RACE REPORT – RÖSSING SWAKOPMUND MARATHON
by Dieter Gloeck
The coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia is a hidden gem, not only as a holiday destination, but if viewed from a runner’s perspective it presents one with a few interesting and somewhat astounding concepts which I would like share with my fellow runners.
I have, for the past three years run the Rössing Swakopmund Marathon and it keeps fascinating me. Here are some facts:
Swakopmund has a population of 45,000 and it presents four full marathons annually. Pretoria, with a population of 1,6 Million also only hosts four full marathons!
Imagine a town like Phuthaditjhaba, Vryburg or Kokstad (about the same population) hosting four full marathons!
The marathon online entry fees were N$ 80! (R1 = N$1). Entrants received a free T-shirt and a buff. Less than 100 runners participated in the 2019 Swakopmund Marathon (84 finishers).
Yet the prize money is astounding if compared to our South African races. The winner received N$10,000. The first Namibian runner received an additional N$20,000 bonus! So when a Zambian runner won, the local best was not left empty-handed. Category prizes are equally generous. If the record of 2:11 is broken, another N$1,000 is added. The winning times this year were: Men - 2:21; Ladies - 2:43.
I finished second Grandmaster and was presented with an envelope containing N$1,000. The third GM received N$500. Unfortunately, the age tag rule is not strictly enforced and few athletes wear an age tag. The first GM was just a few minutes ahead of me and if I had identified him at the 21km turnaround, a chase would have been worthwhile as each category winner received N$2,000.
The members of the town’s only running club (Swakopmund Striders) turned out in full force and were all allowed to participate in the event.
The route is basically 21km out North running parallel to the coast towards Hentiesbaai on a tar road. After 21km there is a turnaround. Elevation is not the challenge as this course is as flat as can be. The humidity, temperature (start at 07:00) and the South-Wester which picked up just as we were about to turn and then blew in our faces - are some of the factors runners had to contend with.
At the waterpoints (every 3km) runners received a 300ml plastic bottle of water. Sachets are out, as the wind would blow them into the desert. An additional cost for the race organisers, but very environmentally aware. Coke was also offered. The road was patrolled by traffic officers in cars. But early on a Saturday there were not many cars travelling up North along the coast.
But the biggest attraction for me in this marathon, is the “loneliness factor”. Imagine 84 runners spread out over that distance. Some have a buddy to run with, but most runners get the opportunity to really experience the loneliness of the long-distance runner. At about 28km I could not see a runner behind me and the one ahead of me was a small speckle about 400 meters ahead.
The start is still quite “busy” as there is also a half marathon (turnaround after 10km) and a 10km (turnaround after 5km) with a total of 500 runners. But after about an hour they have all turned and its just the 80 or so marathoners left. It then happens that you greet every runner on the other side of the road…
The same afternoon, the final results were e-mailed to each participant.
In summary, the Swakopmund Marathon is certainly a unique experience and a welcome change to our big races which are expensive, traffic noisy and crowded.