Harrismith Mountain Race

Platberg

Every October, a very challenging 15 km running race takes place up the Platberg ('flat mountain') in Harrismith (Free State, South Africa). The arguably 'toughest in the world' route climbs approximately 600 metres in five kilometres to the summit of Platberg (2377m / 7799ft). This race is the oldest in South Africa, older even than the Comrades Marathon.

Harrismith was a significant military town during the Anglo-Boer War (which officially ended shortly after 23:00 on 31 May 1902 in Pretoria with the signing of the Treaty of Peace by both sides). Two recreational activities, namely golf and the Mountain Race, have direct connections with the Anglo-Boer War. During the war the officers of the garrison were enthusiastic golfers and left several floating trophies to commemorate their sojourn. The Mountain Race has an interesting origin.

Further details about the history of Harrismith have been written about by The South African Military History Society in the Military History Journal, Vol.8 No.2, "HARRISMITH: A Military Town During the Anglo-Boer War, and After: Part II", by SA Watt.
http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol082sw.html

The Mountain Race originated in 1922 when a British soldier, Major AE Belcher, returned to Harrismith where he had been stationed near 42nd Hill during the war. He was referring to Platberg as 'that small hill of yours', and one of the locals immediately bet him that he could not reach the top (591 metres above the town) in less than 60 minutes. The major accepted the challenge and covered the distance with eight minutes to spare. Afterwards, Major Belcher presented a floating trophy as a prize, and in 1927 the Belcher Cup was awarded to the first athlete to reach the summit of the Platberg. The record time today is 22 minutes and 9 seconds.

The race was traditionally run on 10 October for many years, as this was a public holiday until 1994 when a new schedule of holidays was initiated after the first democratic elections in South Africa. From 1994 onwards, the race has been run on a Saturday early in October.

In 2002 the organising club (Harrismith Marathon Club) staged the race for the 80th time.

The race used to be 12.3 km in length, but the route was expanded to a distance of 15 km from 1996.

Course Records:
Men: Michael Miya 01:03:25
Women: Makhasane Maleme 01:27:33

The race starts from the town's sports grounds, and the route is up the slopes of Platberg passing through the terrain where the concentration camp (second site) once stood. The top is reached via One Man's Pass, close to which a fort, built during the Anglo-Boer War, is to be seen. After traversing a short distance along the top, the descent is made via Zig-Zag Pass, and the race is completed at the sports grounds.

This race is tough! Wally Hayward said, "Never again. It's the toughest obstacle in the whole world!"
http://www.runnersguide.co.za/RacesInSA/Details.aspx?RaceNo=1500007723

You run the first 3km in town, and from there it's a gruelling climb up the slopes of the Platberg. Stock up well at the first watering point, for it is a tough climb to the next water table at "Bloekombome" at the base of One-Man Pass. If you are in the hunt for a silver medal don't get caught behind the slower runners here, as there is very little chance of overtaking until you reach the top of the Platberg. There is a watering point here, and the time is called out. Two and a half kilometres along the top and you come to the knee jerking, quadriceps ripping downhill run. Be careful! With 2km to go, the race returns to the tar road. Your legs will take a beating, but there is great crowd support. You are given very clear directions throughout the route and the golden rule is: "Follow the white stones". After you leave the town you run on a footpath. At the top of the mountain there is a control point where times for the first male and female are taken. It is certainly a race where you must take the first half slower than the second.

Route map of Harrismith Mountain Race

The Harrismith Mountain Race is noteworthy for its sometimes extreme weather conditions. For example, on 6 October 2007, Harrismith apparently (according to one of the race organisers) had 120 mm of rain over the 24 hours prior to the race. Conditions were very wet and muddy. There was a cloudburst just before the race.
http://www.runnersworld.co.za/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=9388

The race begins at 11h00 at Platberg Stadium, Harrismith. You can pre-enter up to about two weeks before the race. You can also enter at the start, at a premium. The first 500 entrants get T-shirts. Walkers are welcome. The first three men and women win gold medals, those who complete the course in less than 1h30 win silver and all who finish within the cut-off of 2h45 get bronze medals. The first 500 entrants get T-shirts.

Enquiries:
Gaelyn 083-619-7600
Jaco du Toit 082-898-4630

For accommodation please contact:
Harrismith Inn 058-622-1011
La La Nathi 058-623-0282
Huize van Sandwijk 058-372-9362
Grand National Hotel 058-622-1060
Sir Harry Hotel 058-622-2151
Sterkfontein Dam 058-622-3520
Bergview Motel 058-623-0255
Cyara B+B 058-622-2278


Association of Road Racing Statisticians

http://www.arrs.net

An interesting item of running trivia:
The most wins within a single race series is 16 by three different runners; Michael McLeod (ENG) at the Saltwell Harriers (ENG) 10 km, Jim Pearson (USA) at the Birch Bay (WA/USA) Marathon, and Michael McDermott (RSA) at the Harrismith Mountain Race (RSA) 15 km. The most consecutive wins within a single race series is 16 by McLeod and McDermott.
http://www.arrs.net/Trivia.htm

Table of race winners:
The table below does not yet include the winners from the events of 7 October 2006, 6 October 2007, 2008, and 3 October 2009.
http://www.arrs.net/HP_Harris15.htm
 

Harrismith Mountain Race 15 km

Harrismith RSA

Race Winners (84 runnings)

01 Oct 2005

1:09:58

Jacob Malakoane

1:35:05

Maleme Makhamele-3

02 Oct 2004

1:05:53

Sebetso Retere

1:33:29

Maleme Makhamele-2

04 Oct 2003

1:05:02

Michael Miya-5

1:32:36

Madri Blom

05 Oct 2002

1:03:35

Pule Rasebakoa

1:27:33

Maleme Makhamele

06 Oct 2001

1:03:41

Michael Miya-4

1:35:01

Marietjie McDermott-3

07 Oct 2000

1:03:08

Michael Miya-3

1:30:49

Marietjie McDermott-2

1999

1:05:49

Michael Miya-2

1:35:08

Marietjie McDermott

10 Oct 1998

1:04:06

Michael Miya

1:34:29

Anneke Hechter

1997

1:06:21

Michael McDermott-16

1:31:06

Katie Ismael

1996

1:05:05

Michael McDermott-15

1:34:28

Chantal Butcher

1995

n/a

Michael McDermott-14

---

n/a

08 Oct 1994

55:53

Michael McDermott-13

1:22:08

Liz Mulder

1993

n/a

Michael McDermott-12

1:29:49

Heather Young

1992

n/a

Michael McDermott-11

---

n/a

1991

n/a

Michael McDermott-10

---

n/a

1990

n/a

Michael McDermott-9

---

n/a

1989

n/a

Michael McDermott-8

---

n/a

1988

53:59

Michael McDermott-7

---

n/a

1987

56:38

Michael McDermott-6

---

n/a

1986

54:25

Michael McDermott-5

---

n/a

1985

50:30

Michael McDermott-4

---

n/a

1984

52:45

Michael McDermott-3

---

n/a

1983

53:45

Michael McDermott-2

---

n/a

1982

54:54

Michael McDermott

---

n/a

1981

54:56

A B Annandale

---

n/a

1980

54:29

Robert vanderMerwe-3

---

n/a

1979

54:11

Robert vanderMerwe-2  

1978

55:28

Mark Cookson

1977

55:30

Errol Green

1976

56:15

Johan Daffue

1975

55:56

Robert vanderMerwe

1974

57:10

Victor Liebenberg

1973

57:48

Derick Marcisz

1972

58:13

Andrew Marsay

1971

59:15

C vanStraaten

1970

57:47

D Edwards

1969

1:00:05

Johnny Halberstadt

1968

57:52

Koos Keyser-5

1967

56:13

Koos Keyser-4

1966

58:05

Koos Keyser-3

1965

56:57

Koos Keyser-2

1964

1:01:33

Koos Keyser

1963

1:02:08

B Rens-2

1962

58:07

F vanderHeuwel-2

1961

59:41

F vanderHeuwel

1960

1:01:36

Cyril Bentall

1959

1:04:54

A Beadle-2

1958

1:00:55

A Beadle

1957

1:00:33

B Rens

1956

1:01:20

J Volschenk-2

1955

1:00:22

J Volschenk

1954

1:02:13

M Luyt

1953

1:03:24

J Barnard

1952

1:05:29

Wally Hayward

1951

1:04:16

M Kriel

1950

1:01:44

B Keith

1949

1:04:55

J Gordon-2

1948

1:04:48

J Gordon

1947

1:05:56

Sydney Luyt
Notes: 1922 was the inaugural year. The race distance before 1996 was 12.3 km. The course climbs from 1645 m to 2236 m in the first 5 km to the top of Platberg ("Flat Mountain"), a gain of 591 m.


Most Wins (1922/date)

Men

16

Michael McDermott 1982-97

Women

3

Marietjie McDermott 1999-2001
. Maleme Makhamele 2002,2004-05


Rodney Jones and Budge Rens
Rodney Jones with Budge Rens, October 2007, 50 years after Budge Rens won the Harrismith Mountain Race


Entry Form for Harrismith Mountain Race, 11 October 2014

Entry Form for Harrismith Mountain Race, 12 October 2013

Entry Form for Harrismith Mountain Race, 13 October 2012

Entry Form for Harrismith Mountain Race, 8 October 2011

Entry Form for Harrismith Mountain Race, 9 October 2010

Entry Form for Harrismith Mountain Race, 4 October 2008  


Copyright © 2007-2014, Rodney Jones, rtjones@global.co.za, Randburg, South Africa (Last updated on 4 March 2014)