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Run the Two Oceans Marathon Right

The Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon is undoubtably one of South Africa’s most scenic races. However running a 56km ultra marathon is a not an easy day out, not ever. Add to the

mix roughly 700m of total elevation gain over the 56km distance and you have your work cut out for you. The key to surviving or achieving a PB comes down to a mix of both strategy and discipline.

Two Ocean Marathon Runners


Runners from all over South Africa and the world congregate to run the Two Oceans every year. The urge to race to better your previous best time dangles like a carrot in front of you as you toe the line. Fresh from a taper in mileage, the altitude and probably an amount of carbo loading will have you feeling ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. It’s difficult to hear the voice of reason in your head (or your coach’s voice) telling you to go easy from the gun. The atmosphere is electric and so many runners leave the start line as though setting out on a club time trial or parkrun, only to fade in the first few kilometres and suffer through to the finish.

Use your watch to SLOW yourself down, not to run fast. Once your legs start to hurt and you hit the wall on the first real climb, it’s too late.


Last year, I regretted not taking a headlamp for the first hour and a half that was run in the pitch dark. The race starts at 5:10am, earlier than previous years. There are many hazards that are sometimes unavoidable – uneven road surfaces, cat eyes, traffic calming bumps, slippery patches at water points and even fellow runners or pedestrians. Yes, carrying that extra weight for 56km is not ideal, but a visit to the ER is less ideal. Protect yourself

against a race-, or potentially, career ending fall.

Running the Two Oceans Ultra requires a strategic approach, whether you are in it to survive or to nail a PB, says coach David Ashworth.




The first 21km of the Ultra is easy, flat running. Starting in Newlands, on the corner of Dean Street, you head along Main Road, passing through Claremont and Wynberg on route to Muizenberg at approximately 16km. This is where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the ocean.

By now it will be light enough to do away with your headlamp and discard your unwanted warm clothing if the weather allows. You are also more exposed to wind in this part of the race. From Muizenberg to Fish Hoek there are a number of short ‘bumps’ that will surprise you a er running a very flat 16km from the start. Don’t expend extra power on these. Keep your effort consistent.

At Fish Hoek you have successfully reached the half-marathon mark in the ultra. At the traffic circle you will now turn right and head inland towards Noordhoek. This section is a very gradual uphill gradient.



After a brief detour through the suburb of Sun Valley, you will be directed to cross over Ou Kaapse Weg (the dreaded alternative route if Chapman’s Peak Drive happens to be closed due to safety concerns) onto Noordhoek Main Road, marking the 25km point in the race.

Your first big tester is ‘Little Chappies’ that comes just a er halfway at approximately 30km. It’s a steep climb that tapers off slightly to bring a bit of relief.

Don’t be fooled, Chapman's Peak Drive is undulating with some tough climbing until you reach the 34km mark. Soak up the spectacular views and take your mind off the race while you can. This is Cape Town at its best.


From the top of Chapman’s Peak, a long downhill, approximately 5km in length, ushers you into Hout Bay. This downhill stretch is one of the most crucial in the Totalsports Two Oceans Ultra. You may find it irresistible to drop the handbrake and fly down this section after so much grinding on the hills to reach Chapman’s Peak. But be warned, if you want to survive the biggest climb ahead, and you want to enjoy the final kilometres to the finish at UCT, then take my advice – ease back on this downhill section.

Shorten your stride and let the foolish runners race past you without giving chase. Bruce Fordyce once said, “What is lost on the ups cannot be made up on the downs.”


As you enter Hout Bay at 39km, you are greeted with a hype of activity. With no substantial spectators between Noordhoek and Hout Bay, due to inaccessibility by vehicles on race day, you are immediately struck by the crowds.

Hold yourself back. Don’t be tempted to start running faster with the cheer of supporters. The flat section through Hout Bay, you will notice, is in fact a very gradual uphill gradient. It’s only 3km to the marathon mark, but it’s a gradual climb that gets steeper as you progress.

Don’t give up as you approach the marathon mark the route flattens out and you can see the arch, roughly 500m away. Let this be your visual target but continue to hold yourself back.



From 43.5km, the biggest of the climbs begins, Constantia Nek. Almost 3km of relentless uphill awaits. Keep moving forward, no matter what. You will know you have reached

the top when you see the traffic circle, normally packed with spectators and TV crew. The intersection is at 46.5km.

Breathe a sigh of relief, grab a drink and keep moving towards the finish. It’s at this point in the race that it is safe to push your pace. This is only possible if you have been conservative from the start. If not, you will have no choice but to try and maintain a consistent pace or survive the final section to the finish.

Finishing the marathon


The final 10km begins with a winding road and welcoming shade from the tree canopies overhead through Cecilia Forest on Rhodes Drive. The bends in the roads have a prominent camber that can cause ITB and shins to niggle.

It is best to run near the shoulder of the road on the flattest section to avoid as much of the slope as possible.

As you start the descent towards Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens at 52km be cautious of the gentle climb that immediately follows. Shortly after at Kirstenbosch, you will be directed to make a left turn onto the M3 at the 53km mark. You have less than 3km to go and it’s the home straight.

In the final kilometre on the M3, you will be faced with ‘Chet’s Hill’, a small incline that would normally be unnoticeable, except for the fact that you have just completed 55km with seriously tough hills. The offramp and entrance to UCT is in sight now and you are channelled onto the grass and the finish awaits you. All that is left is to enjoy the last

few moments as you cross the finish and collect your finishers medal.


An ASA-accredited coach and sub-2:30 marathoner, David Ashworth coaches athletes of all levels, from beginner 5km to multi-stage, ultra-distance endurance

events. He’s done 11 Totalsports Two Oceans Ultras, of which six were silver-medal finishes. Find him at Team Ashworth Coaching.

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