South Africa has come a long way since the days of apartheid. Maybe that’s why the county is so obsessed with distance.
In April, Olympic medalist Elana Meyer will compete in the 56K Two Oceans, a popular Cape Town event billed as “the world’s most beautiful marathon.”
The race attracts more than 9,000 participants each year, Runner’s World reports, and it’s not just because of the breathtaking scenery. Ultramarathons are huge in South Africa, and the 89K Comrades event drew 23,000 starters in 2010.
Meyer has never attempted either, and while the Two Oceans will mark her ultra-marathon debut, she’s proven herself over a variety of distances. She won the world half-marathon title in 1994, and that same year, she finished third at the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:25.15.
The 47-year-old is perhaps best known or her performance at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, where she earned a silver medal in the 10,000 meters. After the race, she and Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu—who’d just outkicked her to win the gold—took a symbolic victory lap around the track. It was a time of hope and change on the continent, as South Africa had just emerged from apartheid and been welcomed back into the Olympic fold.
Meyer retired from racing seven years ago, but she’s still involved with the sport. She founded the nonprofit Endurocad to develop world-class runners in South Africa, and it’s for the benefit of that organization that she’s lining up on April 14.
“I have been a ‘racing horse’ for most of my life when it came to running, and my focus was always on running as hard and fast as I could, but I never went past the iconic marathon distance!” Meyer writes on her fundraising website.
“It is time to complete the circle and this time I am going the distance to run my first ULTRA marathon (and become a true runner in SA standards),” she adds. “This effort is in support of the development of talented runners in SA through Endurocad. PLEASE support this cause. SA runners really need it!”