The Karoo Ultra Marathon took place on Saturday 27 September 2008 and started and finished in Laingsburg.
The athletes participating in the 38th Karoo Ultra-Marathon came from all over South Africa to run what all of them say, is the best “Small Town Marathon” in South Africa. A total of 11 runners travelled by train from Roodepoort in Gauteng, while Irene Running Club had 6 representatives and Mitchell’s Plain 7. There were also participants from the Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape and the Boland.
Although there were only ninety-five entries for this year’s event it was a sixty percent increase on the fifty-eight runners of 2007. The Organisers’ objective is to increase the number of entries to 150 in 2009. This is the dream of the Race Director and Municipal Manager of Laingsburg, Mr. Pietie Williams, who after the demise of the local running club decided to take over the organisation of the event and make it a municipal responsibility. He then requested the assistance of the Comrades Marathon Association to advise and assist him with the marketing and strategic planning for the event.
With the help of the CMA Bruce Fordyce was flown to Cape Town to be the guest speaker at the official launch of the 2008 Karoo Ultra-Marathon on 23 August. The CMA has also facilitated the first ever television coverage for the event – highlights of the event will feature on Tseleng, SABC2’s running programme, shortly. It is hoped that the increased exposure of this fantastic event will contribute to the growth in entries over the next few years.
The mix bag of runners is also indicative of the wide appeal of the race. The eventual winner, Mxolisi (Principal) Fana (Nedbank Club George) has done two Comrades Marathons and won in a time of 6:08 a full 13 minutes ahead of the second placed Hylton Dunn from the Springs Athletic Club, Gauteng. The women’s race was won by 38 year old Martha Pretorius in a time of 7:14 followed by Maretha de Kock twenty one minutes later.
Being an 80km Ultra race it was no surprise to find that almost every runner that ran the event had run the Comrades Marathon. Third placed Kleintjie Van Schalkwyk in the women’s race, has completed 24 Comrades Marathons while Hercu Hofmeyr, placed third in the men’s race, did 27 Comrades Marathons. Shirley Middlemost from Rand Athletic Club, now based in Cape Town, spoke at length about the race and its appeal and how it has always been a race that she wanted to do. She was full of compliments for the organisers who despite a lack of sponsorship still managed to have 45 water points along the race route – remarkable since the water points were allocated to a few businesses in town, local councillors and the political parties represented in the town council. The town’s hard working mayor also had a water point and rushed off immediately after she started the race at 06H00.
Barrie Botha from the Fit 2000 club in Randburg raved about the hospitality dished up by the local community and the special atmosphere and crowd that line the streets when runners enter the town. This was also the view of Julian Karp (Mt. Edgecombe KZN), a veteran of 16 Comrades Marathons and a runner who has already completed ten Ultra- Marathons this year. He confesses that since his first visit two years ago he was hooked and will continue to come back for more.
The record for the most Laingsburg Karoo ultra- marathons is presently jointly held by Richard Butcher (Swartland) and Daniel Van Eck (Bellville) who has both completed 24 marathons and both of them shows no signs of stopping soon. Elias Klein is the local runner with the most Karoo Marathons namely, 12.
It is evident from the 38th Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-Marathon that the event has received a new lease of life and that it is indeed here to stay. Talk is that next year will see the introduction of a 5km Fun Run for kids and a 21.1km or even an alternative relay-event over the 80km route. Whatever happens, there is a core of loyal Karoo Ultra- Marathon runners who has a standing commitment to this unique event and town and who will be back to help it grow.