JOHANNESBURG – The bus driver shifts into a lower gear for the steep incline. We are 30 kilometres or so into the tour, approaching Orlando Stadium.
That the vehicle is having difficulty going up the climb is significant.
No wonder that those who have run the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon describe it as “one of the toughest races in the country”.
During yesterday’s official route recce of the race scheduled for Sunday, November 4, there were a few times when the bus struggled.
“Normally people do underestimate the route,” race director Danny Blumberg explained, before quickly firing a warning to those who will be tackling “The People’s Race” for the first time.
“It is a very tough and hilly route. Actually, 50 percent of the route is hilly. It is a race that seriously challenges the runners.”
Besides the difficult route, the Soweto Marathon is made even tougher by weather conditions.
The highveld gets hot in November, and while the race starts early at 6am, the sun is usually up by 7am, and the average runner usually does most of the race in searing heat.
It is for this reason that organisers strive to ensure there is enough water for the just under 30 000 who will participate in the 42.2km, half-marathon and 10km races.
“We are going to have 17 water points on the marathon route and 1.2 million sachets of water.
“Our official sponsors and partners will all have water points, and today we were just giving them a feel of the route and to show them where their points will be,” Blumberg said, adding that the support from local running clubs cannot be underestimated.
“Soweto clubs are always very supportive of the race, and they will be out in their numbers to ensure that it is a success.”
Blumberg believes it will not be long before Soweto is the number one marathon in South Africa.
“The Soweto Marathon will be the best in the country soon.
“We all know what a big occasion it is, and the fact that the race takes runners through the famous Vilalazi Street and heritage sites such as the Mandela House, Regina Mundi Church, Hector Pietersen Memorial adds to make the race special.”
Not that runners get to take in those sites, with the elite athletes and top runners flying through the race in the chase for glory, while the back runners are concerned with just getting one foot in front of the other to beat the clock, the heat and the nasty climbs.