As runners age, we become increasingly nostalgic and seeing elderly runners like myself, wearing race tee shirts from bygone years, is quite normal … when we can still fit into them that is. As for those who still wear their tee shirts, despite no longer fitting into them, that is a story for another day (for the record, I am happy to say that I do still fit into mine at age 60).
Normally it is a tee shirt with special memories such as my faded yellow Comrades tee shirt from my first Comrades in 1984. But sometimes it’s a shirt that commemorates a race that was a train smash, an unmitigated disaster that is only funny many, many years later.
Such as my grey, long-sleeve shirt from the Two Oceans ultra way back in 2006, which was a tragedy in three parts – the start, the race and the finish. Let’s just say that there was nothing fair about the Cape that day, as the race klapped me.
Fast forward to the 2022 Two Oceans ultra and runners remain uncertain as to whether their entries will be accepted in the new ballot system. In 2020 when the race was cancelled due to Covid, runners received no refund for their entry fee, and this has left a bad taste in their mouths. While runners understand that the organisers incurred costs, it has made runners hesitant about entering the Two Oceans in case the race again does not happen.
The new entry system uses a ballot system, which is basically a lucky draw. Runners don’t pay an entry fee, unless their entry is successfully drawn in the ballot. But there is no indication of how many entries will be accepted … is it 1 000, 2 000 or more?
The ballot system will be done in two draws, with the first one being for runners who have run seven Two Oceans or more, and the second for the remainder of the runners only on February 21. Does this mean that those who have run seven or more Two Oceans, will receive preference over the rest of the field in the number of entries allocated?
Cape-based club runners, such as at Spartan Harriers, also have an advantage over runners from other parts of the country. These runners can volunteer to work at the Peninsula marathon and they then gain guaranteed entry to the Two Oceans ultra, provided they have qualified.
One would think that the runners who should get preference as far as possible, would be those who lost their entry fees in 2020?
For crying out aloud! It takes about 3-4 months of training to prepare for an ultra. With just two months to go, runners are expected to train for an ultra, running a qualifier marathon and ideally a 50km training run as well, while having no idea as to whether their hard training will all have been for nothing. And it is not as if doing high mileages in training for the Two Oceans this year can serve as a training for the Comrades, as the Comrades is only in August. For this reason, I have advised runners that I coach to rather focus on building up to a fast marathon qualifier in early May for the Comrades.
Add to this the bad experience in 2020, where runners around the country paid for flights and accommodation with many losing money, and there is understandably a reluctance to take the risk of doing so this year.
I think that between Covid and this ballot system, we can expect the Two Oceans to be mostly limited to local runners, with few runners from around the country risking it. And hopefully the TV coverage will be better than in 2019, when it was a disaster. Meanwhile, the official Comrades launch will be held next week on February 17, after which all the relevant information about the entry system and qualifiers will be posted to the Comrades website, six months before the race. Now that is the way to do things!