Chasing Majors: Our Shared Global Marathon Ambition

AWMM Candidate   |  Mar. 11, 2024

In the pursuit of attaining Abbott World Marathon Majors status, the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon not only aims to solidify its place amongst the elite marathons of the world but also resonates deeply with South African runners who, like Ismail Mohammed, embark on their own global Major journey. Ismail, a chartered accountant and academic from the vibrant Mother City, recently achieved his sixth star at the Tokyo Marathon, marking a significant milestone in his personal pursuit of excellence.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Ismail and delve into his marathon journey, exploring what drives him and the allure of the six Major running events.

For Ismail, running initially served as a means to shed weight, but it quickly evolved into something far more profound — an avenue for introspection, stress relief, and goal attainment.

Reflecting on his debut marathon in 2012, Ismail humorously recalls being nudged into the full distance after half entries for the Winelands Marathon sold out — a testament to the whimsical logic of runners. However, his journey since then has been characterized by growth and strategic refinement. “I will say that finish line feeling of being completely exhausted never changes, but my approach and how I get there is now a lot more considered and strategic. Experience counts for a lot,” explains Ismail.

His foray into Major marathons began with the BMW Berlin Marathon in 2019, igniting a passion for these prestigious events. Ismail vividly describes the unique atmosphere of Majors— a melting pot of global participants, each with their own aspirations, amidst electrifying energy and fervent spectator support. “There really is nothing like it. After this experience and seeing what the Major atmosphere was all about I knew I wanted to do more,” says Ismail.

Completing all six Majors not only fulfilled his running ambitions but also provided an avenue for cultural immersion and international camaraderie, with experiences ranging from the iconic loops of Tokyo, to enjoying the historic landmarks lining the course.

For Ismail, bringing a Major to Cape Town holds immense significance beyond the realm of running. He envisions the city’s inclusion in the Major circuit as a catalyst for tourism and economic growth, offering a compelling blend of athletic challenge and scenic allure. “The Majors combine my two loves: running and travel. To be able to have our own Major and show off Cape Town as a travel destination of note would be incredible,” he says. Having participated in seven Sanlam Cape Town Marathons, Ismail attests to the event’s potential, confident in its ability to elevate African representation on the global stage.

In Ismail’s eyes, the addition of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon to the Major family not only celebrates the beauty of the Mother City but also underscores Africa’s rightful place in the world of long-distance running. As he succinctly puts it, “Africa needs a Major,” and with its unparalleled landscapes and vibrant culture, Cape Town is poised to make an indelible mark on the global running community.

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