Hartbeespoort will be abuzz with excitement on Saturday when 6 000 athletes and thousands of visitors descend on Hartbeespoort to take part in and support the annual Om die Dam ultra marathon.
The 21 km and 50 km races both kick off at 06:00 at the Hartbeespoort Holiday Resort.
The jewel in the crown – crossing the famous Dam Wall, which this year is clear of hyacinths, is a draw card for many of the runners and provides stunning views prior to the remaining 5km run to the resort.
Defending champion and Comrades gold medalist, Joseph Manyedi, is back for the gold but is up against names such as his Nedbank club mate and Comrades champion, Edwin Mothibi, multi Two Oceans winner and Comrades down run gold medalist Marco Mambo and Juan van Deventer, an Olympic 1 500 m finalist, who is to test his speed and strength in the long distance events.
Ultra marathon athletes Rufus Photo, Thulane Magagula, and Renier Grobler all boast Comrades gold, while the likes of Lutendo Mapoto has a sub 2:20 marathon to his credit.
Another runner to watch out for is David Gatebe, who is not only a past Oceans champion, but also the 2016 Comrades down run winner and record holder.
Om die Dam has been awarded gold label status by the IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) for the past six years, which means that the runners can use the race for international ranking and possible selection to the African Continental 50 km championships which were first held in 2019, and the World 50 km championships.
In the women’s camp, 2019 Om die Dam winner, Charne Bosman is back to face challenges from Nedbank’s Tanith Maxwell and Cobie Smith.
Maxwell, a Commonwealth and Olympic marathon runner, has taken her time to step up to the ultra distance, but is now making her mark and once over Saartjies could well cause Bosman to be looking over her shoulder.
Smith has slowly but surely improved her performance and after a leisurely run at last weeks Edenvale event, will be looking for a top position on the Om Die Dam podium.
The 21km race has also attracted some top names, including 2019 winner, David Manja, and South African running legend, Shadrack Hoff. The 21 km route will have runners cross the dam wall twice.
Om die Dam not only has a massive commercial impact for the community on the weekend, but also, through its introduction to the area, sees many runners and families return to enjoy the features and offerings, throughout the year.
The value to the area is often underestimated, but statistics show that over 1 500 runners come from outside Gauteng and North West including, the Western Cape province, KZN, and into Africa with runners from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana.
Om Die Dam has been one of the biggest contributors to awareness and tourism over its 30 year history.