Saturday I will be running the Om Die Dam 50km Ultra Marathon at the Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West province of South Africa. “Om Die Dam” translates to “Around The Dam” and that is exactly what this race does…it runs around the dam.
It is one of South Africa’s biggest ultra marathons with more than 7000 runners. It is a tough run with some very tough hills and usually very warm. I haven’t run a 50km race on the road for a long time now so I’m really looking forward to it. My goal is a comfortable finish, ready to continue normal training the week after. There is a generous 7 hour cutoff so no need to hurry and damage the body. I will rather spend some valuable training time on my legs, while enjoying one of the better ultras around.
Below the race description from the South African Runner’s Guide:
Which one, oh which is the most beautiful, which the hardest? Om-die-Dam is a difficult race, let us be clear about that. But it is also a beautiful race. Compared to many other famous ultras, it is often the one that sets the benchmark.
The race starts off in an easy and orderly fashion as it leaves suburban Hartbeespoort and goes alongside the dam for the opening few kilometres. A run through the tunnel is always punctuated with wolf-whistles and cat-calls. This adds to the atmosphere of bonhomie and does little to detract from the magnificence of the triumphant arch-like structure that straddles the dam wall.
The first item on the agenda for today is to climb the opening of several challenging hills. Commando Nek comes early on in the race and, while nuggety, it should pose little difficulty. It was on this nek that Boer General De la Rey positioned his commandos, effectively cutting off Rustenburg from Pretoria.
Once over Commando’s it is relatively easy going as you cross the long bridge over Hartbeespoort Dam. This is a very beautiful stretch, with the sun rising and reflecting with a dramatic splash on the calm water below.
Next comes the long and steady climb through Broederstroom, past Pelindaba. The African Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty, known as the "Pelindaba Treaty" was adopted here. This section of the race can be very hot and the organisers go out of their way to lay on excellent water tables that offer all sorts of refreshments, such as fruit, ice lollies and even miniature wors rolls!
The race earns its reputation as a tough customer at Saartjiesnek. Around the 36-kilometre mark lies this punishing two kilometre or so monster. Each great ultra possesses a legendary hill. It is at this point on Om-die-Dam where reputations are made or broken. Shoulder in and run, let Saartjie make you the hero today. The top of Saartjies has its own reward, for glittering below is the most breathtaking and panoramic view of Hartbeespoort Dam.
Some of the final stretches are quite easy. Beware the sting in the scorpion’s tail, this one is brutal and can reduce even the strongest to a walk. A cautionary note – the event is run in March and in the North West it can get very hot at this time, so drink plenty of fluid on the route.
Om Die Dam Ultra Marathon
Have a great week everyone!