The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon dissected

The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon dissected

While just as iconic, the Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon route is not as well documented as the Comrades Marathon route. On this episode of the Ask Coach Parry podcast, Lindsey breaks down the Cape Town Easter showpiece for you.

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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Ask Coach Parry and a great question in today from Greg Dadegan. Greg was asking us Lindsey, we’ve done really in-depth descriptions of the Comrades Marathon Up and Down routes, the start and that sort of thing. He’s asking us to do the same thing for the Old Mutual Two Oceans, that’s coming up. So let’s talk the ultra marathon from a novice perspective, let’s talk the start, what do you need to bear in mind?

Lindsey Parry: Look, the start isn’t nearly as rock n roll as Comrades, but it is still quite an event. Starts in South Africa, the races start in the dark, the spotlights are out. I think the most important thing to kind of bear in mind for Two Oceans is that the part of town where it starts, doesn’t have a lot of feed in points. So you do want to get there early.

There’s also a half marathon which is going to start, I can’t remember if it’s before or after. But the point is that within half an hour of the main race there’s this half marathon that’s also being run. So there is an enormous influx of people. Parking is at a premium, so those are things that you need to take into account.

The race has some pretty big climbs

Although it’s not 89km long, 56km over some pretty big climbs, it’s a daunting task. So there’s a lot of excitement at the start, they don’t quite have the same traditions, but it is still a pretty cool event to be at and it is one of my favourite races that I’ve run in the world. The first 8-12km, depending on how fast you run, are pretty dark.

They are run through parts of Cape Town where you’re not missing out on much scenery, particularly not once you get through Wynberg. But once the sun starts to come up, you hit Muizenberg, St. James and it’s really beautiful. It can be quite windy, so you do need to prepare yourself for that.

At that point in time you often get a little surprised by the anger in the South Easter, but effectively, from that point, 12-14km, all the way until you get to about 21km, are very gentle rollers, slight up, slight down, with a really nice view on your left hand side of the ocean until you make Sea Point.

Sea Point there’s a little drag which will take you to roughly the 23-24km mark. You’ve got some views of mountains and things, but it’s not really the most spectacular part of the route and then at about the 26km mark, you get faced with a choice which you don’t get to make.

Hard climbing second half of the race

Two Oceans will either then go over Chapman’s Peak Drive or it will go over Ou Kaapse Weg, all indications are that the route is going to go over Chapman’s Peak this year. So that’s what I will focus on and if that changes, we’ll do a special podcast just to talk through the Ou Kaapse Weg route.

You hit a nice flat section until about 28km. So really what you can tell from what I’ve said is that you get to halfway, it’s been a very gentle race. For that reason, a lot of people go very hard in the first half of the Two Oceans Marathon.

They go through halfway, you are going to go through halfway a bit quicker and you are going to negative split, mostly because the second half is so hard, but people get carried away and go way too hard. Almost immediately after half way you will climb what is called Little Chappies.

The allure of Chapman’s Peak

Now, it’s a pretty steep climb, but it’s not too long and a lot of people mistake it for Chapman’s Peak Drive. The way that you will know it’s not Chapman’s Peak Drive is that the views are special, but not spectacular. Once you hit Chapman’s Peak Drive, that is spectacular.

From the long climb up Chapman’s Peak Drive and you’ve got to be careful of the false top cause as you’re running, you can see the top of the climb and people focus on that and when they get there they turn around the corner and it’s not the top.

You only reach the top once you get to the Observation Station, that is the top and how will you know that you’re at the top? That spectacular view that you just finished seeing on Chapman’s Peak Drive will now become one of the most incredible sites that you will see in marathon running anywhere in the world, as you look over Hout Bay.

It is that picture, the picture that you see when you come over the top there, that gives the Two Oceans its name, ‘the most beautiful ultra in the world. It is, without a question, a sight to behold and with it comes the biggest danger to your success on race day.

Hitting Hout Bay and then Constantia Neck

From that point which is, I think at 33km, I can’t remember exact distances, but I think it’s at 33km. You then plummet down into the small town of Hout Bay where you’ll get great support. But it’s steep, the camber is quite bad and in particular the last 500m of that climb are really, really hard on the legs.

Many a runner has thrown caution to the wind and just run too hard down Chapman’s Peak and that really takes the sting out of your legs. Cause once we enter Hout Bay, it’s literally a very, very gradual, but steady climb all the way to the 42km mark.

You are buoyed by the crowds and it is a quaint little town, a special place in Cape Town, but you hit the 42km mark and you are then faced with Constantia Neck, which is a brutal 2.7km climb. It is tough, the camber is hard and you’ve just run a marathon.

So if you’ve gone through 28km too fast and you’ve pounded down Chapman’s Peak, this is when you’ll know all about it. You get to the top of Chapman’s Peak Drive and you have a little -

BB: Constantia Neck Drive.

LP: Sorry, what did I call it?

BB: Chapman’s Peak.

The final push for home

LP: You get to the top of Constantia Neck and that’s a little under 10km to go to the finish and on any profile, that stretch of road looks quite flat, but it isn’t. There are three, what we call effort 1,2 and 3 that will take you up to Kirstenbosch top gate. The most significant feature of this stretch is that this is where the camber is truly, truly bad.

People from out of town and people who haven’t experienced the Two Oceans, this camber does come as quite a shock to the system. It is quite painful and there is a little bit of a shoulder to run on, but there’s also a lot of runners, so it’s not really available. You need to be prepared for that eventuality and it is going to come and you get to the top of, I wanted to call it Constantia top gate now, it’s jumped out of my head -

BB: Kirstenbosch.

LP: Kirstenbosch, you get to the top of Kirstenbosch top gate and from there you have got about 4km of really nice downhill running. You’re late enough into the race that you really can afford to throw caution to the wind down this stretch, really shovel some time in the bag.

Just save a little bit of energy for the last 3.5km, I think it is, when you hit the body of that climb and you hook a left and you start running up the M5 towards the University of Cape Town. That is a stiff little hill, it’s a cruel place to have it. It’s often the place where if you’re targeting a medal. The people who are struggling at that point and really can’t dig deep, will battle up that climb.

Eventually you hit the sports grounds of UCT and that’s about 600m of running on the grass and obviously great excitement in one of the special finishes that you’ll have in any race in the world, with Table Mountain in the background. Lots of enthusiastic supporters and probably Mike Finch and Paul Kay on the microphone and really building up some atmosphere for everybody. Hopefully that gives you a really good overview of the Two Oceans Marathon.

BB: Awesome stuff Lindsey, thank you very much. Don’t forget as well, if you want to check out the Coach Parry online community, the website to get to,, that’s where you can get all the details. Until next time, from the two of us, it’s cheers.

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