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  • Writer's pictureLisa Perry

The BIG 5 of SA Sport

The Big 5 Sporting Events in South Africa is little known to many South Africans. These events attract competitors from around the world who come to South Africa to try prove their might against our South African athletes.

The concepts of The Big 5 Sporting Events include five different sporting disciplines: running, cycling, swimming, canoeing and another, which joins three of them to form one event.

South Africa’s ultimate endurance running race is the infamous Comrades Marathon usually held each year at the end of March. The roughly 90km race is run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Each year the route alternates between the “up run” and “down run”. Pietermaritzburg’s altitude is 596m higher than Durban, so runners who take part in the ‘down run’, run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, whereas the “up run” takes runners from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.

Down run records Men: David Gatebe: 5:18:19 (2016) RSA

Women: Frith van der Merwe 5:54:43 (1989) RSA

Up run records Men: Leonid Shvetsov 5:24:49 (2008) RUS

Women: Elena Nurgalieva 6:09:23 (2006) RUS

The ABSA Cape Epic has definitely confirmed its spot as the cycling discipline all “die-hard” cyclists would want to partake in. The only catch is that the entry fee is R74 900 per team (comprising of two cyclists). Keep an eye out for the event of SuperSport, it is held each year from the second last weekend in March, through to the last weekend. The route changes each year, but race organiser’s keep the roughly 700km long mountain bike race in the scenic parts of the Western Cape. Don’t get too much of a fright, that 700km is split between 8 days.

We’ve all heard about the Dusi Canoe Marathon, but do you know the fun facts about it? This sporting challenge

definitely has the right to be included in SA’s Big 5. Similar to the Comrades Marathon, the Dusi (as it’s referred to) sees canoeists cover 120km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The race is held in mid-February every year, to take advantage of the summer rainfalls. The race starts on the uMsindusi River that runs through Pietermaritzburg. At the halfway point, the river meets the much tougher uMngeni River and this is where the race becomes interesting. The race is unique in that it includes numerous portages where the paddlers carry their craft over hills, either to cut out unrunnable rapids and cataracts, or to eliminate long loops in the river. Most of these portages are through thick bush on steep and undulating terrain, and several of them are around 4km in length.

It’s a bit late now, but keep a look out for the Dusi Canoe Marathon on SuperSport next year. It’s worth seeing the brave canoeists tackle the white water rapids and trail runs with their canoes.

Very few people can say that they have swum the Robben Island to Blouberg Swim. In fact, this may not even be a sporting event open to the public due to its dangers. In this case the Midmar Mile 8 mile (9.29km) swim can be regarded as South Africa’s toughest swimming event. The Robben Island to Blouberg Swim has attracted many daredevils from around the world to challenge the 7.9km swim amongst the sharks of Table Bay in Cape Town.

The last and final event of the series is Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship. We have all met someone who has completed the IRONMAN. And how do we know if someone has completed an IRONMAN – they tell you that they have completed an Iron Man.

This event, which is held in Port Elizabeth each year, incorporates a 180km cycle, marathon run (42,2km) and a 3,8km

swim in the sea. Participants start with swimming and change to cycling; the marathon is their last and hardest leg of the event. Not everyone is able to partake in this costly event. The entry fee is roughly R7500 per entrant. But to add to this, participants need to account for wetsuits, googles, bicycle and the kit associated to cycling and running shoes. Port Elizabeth is a small city and so participants and their families need to account for their travel and accommodation. Maybe the expense part adds to the title of being an “IRONMAN”?

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