Two Oceans Marathon: Notes on Running the World’s Most Beautiful Marathon

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Hout Bay from Chapman's Peak Two Oceans Marathon: Notes on Running the World’s Most Beautiful Marathon www.runnerclick.com

The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, a 56 km ultra marathon around the Cape Peninsula, is known as the “World’s Most Beautiful Marathon” and will run for the 47th consecutive time this coming Easter. The 1100 places for the 2017 ultra sold out in December 2016 already, as this scenic race has become an institution on the South African race calendar.  

RunnerClick had a chat with Kirsty Brits, seasoned ultra marathon athlete and multi time finisher of Two Oceans and the iconic Comrades Ultra Marathon (89 km). Kirsty Brits, 37, lives in Swakopmund, Namibia, with her husband and two children (4 and 7) and is the head of administration at a private school. Kirsty is a qualified personal trainer who started running after the birth of her daughter four years ago in an attempt to lose the weight she gained during her pregnancies.

Kirsty Brits and familyKirsty with her Two Oceans medal (left), and with her beautiful family Skylah (4), Daniel (7) and hubby Conrad. Photos courtesy of K. Brits.

Two Oceans General

RunnerClick: Kirsty, why do you run?
Kirsty: I love running! I love the friendships, the freedom, the feeling, the races, the training and I love drinking beer!

RunnerClick: How many times have you run Two Oceans?
Kirsty: I ran the Two Oceans Half marathon in 2013 when my daughter was 6 months old. A year later I did my first Two Oceans Ultra and finished in a time of 6h24. My best time on the Ultra was on my third attempt in 2016, when I ran it in a time of 5h48. I intend to go for my blue number, which you get after completing Two Oceans at least 10 times.

Preparation for Two Oceans

RunnerClick: How do you approach your training for Two Oceans?
Kirsty: I was very blessed to have had the most amazing training partner, Johan, who has been running long distances for almost 30 years. We ran together for two years, six days a week.

RunnerClick: How did you manage to improve on your Two Oceans times?
Kirsty: My training became more focused under Johan’s guidance, and he also taught me how to eat properly. I used to never eat before I felt I was hitting the wall. I started to carry food or supplements on any run over 15 km, and ate eggs before a long run instead of just a banana. The protein and fat combination was a winner!

RunnerClick: How do you train for Two Oceans’ relentless hills?
Kirsty: Once a week we do about 20 repeats of a short hill, between 250m to 450m long. As race day draws closer we also do hill training on weekly long runs in the desert at Goanikontes. The area allows for slow poison (long, low and slow hills) as well as some pretty steep ones. We do up to 40 km on those sessions, which allows us to train to run hills efficiently with scheduled, measured walk breaks in between.  

Two Oceans Ultra Marathon route profile. Source.

RunnerClick: Do you do speedwork and tempo runs?
Kirsty: Once a week we do track sessions of 400m to 800m sprints. We also do weekly time trials of 4 km or 8 km for tempo runs.

RunnerClick: How long and frequent are your long runs in preparation for Two Oceans?
Kirsty: During our peak training time long runs are between 30 km and 42 km. We would often do back to back runs with 35 km on the Saturday and 20 km on Sunday. Two weeks before the race we would start to taper.

The Race

RunnerClick: What do you love about the race itself?
Kirsty: I love the people and the support, as well as the vibe in the international tent after the race. It is a hard race that pushes you all the way, and I love the challenge.

RunnerClick: What do you love about the route?
Kirsty: I lived in Cape Town as a student, so I love every piece of it! It is undoubtedly the most beautiful marathon in the world.

RunnerClick: Where are the tough parts of the route?
Kirsty: Although I run Two Oceans as a build up for Comrades, I find Two Oceans more challenging than Comrades because of the short cutoff time of 7 hrs. The climb in Fish Hoek is the first challenge. Chapmans Peak is a long climb but the scenery is exquisite. Constantia Neck is a killer. Many a walk break is required up this one. The road through Kirstenbosch is very slanted but very nicely shaded and scenic. The last section, where you run next to the highway leading to the finish at the University of Cape Town is soul destroying. By then you are exhausted and racing the clock and you find runners stopping in front of you without warning.

Kirsty’s Approach

Train, Fish Hoek. By Flowcomm, Licenced under CC BY 2.0.

RunnerClick: How do you pace yourself on race day?
Kirsty: I usually use a pace chart to calculate where I need to be at certain points so I know what pace I need to maintain. I write my pacing on my arms with a permanent marker as I lost my pacing chart one year.

RunnerClick: How do you fuel during the race?
Kirsty: I usually eat every 10km on Two Oceans. I generally have PVM bars, 32gi electrolyte tabs and sport chews. I also eat pieces of bananas, oranges and salty potatoes that are given out at the various aid stations.

RunnerClick: What about hydration on Two Oceans?
Kirsty: I carry a 500ml  water bottle with me all the way. I prefer this as it gives me control as to when I drink. I will have small sips of Energade and water at every water point and keep refilling my bottle to ensure that I can drink in between.

RunnerClick: What else do you always carry with you on Two Oceans?
Kirsty: I carry Magnesit in case I cramp, my asthma pump, tissues and gum.  

Final notes

Kirsty’s Two Oceans Ultra medal. Photo courtesy of K. Brits.

RunnerClick: Any special advice or tips you can give to novices planning to do Two Oceans for the first time?
Kirsty: Go to Cape Town with a few days to spare so you can enjoy the expo. Take your time to take it all in and eat, drink and rest sufficiently the day before. If you lay out your gear a day or two before you can relax and know everything is ready. Also,  make sure you arrive early for the race as the traffic can be a nightmare.  Enjoy the whole experience, not just the run! And smile for for the race photographers, those photos become invaluable!

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