A Dutch invasion on the Two Oceans Marathon
01 January 1970
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. What a great pleasure to touch base with our next two guests and we spoke to them, it was pretty much exactly this time last year in the build up to the 2015 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. It was two gentlemen who were in the Netherlands at the time coming out to South Africa to run their very first Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon,
They came out and unfortunately due to the fires in the Cape, weren’t able to run over the impressive Chapman’s Peak, but enjoyed the experience nonetheless. Had a great initiative that they started last year and how things have evolved in 12 months, it’s absolutely incredible.
I’m not going to get too much into their story, we’ll delve into it now, but what a great pleasure to welcome back onto the show today, all the way in the Netherlands, Marco van Leeuwen and Ed Kooiman. Welcome gentlemen, nice to catch up again.
Ed & Marco: Hi, hello Brad.
BB: It’s good to have you guys on, Marco, let me start with you. Let’s touch on your experience in South Africa last year. We spoke in the build up to the Two Oceans and then on race weekend. We got to spend a bit of time and you were really blown away by, not just Cape Town, but the running scene and the people of South Africa.
Not only running but engaging with South Africans
Marco van Leeuwen: Yes, that’s right, we had some crazy initiative, the Swap Shirts initiative. So we took a lot of shirts of our running friends to South Africa and with those shirts, we met lots of runners in South Africa. People from abroad, but mainly South African runners and they were so friendly.
They were so enthusiastic about running ultras, it was our first ultra last year. We thought we did an exceptional run, but we were amazed, everybody is doing ultra-runs in South Africa, So we met lots of nice people over there.
BB: Ed, your experience, you talk about those shirts being swapped and it was amazing seeing when you guys went back to the Netherlands and took the shirts back that you got here. Just seeing the amount of joy that was spread by those shirts, can you imagine, then at the time, how this thing has grown and evolved?
You’re coming back again and we’ll touch on that in a moment, but it was an incredible experience. Even though it wasn’t the full Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon experience, you guys went back just really touched by South Africa.
Ed Kooiman: Yes, well, when we came back and we told our stories, we organised an evening in a bar and as good tradition, we drank a lot of beer with stories. We handed out the shirts and flags we got from people. I think the impression we made on our friends that we were totally nuts.
We believed so much in what we said that without knowing, we were convincing to the people around us and everybody had this feeling, wow, what these guys did is incredible. The feeling we brought across of the joy and pleasure of running, the experienced and the starter runners, they were all amazed about what we did. Those shirts were a very tangible thing, part of our story, so we were kind of local heroes.
Introducing foreigners to the South African running culture
BB: I love it, from that it’s just really grown into what it is now. Marco, tell me a little bit about what’s happening in the Netherlands. You guys have just come off a marathon that you’ve organised, but you’re coming back and you’re not coming alone.
MVL: No, we’re not. Because of the enthusiasm of the people in Holland, we believe that we could return, not only by ourselves, but we could take a lot of people to let them see how running in South Africa is. Every year about 50 people are traveling to Cape Town to run Two Oceans Marathon. Because of meeting those people in Cape Town, because of that, we can do something extra.
So not just organise a trip to run the Two Oceans Marathon, but let the people see how it is to meet some African runners. Let them talk about the Two Oceans Marathon, what it is, what’s their experience, meet some clubs etc, so do a total package. Do the Two Oceans Marathon and meet some local residents, that’s the whole concept.
BB: I love what you guys have done because it’s one thing coming to Cape Town and running the Old Mutual Two Oceans as tourists and you go home and you’ve had a wonderful experience; but Ed, you guys have really made a point of, I don’t want to say becoming South African, but being part of South Africa. You’ve embraced it and we’ve embraced you and love what you’re doing. It must feel great to be able to put something like this together.
EK: You see that the reason why people come along with us is because the story is good and we are proud of that story. What you say is nice, we feel a little bit South Africa. I follow South African news, I’m interested in politics, I’m interested in the quarrels which you see on Facebook.
It all gives a little bit of background to the people you sport together with and to share the experience and to show people how easy it is to meet South Africans. Because when you sport, it is easy and that is what we want to transfer, the joy of sharing.
Inspired into organising a marathon
BB: Ed, tell me a little bit about this marathon that you guys have put on, it happened not so long ago, just a few days ago, what brought that about? Tell me a little bit about that?
EK: It started a little bit as purely a practical thing. We wanted to grow the group which we take along to Cape Town to do some exercises together, some training and we said, let’s organise a marathon together. So, we thought about the course and then we said oh, we need to organise the bits.
From there we suddenly had a whole marathon and the whole thing exploded. So, when we announced the marathon on Facebook we thought we’d invite a few people, we said we’re going to have a maximum number of participants of 56 and that’s symbolic. In four days we had a hundred and we said, oh no, let’s stop, we don’t want so many!
BB: I love that and Marco, how was that marathon received this weekend, how many did you end up having, was it a hundred and how did they enjoy it?
MVL: Eventually we were with 90 people, the weather was terrible, we had terrible winds last Sunday. So we were afraid of all the runners that would come, but 90 people came and had a terrific time. Everybody was very enthusiastic about the course, about the whole atmosphere and of course, about the story behind this marathon.
We call it the Two Rivers Marathon, as a tribute to the Two Oceans of course and as we said, about 50 people are travelling to Cape Town every year. I believe about half of those people were here doing this training. Meeting each other, talking about their adventures travelling to Cape Town, so that brought something extra.
Getting to hopefully run Chapman’s Peak
BB: I love that. Ed, as far as the enthusiasm to come back to Cape Town, obviously you had the disappointment of not going over Chappies last year, are you excited to come back and go? I’ve been riding my bicycle up and down it, the good news is, Chapman’s Peak is open and fingers crossed it’s going to be open on race day.
EK: Ja, that’s going to be a little bit of extra magic, I think. It will be my second time and I’m not aiming to improve my time. But I want to make sure that the people who are travelling with me enjoy it as much as they can and it’s going to be magic.
BB: How many guys and girls, between the two of you, that you’ve influenced to come out to South Africa? Obviously you came out and enjoyed it last year, how many are you bringing back?
EK: We come with now a group of eight I think. Meanwhile there are also people coming now, but they don’t travel in our companionship but separate. Also this weekend we heard again from a number of people that they plan to come next year. We believe that we will be growing this, this is only the start.
BB: It’s amazing. Marco, I remember chatting to you guys in the Old Mutual VIP tent after the race and I gave you two of my running shirts and they were Comrades Marathon finisher shirts. I said to you, these shirts are amazing, but you’ve got to come back and get your own one and you’re coming back to run Comrades as well Marco.
MVL: Yes, I didn’t forget that moment Brad! I’m now and then wearing that shirt, proud of that one Brad, thanks for that.
Why South Africa has so much appeal
BB: I love it, when I saw that you had entered, I was so excited, I’m just absolutely amazed! Marco, let me ask you this, South Africa; you travelled a lot, being in Europe, it’s pretty easy to travel within Europe. South Africa is a long way from where you guys are in the Netherlands, but you’ve fallen in love with South Africa, what do you think makes South Africa special?
MVL: Of course it has a common sort of history, lots of people from Holland settled in South Africa. It’s always fun once somebody is talking Afrikaans to us. So now and then, people are trying to do that and we can actually understand those people, so that’s fun.
But the way you experience sports, especially experience running, wow, that’s so, so, so great. It’s not only that, but the region you’re living in, you moved to Cape Town, Cape Town is so beautiful. We’re talking about Chappies, but there are so many more nice spots over there. We’ve fallen in love with the people, but we’ve fallen in love with the country, it’s so great.
BB: Excellent and the shirt swapping that you had last year, are you going to be doing something similar at this year’s race Ed?
EK: We haven’t planned that, no. We thought we do it once here, we’ve done it in other places by the way, so we’re still using the concept. But now, we’ll not do that, but on the other hand, we know now how to become friends with South Africans and no worries about that.
BB: Brilliant, well, you guys have also set up a website about running in South Africa for people from the Netherlands. What I’ll do is I’ll put the link to that website in the show notes for this episode of Old Mutual Live as well, I think it’s cool, ‘Hardloop in Zuid Afrika’, something to that effect.
The good news is, if you can’t read Dutch, there is an English translate button as well, so that’s how I managed to figure my way around that website. I think what you guys are doing is amazing. Thank you for flying the flag of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in the Netherlands, we really do appreciate it. We can’t wait to welcome you back to the Mother City.
Ed & Marco: Super, fantastic Brad. Nice to meet you again and we’ll see you in a few weeks.