Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 165 February 2024 | Page 24

MANN the running mann by STUART MANN


ran my first marathon in 2002 and ended that year with seven marathons completed ( four standards and three ultras ). Until now , COVID years excluded , that was my ‘ worst year ’ of marathon running . Unfortunately , I slumped to a new low score in 2023 , due to injury , but there was one silver lining … the lack of marathon travel meant that I still had one 75 % Vitality discount return flight that needed to be used before the year was done . This justified an otherwise unaffordable direct flight to Mthatha for the Cheetahs Marathon , as it knocked R4000 off the airfare .
The alternate way to get to Mthatha from Joburg , at a reasonable cost , is to fly to East London , hire a car and do the three-hour drive along the N2 . This was the routing my good friend and fellow marathon addict Julian Karp had chosen ( after running the Jacaranda Marathon on the Saturday morning of that same weekend ), so I collected his race number for him when I arrived in Mthatha . Cheetahs would be Julian ’ s 923rd marathon , and eighth in four weekends . Based on his ‘ diet ’ of two marathons a weekend , I noted that it was highly appropriate that Julian has been allocated race number 4242 !


MANN the running mann by STUART MANN


Thanks to some clever planning and use of Vitality benefits , I was recently able to head to the Eastern Cape for the Cheetahs Marathon . While it may have been a small race , it proved a most enjoyable and educational trip , and I would happily go back to Mthatha to tackle this one again .

Marathon # 254 / Unique Marathon # 151 / 12 November 2023

as “ Jesus was coming back again .” Julian has a variety of nicknames round the country , but the man most likely to be the first South African to clock 1000 official marathon finishes is definitely King of the Julians ( with apologies to the makers of the film , Madagascar ).
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To get to the Cheetahs Marathon start , one needs to catch an authentic Transkei taxi . The fare was just R36 – less than a rand a kilometre – and I am sure that there are runners out there who remember when marathon entry fees were as low as that ! I am normally quite tardy in the mornings , but Julian and I ended up boarding the first taxi to depart , and we were treated to some ear-thumping local dance tunes on the journey to the start . I am not sure if this musical genre has an official classification , but I am going to call it Trans music .
The early bird might get the worm , but the first taxi goes to the wrong start … in this case , that of the Elliot Madeira Marathon , which starts about a kilometre further down the road . When it comes to road running in the Transkei , I was told that “ Things work differently here .” For example , all the other athletics provinces have a formal process to agree and schedule events on their annual calendar .
( Sidenote : Some are more efficient than others .) Transkei Athletics just issues
With his long flowing hair and open-armed running style , Julian has been nicknamed “ Jesus ” by the Transkei running community , and the organisers were very pleased when I told them not to worry ,
A quick shutdown of the N2 highway for the race start
The race entry fee of R300 includes a high-quality T-shirt , and Julian Karp ’ s race number was 4242 – highly appropriate since he was running his fourth consecutive weekend of backto-back marathons
Images : Stuart Mann , Dean Venish
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