It’s really helpful to have a goal when you start running, otherwise it can be difficult to stay motivated. Motivation is different for everyone, but I found the threat of coming last, coupled with the reward of an event-specific t-shirt, good enough for me to maintain my weekly running schedule. These are my budget-friendly race suggestions for beginner runners in South Africa’s Western Cape.
Parkrun – 5km
Time of year: All year round | Cost: Free
Technically not a race, nor specific to the Western Cape. This list is starting off great!
Why sign up?
The Parkrun is free, happens every Saturday morning, at various locations, and gets you used to the idea of a real race event without any of the pressure. Just remember to register and bring your personal bar code with you on the day. It’s really the best value for investment you’re going to find for beginner runners.
- Since it happens every week you might end up getting complacent and fall into the infinite “I’ll do it next week” loop.
- Many of the runs are dog friendly, but not everyone knows how to control their dog.
- The keep left, pass right rule often gets abandoned.
- Popular runs can get very crowded.
Bench2Bench – 5/8km
Time of year: June | Cost: R50 (includes breakfast!)
The Bench2Bench is an annual memorial event that takes place in the Constantia Alphen Greenbelt.
Why sign up?
This event took a tragic event and turned it into a force for good, encouraging people to get up and moving, which means it’s a super friendly environment for new runners. You can choose to do the 5 or 8km route and most of it is light trail rather than road running. What I like the most is that the results are determined by guessing what time you think you’ll get. So it doesn’t matter who’s ahead of you, but rather how well you know yourself. No personal watches allowed. By some weird fluke, I managed to come 2nd in 2015. I was pretty chuffed. Also, a breakfast roll will be waiting for you at the end. Talk about motivation!
- Some parts of the routes are trail and can become very slippery if it rains.
- Potential to meet some excessively adorable puppies.
Milkwood Run – 5/10km
Time of year: March | Cost: R50 (5km) / R125 (10km)
This one is in the Deep South, but it’s worth the trip.
Why sign up?
The Milkwood Run takes place on the Kommetjie coastline so the scenery is majestic. It’s also a clean event, with no littering allowed and, instead of a finisher’s medal, you get an indigenous tree sapling at the end. If you don’t have space to plant a tree, you can donate it instead. So you’re doing good for the environment while also doing good for yourself. You’re winning at all of the things! I started with the 5km and came back the next year for the 10km. I can definitely recommend this strategy.
- The Soetwater Resort is a long way to go for most of us so you’ll have to be up super early.
- If you don’t get up super early, the parking will all be gone, so consider sharing a ride with friends.
- Spectacular views may distract you and prevent optimum performance.
- If you’re in it for the medals, this is not the race for you.
Landmarks Fun Run/Walk – 6km
Time of year: November | Cost: R30
The Landmarks Fun Run takes place in Rondebosch and is part of the annual Landmarks Half Marathon.
Why sign up?
The route is pretty much flat and you can choose to donate a fluffy toy to the Red Cross Children’s War Memorial Hospital along the way. There will be some jolly people waiting along the route, ready to catch your cuddly offering. Kind of like with the Milkwood Run, you get to feel good about yourself for multiple reasons. Who doesn’t want that?
- There will, more than likely, be children everywhere.
- Can be a bit crowded at the beginning.
Pricing and dates for 2019 correct at time of publication.