean runners have dominated the race. Russian athlete Biktagirova won her first attempt at an ultra distance event in 03:35:04, the second fastest time ever for this race. She was 4:28 behind the course record, which was set in 1989 by Frith van der Merwe.

41 runners qualified for their permanent blue numbers in the half marathon, having run all 10 since the half marathon was first introduced in 1998.

In his last Two Oceans as Race Director, Chet Sainsbury did not achieve a Sainsbury medal, this time missing the 5-hour cut-off by 14:26. Nine-time Comrades winner Bruce Fordyce (51) finished almost 40 minutes later in 5:54:06.

In the half marathon, Kenyan Willy Mwangi beat Enos Matalane by 20 seconds in 63:05, while Namibian Helalia Johannes defended her title successfully in 73:16, breaking her course record of 73:35 by 19 seconds. Behind her South Africans René Kalmer (73:42) and Zintle Xiniwe (74:52) both set huge PBs. Former world marathon record holder Tegla Loroupe was fifth in 77:40 and said she had been travelling too much to expect a better result.

2007 also saw the introduction of the International Friendship Run on Good Friday. All international entrants, plus their family and friends were invited to take part, and close to 1 000 participants did the 5 km fun run/walk from the Good Hope Centre on a scenic route through the city centre to the finish at the V&A Waterfront.

The 39th edition proved to be an exciting and eventful one. Rowyn James moved down from Gauteng to take up his position as the new race director. Zimbabwean Marco Mambo returned to pick up his third win (having previously won in 2004/5) in a time of 3:11:35, the slowest since 2000, but got his permanent blue number and joining Siphiwe Gqele as only the second three-time winner, although Gqele won three times in a row. Olesya Nurgalieva clocked the second fastest time in the race’s history winning in 3:34:53 with her sister Elena finishing in second, 32 seconds behind her.

The half had a record field of 11 213 entries, with 9616 (86%) finishing within the 3 hour cut off. Zimbabwean George Majaji won in 1:03:31, with Mamorallo Tjoka from Lesotho involved in a titanic battle with Thabita Tsatsa, also from Zimbabwe in the women’s race. Tjoka ended up winning in 1:15:05 with Tsatsa only 3 seconds behind her.

2008 saw a new technical sponsor PUMA come on board and sign a contract for the next 5 years. NOAH (Nurturing Orphans of AIDS for Humanity) was appointed as the official race charity and a cheque for R211 000 was presented to them through the kind generosity of the runners.

The 40th anniversary of this iconic event was reason enough to celebrate and coupled with the 10th anniversary of Old Mutual as title sponsor, it made for a double celebration. To cap all celebrations both race fields showed an increase in entries over 2008, and for the first time in the event’s history over 20 000 entries were received.

Sadly race founder Dave Venter passed away in the later half of 2008, so was not able to be part of the celebrations but in a fitting tribute the 40th edition was dedicated to him and he was no doubt there in spirit cheering everyone along.

Zimbabwean Marko Mambo was hoping to pick up his fourth win to become the first male to do so and join Monica Drogemoller as the only other four-time winner. However, this was not to be as an unknown novice John Wachira of Kenya running in the colours of the ADT Club passed him only 1,5km from the finish to win in a time of 3:10:06. Mambo finished second some 46 seconds behind him.

In the women’s race, it was again the Nurgalieva twins who dominated from start to finish. They finished tie first in a time of 3:40:43 with the race officials awarding the win to Elena, her third win in this event. Samukeliso Moyo of Zimbabwe finished a distant 3rd in 3:58:47, with Farwa Mentoor finishing 4th (and first South African) just under the 4 hour mark in 3:59:45.

The half marathon had a record field of just over 13 000 runners and South African Stephen Mokoka took line honours in 1:03:42 with Wirimayi Juwawo of Zimbabwe second just 8 seconds behind him. Course record holder Helalia Johannes of Namibia had an easy win (1:13:34) in the women’s race followed home by last year’s winner from Lesotho Mamorallo Tjoka in 1:15:43.

Cape Town Mayor, now Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille took time out from her hectic campaigning schedule to be up at dawn to start both races and then spent the day at the finish, cheering the runners on.