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Popular race steeped in history

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The Legends 68km ultra marathon is not as out of kilter with road running as many imagine.

 

AWAY THEY GO: In just nine weeks’ time athletes will once again set off for the Legends ultramarathon and half marathon races Picture: STEPHANIE LLOYD

The early days of road running were all about the standard marathon and beyond but it was perhaps a meaningful ancestor of Legends that was the only fixture on the local calendar.

In 1955 the first King William’s Town to East London ultra marathon took place. Referencing Tony Viljoen’s book Road Running – The Border Story, it is documented that the race varied between 57 and 60km in length.

Six years later the first Border marathon championships was added and three years after that, in 1964, the marathon known today as the Amatola became a fixture.

Run from Stutterheim to King William’s Town, initially with just nine finishers, the race grew in popularity, peaking in 1991.

The Cambridge Harriers marathon followed, becoming the SA inter-provincial in 1969.

It was only in 1974 that today’s largest local standard marathon, the Buffs was launched, while 1977 saw the arrival of the Bonkolo Marathon in Queenstown and the Washie 100 miler.

Numerous others followed and a good number are no longer in existence, inclusive of the King to East London as the original race became known. The race shut up shop in 1988 with an emphatic win by Phillip Quvana.

Talking of Legends, most of the winners of the race remain exactly that in the annals of local running history.

Included among the leaders were Comrades winners Jackie Mekler of Germiston Callies and Manie Kuhn of Savages, while local Comrades gold medalists to win were Tammie Bilibana and Gordon Shaw.

So it is to this backdrop of a rich sporting history that in 2013 The Legends Marathon over 68km and run from Bhisho to East London was launched.

The race was added to the calendar as a dream of Luthando Baca, who would not have been born when this all started.

To his credit the race has grown, hit a hiccup in 2016 and was temporarily shelved, only to bounce back in 2017.

The environment today could not be more different. The original events would hand out a few medals and cloth tracksuit badges and today big prize money, race shirts and more are on offer.

On September 24 the cream of South African and indeed all-African ultra marathon talent is expected to take on the Legends 68km, which has been given a facelift with a new course. Similar should apply to the half marathon with its own major revamp.

The first ever half marathon to be run in the Border region was in 1979, a full 24 years after road running launched in East London, and now Legends will celebrate and incorporate the 60:11 Half Marathon – an event which on Tuesday next week will have taken place exactly 30 years ago.

So a new history is being forged, while the founding fathers, and the outstanding athletes of yesteryear will be honoured going forward.

Entries are open for The Legends and there is also a 10km and 5km race on offer.

The course should certainly be quicker for the ultra marathon and the half marathon is simply way faster and in a class of its own.

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