The new OMTOM half marathon ballot entry system
26 October 2016
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. We are currently heading towards the end of 2016, but we’re looking ahead to what’s going on in 2017. One of the big races that Old Mutual is involved with on the running calendar is the Old Mutual Two Oceans. It’s grown into this massive running festival which I absolutely love.
It’s an incredible weekend down in Cape Town. Things are happening around that race already, even though the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon is upon us, we are looking ahead to the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. We’re joined now by the General Manager of the Old Mutual Two Oceans, Carol Vosloo. Carol, nice to chat again, welcome back onto the podcast.
Carol Vosloo: Hi Brad, thanks for having us.
BB: It’s crazy that we’re talking what’s happening OMTOM 2017. But truthfully, the organisation of this thing starts practically the day the last one finishes.
CV: That’s right and people are always phoning and saying: When can we enter for next year? The enthusiasm and the passion is amazing, it’s really great to have such passionate runners.
Great demand for Ultra entries already
BB: You talk about people phoning and asking when they can enter. The demand for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, it’s exploded. Yes, the half marathon has driven a lot of that well, but even the ultra, over the last couple of years has just been, it’s over-subscribed. You could probably sell that race out double, it does put, I don’t want to say limitations. But it does hamstring you a bit because there’s more people who want to run the thing than you can actually allow to run it.
CV: That’s right Brad, we are limited by the City of Cape Town and Disaster Management. The roads in CT which give us those beautiful scenic views, but obviously they’re quite narrow in some places. So we are limited to 11 000 entrants. We opened entries not so long ago and we’re already on 7 000, 6 957 as of this morning. It’s very exciting that ultra runners are entering early.
You can enter without putting your qualifying race in because you need to do a marathon within five hours and we do allow people to enter and put in their qualifier up to the sixth of March. I encourage people to enter now while there are still entries available. Then you can always update your qualifying marathon up until the sixth of March.
BB: Fantastic. Looking at those numbers, I’m not too clued up on the way things grow, but is that up from last year at this stage in the entry process?
CV: Absolutely Brad. Last year was a record, we reached our capacity in January. But definitely the figures are way up from last year.
BB: It’s interesting Carol, I’m also just speculating here, but I’ve seen what the Comrades numbers are now at this stage as well, in their entry process. To me those seem up as well. What do you think it comes down to, why are we seeing such a huge interest in these ultras?
CV: I think people are wanting to achieve things more and more and people are very conscious of being fit and healthy. South Africans have such a passion for running and being outdoors in the landscape that our beautiful country offers us. Our theme is Run As One and we’re still going with that theme next year because of the great message it gives. People in SA are wanting to run as one and do things as one, which is a great message for our country.
BB: Absolutely. As far as those entries go, is there a specific cut-off date or is it a case of once you’ve reached the max, that’s it, it’s done.
CV: It’s once we’ve reached the max Brad and then we also do allow substitutions from the beginning of January if we are sold out by that time. But once again, you can qualify until the sixth of March.
BB: Get in there now, if you’re planning on running the ultra, make sure you head over to the website, I’ll give you all the details at the end of the podcast. You can also catch them in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live, get in there and enter.
The half marathon ballot entry system
The half marathon, we talk about the ultra being over-subscribed, this half marathon has just absolutely exploded. There is such a huge demand for these things. It’s been a challenge for Two Oceans as an organisation to manage it because you’ve got to do something and obviously in the past there’s been tech issues. But it’s just one of those things. You’ve introduced a ballot system for the half marathon, tell us a little bit about the thinking behind that and how that’s going to work.
CV: We have Brad, as you mentioned, we have experienced technical issues over the past two years, specifically with the demand. Last year we put in a very fancy queuing system where we hooked up to big servers in Norway and that didn’t even help us. There are a number of factors.
As much as we’ve put in a lot of resource into our systems, we are also dependent on things like connectivity, bank OTP, as in one time pin for your payment process on credit cards. We’ve looked internationally and we’ve looked at what works for other marathons that also have the same demand as us.
The big trick too Brad, is that you can’t test it. As much as you can do your normal test, you can’t test it with 16 000 or up to 20 000 people all online as once. What we’ve also found is that people will sit with a couple of devices open, they’ll have their iPad, their iPhone, their computer open and all trying to get an entry.
We’ve done a lot of investigation into this and we are going to introduce a ballot system whereby people can apply and the whole idea is that you’ve got a week to pay. Once you get your confirmation of your entry being successful. That will take pressure off the banking system and the internet systems.
BB: Carol, I like the idea, I know a lot of people don’t, but unfortunately it is a reality. I had a chuckle when you talk about people sitting with various devices cause that’s exactly what does happen. I’m sure people listening to this are going: Exactly! You get your aunties and your uncles to try and they’ve got your details and for essentially one spot in that race. You could possibly have 10-15 devices, people refreshing all the time and it puts massive strains on the IT infrastructure. Also, the ballot system is not something new.
When half marathon entries open
You mentioned other races and you can think of things like the New York Marathon and the London Marathon, races like that where it’s pretty difficult to get entries for. It’s the way you have to go and I know Cape Town Cycle Tour have also, they’re struggling with very similar issues. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that we have to deal with. But as far as the actual timing and looking at dates of that process, when does that kick-off Carol?
CV: Brad, our blue number club members and those are people who have done 10 races or more, plus our yellow numbers and those are nine races, so they’re heading up to their 10th, they will receive an email by the end of this month. They’ll be able to enter and pay directly.
Thereafter, our ballot process starts on the 1st of November and you have from the 1st to the 10th to upload your profile, to update your information on our website. Put your expression of interest into your profile to say you’d like to run the half marathon. Then on the 12th of November we will select our running clubs and we give preference to our running clubs. Brad because those are the people who support running and development of athletics within South Africa.
We will allow them their applications and we will give them a week to pay, which will be from the 11th to the 17th of November – all this information is on our website. We have communicated directly with the clubs – and then after that the second lot will be the other runners who have applied to our ballot, from the 18th of November.
If you get a successful email and SMS, we will make sure that we communicate in various platforms, you’ll be able to pay for your entry from the 18th to the 24th of November. The main difference there Brad is that we’re not putting pressure on the system where everybody will pay at once.
How and when to get your trail run entries in
BB: I think it’s a great idea Carol. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things, but the race is just so popular and fantastic that it does warrant something like that. As far as the trail run because like I said, it’s become this huge festival, the whole weekend is just this amazing running festival. The trail runs become pretty popular as well, those entries I believe are open on the 1st of December?
CV: That’s right and we are limited to a thousand runners by SANParks because we need to make sure that we protect our beautiful Table Mountain, our fauna and flora there. We’ve got the 12km and a 24km, it’s been increased from 22km because our trail run partners, Energy Events are doing some exciting things with the route. That opens, that will just be the normal online system on the 1st of December.
BB: And that one sells out pretty quickly too, so if you are thinking of running that, make sure first December you’re there. Because those get snapped up pretty quick as well. Carol, I think it’s important to mention as well, just particularly on the half marathon, the amount of ladies that are taking part.
It must be pretty encouraging for you, there’s various reasons, I think the Spar Ladies Race Series and the Total Sport Series and those sorts of things have really put a spotlight on women’s running in SA. But the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is benefitting and reaping the rewards from that hard work.
CV: That’s right Brad and we’ve seen a huge surge in ladies’ groups and running together. I think women specifically are very conscious of health and wellness and it’s easy for a group of women to run in a bus together in terms of safety and numbers.
The entering of these races is very encouraging as women achieve things in life, as mothers, as moms, as wives, in the hectic business of all of our lives. That women are running more, specifically from the health perspective. We’re very encouraged by that and our ultra female entrants are also creeping up, which is great to see.
BB: That is awesome and let’s be honest, the ladies are better at running ultras than the guys, they’re just mentally tougher. They handle pain better, us guys are woosies! It’s one of the things you see at Comrades, it’s always the ladies that are dragging the guys by the end of the thing.
Watch out for 2017’s Run Green Campaign
It’s the same thing at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. Let’s talk about changes from the actual event perspective for 2017, you mentioned that your slogan for the race is once again the same, it’s Run As One, which I love. I think that just sums up the South African running community in three simple words and anything changing from a race perspective that you can tell us about now?
CV: Absolutely Brad, in the Run As One campaign, I think runners certainly have taken to heart. You’re out there on that road, 56km, it’s a long day for some people. You’re just connecting with people from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds and you come together and you run as one and you achieve as one.
Us from the back end of it, say we organise as one, together with our sponsors like Old Mutual. Brad, what we’re doing this year and it’s very exciting, we’ve spent a lot of time planning with Old Mutual, our title sponsor, together with the Wildlands Trust, which is a partner of Old Mutual on other platforms. We are very excited to be doing a lot of development on our Run Green Campaign.
Chappies will be a ‘zero waste’ zone and we’ve got some innovations on trying to make it easier for runners not to throw their water sachets on the ground. We know that those goo’s and the little corners of the goo’s specifically, if the wind blows, it does get into the sea, which is very dangerous. We’re highly aware of the litter problem.
We have partnered with Wildlands and Old Mutual, we’ve got a Treepreneur programme and you’ll see all of this information in our communications and at the expo. Where runners can donate money to the Treepreneur programme and we will be greening some of our schools in the Cape Town area, which is very exciting. Which leaves a legacy of the race and our relationship with Old Mutual.
Together with that we’ve looked at utilising the waste and the plastics by developing desks for children at schools. It’s very exciting, once again, that this is going to be sustainable and not just throwing your waste into a trough on the day. We really encourage our runners to be very conscious of our Run Green Campaign.
BB: Carol, I love that, I think it’s fantastic and we look forward to hearing and seeing other developments closer to race day as well. As always, our telephone line and door is always open, so if there’s anything you want to let the runners know, please be in touch. We’ll touch base a few times between now and race day, I’ve got no doubt.
Best of luck, I know it’s a trying time with entries opened, particularly the half marathon, for you and the entire team. Good luck and let’s hope that it goes as smoothly as humanly possible. Often there are things that happen that are out of your control, but I think you’ve got an incredible team. You guys are well on top of things, so good luck.
CV: Thanks Brad and we hope to see you with your training shoes out on the road.
BB: Absolutely. Carol Vosloo, GM of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, get to the website, the links below in the show notes and we look forward to seeing you on the road in 2017.
CV: Thanks Brad.