History of the Marathon

The Beginning

The inaugural Sanlam Cape Town Marathon was run by a small, competitive field in September 2007.  For the first three years, the race was organized by Western Province Athletics (WPA), under the umbrella of a corporate sponsorship agreement with the national federation, Athletics South Africa (ASA).  During this same period of time, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon yielded some of the fastest times in South Africa, including Olympic and World Championship qualifying times.

City of Cape Town Comes On Board

In the following years, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon steadily attracted a larger and larger field of runners.  In 2010, freed of the constraints of the early sponsorship, WPA was able to enter into a sponsorship agreement with the City of Cape Town that set the stage for developing the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon into a high quality, international event showcasing Cape Town as a world class destination for major sporting events.

The Vision Expands

In 2014, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is managed by a partnership between WPA, the City of Cape Town and ASEM Running, and it is endorsed by two of South Africa’s sporting greats, Elana Meyer and Francois, for its tremendous potential to further develop in the hopes of being included as one of the World Marathon Majors.

The Heritage

The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has always been staged on the Sunday nearest to the 24th of September, South Africa’s Heritage Day.  The route is designed, not only to take in Cape Town spectacular natural beauty, but also to enable runners to traverse the City’s rich historical sites, in a running celebration of South Africa’s oldest, ‘Mother’ city.

The Spring Advantage

Spring dawns in September in Cape Town, bringing relief from the heavy winter rains and frequent strong winds, as well as earlier sunrises and milder temperatures.  It is some of the best weather in Cape Town for a long distance running event along a route that offers elite athletes the opportunity to gain fast times, and enabling novice marathon runners to complete their first heroic marathon.

History of the Marathon

With its vision of becoming a World Majors Marathon, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon celebrates the history of the race which takes its noble place as the pinnacle of distance running events

  • The Inspiration – According to legend, in 490 B.C. Pheidippides, a Greek soldier ran 25 miles from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Greeks over the Persians.  He delivered his message, then collapsed and died.
  • The Revival – This fabled, epic run to deliver the news of victory was commemorated more than 2000 years later, when a 24.8 mile marathon event was included in the modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896.  Seventeen runners competed and Greek runner, Spyridon Louis completed the marathon in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 50 seconds to win the gold medal.
  • The Influence – A team of USA athletes sponsored by the Boston Athletic Association took part in the 1896 Olympic Games, and they were impressed at the success of the marathon.  In 1897, the first Boston Marathon was staged on the 19th of April to memorialize Paul Revere’s famous 1775 ride.  The Boston Marathon is now the oldest annual marathon in the world.
  • The Distance – The marathon course for the 1908 London Olympics stretched from Windsor Castle to the Royal Box at the White City Olympic stadium, some 42 195 meters (26 miles, 385 yards).  In 1924, this distance was accepted as the worldwide marathon standard.
  • The Inclusion – The marathon ceased to be an exclusively male event in 1972, when the Boston Marathon officially opened its course to women.  In 1984, women runners were able to compete in the Olympic Games’ Marathon for the first time.  Today, a number of the world’s marathons make it possible for wheelchair racers to compete.  Many welcome registered and unregistered runners, social and lifestyle runners, corporate and charity runners.
  • The Popularity – It is estimated that between 500 and 800 marathons are staged in the world each year, involving hundreds of thousands of competitors and millions of spectators and viewers.