Beautiful route offsets pain at Hemel en Aarde

Finishing a 42,2km standard marathon can be a tough and, in some cases, painful experience. The Hemel en Aarde Marathon hopes to mitigate some of the difficulties of running for anything from two to five hours by providing entrants

Entrants in Saturday’s event from Caledon to Hermanus still have to use their feet to propel themselves over the full 42km distance, but at least the run through the beautiful Overberg region of the Western Cape provides some spectacular scenery as a distraction from the hardship of a standard marathon.

This first-time event, which starts at 6am at the Overberg High School in Caledon, was surprisingly sold out quickly and there will be almost 2 100 entrants tackling the journey to the coast.

With Two Oceans and Comrades qualifying season in full swing, a large portion of the entrants will have been lured to enter by the fast, downhill finish which they are surely hoping leads to quick times. The qualifying hopefuls will need to complete the 42,2km in under five hours to be eligible to compete in the Two Oceans or four hours 50 minutes to earn a place on the Comrades start line.

While the final 15 kilometres of the route into Hermanus looks like a perfect finish for anybody hoping to improve their ultra-marathon seeding, there is a bit of work to be done before athletes can start the fast descent to the Whalehaven Winery on the outskirts of the famous whale-watching town.

The opening 14 kilometres provide an undulating meander out of Caledon and should allow the large field to settle into a rhythm as runners traverse the rolling Boland farmlands.

Then the hard work starts.

Competitors must then tackle three climbs which will see runners spending most of the next 13km facing a road that is gently rising up to the highest point of the event. Here many runners are likely to be behind the their pacing plans and are sure to be finding it tough going.

However, the final third of the race is pretty much all downhill and the top runners are likely to be covering the ground at near world-record pace at times. For the backmarkers who have skipped some of their downhill training sessions, this is where things could get painful as quadriceps begin to take a pounding on the long downhill sections into Hermanus.

But one thing that all runners will appreciate is the spectacular views as they descend to the coast, and that will maybe ease some of the pain.

The event is timed by FinishTime.

Race number collection is at the following venues and times:

Friday, 28th February:
Sportsmans Warehouse (Rondebosch, Tygervalley or Somerset West): 11 am to 6pm;
Whale Coast Mall: 6pm to 9pm;
Overberg High School, Caledon: 6pm to 9pm.

Saturday, 29th February (race day):
Overberg High School, Caledon: 3:45am to 5:30am.