What Becoming A ‘Major’ Would Mean For The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Run, Events, Events & Racing, Featured, Opinion, Running Event News, Running Feature Stories

The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is on a quest to become Africa’s first inclusion in the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Here’s what it would mean and why you should get involved:

New York, Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago… One might ask, as we sit here on the sunny southern tip of Africa, why, when some 80% of the world’s elite marathon-running field comes from Africa, there isn’t a major marathon anywhere on the continent?

The potential impact of such an event would be immense, reaching far beyond professional running. It could bring about positive transformations at the grassroots level for running in South Africa, leaving a lasting legacy.

In a remarkable collaborative effort, Faces, led by Clark Gardner, is working alongside The City of Cape Town, Sanlam, Adidas, and various other partners, determined to change this status quo and bring the world to Africa through the 2025 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

Their ambitious quest is for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon to become Africa’s first inclusion in the Abbott World Marathon Majors. If they succeed, it would not only be a highlight on every African runner’s calendar, from pros to weekend warriors, but also a historic moment for the entire continent and a major boost for the city of Cape Town.

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

What they are trying to achieve is no mean feat though: To be considered for inclusion in the Abbott World Marathon Majors (viewed unequivocally as the most prestigious marathons in the world), a marathon must meet a rigorous set of criteria, including high standards of organization,hefty prize money, elite field participation, a certain number of entrants, a specified volume of supporters as well as tangible community engagement outside of race day, to name but a few.

The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is making great strides to meet key criteria. And the past few years are a testament to how slick the organisational side of the event is handled. 

The reality is, when it comes to running marathon events in South Africa, most of them are experiencing a decline both from an organisational and participatory standpoint, however, there is a notable exception—the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

In topline terms, what sets the Cape Town Marathon apart is that it’s owned by a company and managed as a business. This distinction doesn’t imply that other events lack professionalism, but rather that the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon benefits from having a business-oriented approach. This allows them to make independent decisions that are in the best interest of the event and ensure its overall sustainability. Consequently, they can offer substantial value to sponsors and maintain control over their value proposition throughout the entire process. Unlike other events where key decision-making roles are often filled by volunteers. This distinctive organizational model bodes well for the future challenges and goals. 

The Journey Forward For The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

For 2023, the race route planners have included some significant adjustments, offering faster times for elite athletes and everyday participants chasing PBs. The elite prize money has been doubled to attract top athletes and break records. Amid challenging economic conditions, the marathon granted 2 000 free entries, showcasing Sanlam’s commitment to inclusivity and uniting diverse participants in the exhilaration of the finish line.

“This is an exciting journey, and we want you to be a part of it,” said Clark Gardner, Group CEO of Faces at a press event to mark 80 days until the 2023 installment and the start of the Abbott evaluation period. “But, we need everyone’s help! We need to reach our goals of 15 000 entrants and 100 000 spectators this year. Together, we can make this happen.”

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

For Gardner, the mission goes beyond economic benefits. Hosting a major marathon on African soil is a chance to inspire social and socioeconomic change in the communities. He emphasizes the importance of the community’s full support and states, “Every runner that crosses that line and every spectator on the pavement helps us meet the major criteria. Our campaign says ‘You do count’ because every individual’s contribution matters.”

The impact of hosting a major marathon in Cape Town extends to providing local athletes with an unprecedented opportunity to compete on their home turf, inspiring the next generation, and serving as role models for aspiring runners. “It’s not a question of ‘should we have a major,” Gardner says, “no one else is stepping up, so our partners, sponsors, and we decided that we’re going to chase this dream and make it happen for the city and the continent.”

With the unwavering support of committed partners such as Sanlam and Adidas, this vision is becoming a reality.

Sanlam and adidas: A True Partnership in Pursuit of Greatness

Sanlam and adidas have moved beyond the conventional roles of sponsors to become genuine partners invested in the growth and success of the Cape Town Marathon. Both organizations share a vision of promoting unity and inclusivity through the power of sports and are determined to see the event become a Major.

Adidas, renowned for its global prominence in the running community, brings invaluable experience from partnering with other Abbott World Marathon Majors in Berlin and Boston. Kate Woods, Senior Brand Director adidas South Africa, highlights the brand’s commitment, saying, “Our relentless commitment is to bring Africa its first major marathon, and we’re going after all the criteria to achieve that status. We’re focusing on both the elite field and the mass participation of 15 000 entries, and we’re incentivising as many South Africans as possible to join this journey.”

“Our main objective is to bring everyone together and participate in this beautiful event,” Woods says, but we’d also love to see as many runners as possible run in Adidas, so we’re rewarding those who start and finish the 2023 42,2km event in adidas footwear with a R2000 adidas online shopping voucher.

Sanlam, as a long-standing partner of the Cape Town Marathon, has a unique bond with the event and is proud to be part of this extraordinary journey. Karl Socikwa, Sanlam Group Exec Market Development, shares his sentiments, “Over the past ten years, our partnership with the Cape Town Marathon has filled us with pride. We recently announced the renewal of our relationship for another three years. The event has a unique ability to draw people in, and the energy and spirit on the day are awe-inspiring.”

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
Sanlam Cape Town Marathon

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. You can register to run, volunteer at the event, or simply cheer on the runners. Every little bit helps. And if you need some inspiration, even just to get out on the streets and cheer on, listen to Hendrick Ramaala, the 2004 New York Marathon winner. “Imagine going from having like less than 10 people under 2 hours 10 minutes, to having over 20 people under 2 hours 10 minutes in a year or two. Just because you give me an opportunity. That’s access because we don’t have it at the moment.”

Ramaala emphasizes that this opportunity will elevate African athletes’ profiles, providing them with a chance to compete on an international stage and inspiring them to dream bigger. He adds, “It attracts the best, so imagine winning it as a local. I can only imagine what that would do for your career. When I won in New York, my life changed… I’ll leave it at that.”

The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon’s journey to join the prestigious Abbott World Marathon Majors series is a testament to the collective belief in the power of sports to unite and inspire. As Clarke Gardener states, “It’s a comprehensive effort to ensure everything meets international standards.” Let us all come together, wear the spirit of unity, and run toward a historic moment for Cape Town, for Africa, and for the world.

“This is an opportunity for us to showcase Africa to the world,” Woods summed it up nicely. “We have the talent, the passion, and the beauty. Now we need the support of the community to make this dream a reality.”

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