The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is on course to progress from Abbott World Marathon Majors Candidate to Africa’s First Major thanks to the 18 000 participants who will toe the start line on 15 October 2023. This number exceeds the 15 000 runner target and is a 6 000 increase from 2022. Excitement levels should thus be sky-high when the 42.2 kilometre race gets underway from alongside the DHL Cape Town Stadium on Sunday morning.

Part of the #YouDoCount drive to encourage and enable more runners to take part in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon was the race’s 1,000 Free Entry campaign. The initial 1,000 free entries was matched by title sponsors, Sanlam, taking the total number of entries awarded to athletes who would otherwise not be able to afford to take part to 2,000. Alongside the increase in entries, the event has also improved the running experience for 2023. The course is flatter and faster, the finish line atmosphere with grandstands lining the blue carpet is set to be electric, and every runner will have access to free race day photos thanks to the new runners’ portal. For the elite athletes the increase in the prize purse to R2.8 million is a significant incentive, especially as there is an extra $5 000 on the line should the existing course records be broken by the 2023 winners.

Cape Town Marathon

The race exceeded the 15 000 participant goal and will see 18 000 runners toe the line on Sunday, 15 October 2023. Photo by Simon Pocock.

The removal of District Six hill, and its 90 metres of elevation gain, should make the course 2 minutes faster for the elite men and 2 minutes and 30 seconds quicker for the elite women. Course record holder, Stephen Mokoka (2 hours, 8 minutes and 31 seconds, set in 2018) is back in search of his third Sanlam Cape Town Marathon title; while 2021 women’s winner, Lydia Simiyu, returns with the goal of reclaiming her record from Meseret Dinke (2 hours, 24 minutes and 2 seconds, set in 2022). Along with Mokoka the men’s crown is expected to be contested by Raymond Choge, Bayelign Teshager, Joshua Kogo, Adane Kebede Gebre, Haile Zewdu, Yemane Tsegay, Two Oceans Ultra Marathon victor, Givemore Mudzinganyama, and the formidable double Comrades champion, Tete Dijana. Simiyu will need to best Tsige Haileslase, Melesech Tsegay, Cynthia Chepchirchir Kosgei, yinadis Teshome Birle, Neheng Khatala, Selam Fente Gebre, and Sheila Chepkech.

For the second year the race will also host an elite wheelchair race. The event will be South African paralympic legend, Ernst van Dyk’s penultimate elite race. The 50-year-old won eight Olympic medals across five Paralympic Games and dominated the wheelchair race at the Boston Marathon for over a decade. Van Dyk, who predicts that the course could be as much as 5 minutes faster this year, will face stern competition from Geert Schipper, Rafael Botello, Michael McCabe, Gonzalo Valdivianos, and Sean Frame.

Cape Town Marathon

The removal of District Six hill should reduce the elite men’s winning time by roughly 2 minutes and could provide a new course record. Photo by Simon Pocock.

For the athletes chasing personal bests, or just aiming to finish ahead of the cut-off, the marathon has 39 designated bus drivers this year. These official pace setters are there to help runners achieve their goal times. The weather prediction for Sunday, of cool temperatures with partly cloudy skies and a fresh breeze from the south east, should aid in the pursuit of personal bests. Long hours of training, including taking part in the Virgin Active track sessions and Saturday long runs, will hopefully pay off on race day.

“2023 is an incredibly significant year for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as we mark our second year as an Abbott World Marathon Majors Candidate,” stated Karl Socikwa, Group Executive: Market Development and Sustainability at Sanlam. “We cannot overstate the importance of this event becoming a Marathon Major. Earlier this month Kelvin Kiptum, from Kenya, set a world record in the Chicago Marathon, won the London Marathon earlier this year, and shaved almost a minute off the world record, which fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge set in Berlin last year. Our continent has yet to host an Abbott World Marathon Major where elite African runners can participate. This must change, and we are on the precipice of making history.”

Ernst van Dyk

South African Paralympic legend, Ernst van Dyk will make his penultimate elite racing appearance at the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Photo by Lisa Carter.

“Becoming a Major would allow our exceptional African athletes to run on home soil and foster a vibrant sense of community,” Socikwa added. “It would create a unique stage under the theme of ‘African Champions Unite,’ supported fervently by their home fans. This theme aligns perfectly with Sanlam’s purpose of empowering Africans to live with confidence, while celebrating our beautifully diverse cultures. We invite everyone to join this historical journey toward making the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Africa’s first Abbott World Marathon Major. It’s high time the world witnesses the incredible passion, talent, and unity that Africa brings to the marathon stage.”

“We welcome the runners in all the road and trail races of this weekend’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon to the Mother City, along with the organisers and spectators” City of Cape Town Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said. “We are thrilled to have you here for what has become one of the City’s premier sporting events, and could become Africa’s first major marathon.”

Meseret Dinke

Meseret Dinke’s (pictured) 2 hours, 24 minutes and 2 seconds women’s course record could well be at risk too as 2021 champion Lydia Simiyu returns to reclaim her title and record. Photo by Rob Wright.

“The weather looks good and we have the perfect marathon route for fast times,” Hill-Lewis smiled. “Given the incredible quality of the field this year in both the men’s and women’s races, I am sure we can look forward to an unforgettable marathon. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable race, and I hope you have a wonderful stay in Cape Town.”

Technical partners, adidas have joined Sanlam and the City of Cape Town in elevating the 2023 edition. “This marks the second year of adidas’ involvement as the technical partner of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as we collaborate on a vision to achieve Africa’s first marathon major,” Senior Brand Director at adidas, Kate Woods, emphasised. “We understand the profound impact of sports in uplifting individuals and enhancing our nation’s spirit. Sport is central to our brand’s identity, and we are dedicated to allowing the top runners in Africa to compete at the highest level on home soil.”


Athletes who finish the 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in adidas shoes will receive a R2 000 voucher from the race’s technical partners. Photo by Lisa Carter.

“adidas encourages all participants to ‘Run For Africa’ and pledges to reward every runner who starts, runs and finishes the 42.2km Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in adidas footwear with a R2 000 voucher. This commitment is to reward all those runners who channel their support behind the goal of achieving the coveted status of an Abbott World Marathon Major.”

“At the race Expo, runners will find a curated selection of the finest adidas footwear and apparel, including an exclusive adidas-branded Cape Town Marathon range. Each marathon entrant will also receive a complimentary event race T-shirt,” Woods concluded.

Cape Town

Spectators are encouraged to come out and support the runners as they make their way around the Mother City. Photo by Mark Sampson.

Over 30 000 people are expected to visit the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon Expo, in the DHL Cape Town Stadium, between the 12th and the 14th of October. Registration for all the events, including the Cape Town Trail Marathon trail runs and the 5- and 10-kilometre Peace Runs, which take place on Saturday, is open from 09:00 to 19:00 on Thursday and Friday. Marathon registration is also available from 09:00 to 17:00 on Saturday. Non-runners are welcome to wonder through the Expo halls and browse the latest in running and outdoor apparel and technology.

Residents of the City of Cape Town are encouraged to come out and cheer the runners on. The official Spectator Guide, which includes information on where to watch, can be accessed one the race website, or by clicking here. To follow the action from further afield like the race’s Facebook page, Cape Town Marathon, or follow the event on Instagram,  @capetownmaraton. The racing gets underway at 06:10 on Sunday morning, with the elite wheelchair start group.

Virgin Active

Virgin Active will be hosting recovery zone, with guided cool-down stretch sessions, to help runners kick start their recovery process after the race. Photo by Simon Pocock.

The 2023 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon will be broadcast live on SuperSport Variety 4 from 05:55. Tune in to watch the 18 000 strong field race towards Africa’s First Major.