The Great Train Race


The initial idea of the Great Train Race stemmed from a University Rag gimmic in 1964 when athletes pitted their strength against a steam train that traveled from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The Great Train Race commenced with humble beginnings in 1980, as 16 relay teams challenged the famous Apple Express train to a duel from Port Elizabeth to Loerie, a distance of 72 kilometres. An eight man University of Port Elizabeth team won the inaugural event in a time of 3hrs. 42min. 45sec. and beat the train.

A uniqueness of the train race is that it pits man against machine, and not just any old machine, but one of the last survivingnarrow gauge steam engines in the world! It is furthermore one of the only major road races in South Africa today that caters for team participation with companies having become one of the larger entry sections to foster team spirit and to overcome individualism.

The PPC /Spoornet Great Train Race became one of the most popular events on the South African athletics calender, and in 1996 entries peaking at 624 teams of 10 runners each resulting in 6240 participants. This event ranked alongside the Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans as one of the country’s leading long distance races. Some of South Africa’s greatest athletes have taken part in this challenge and all commenting on the incredible enjoyment of the event.

In 1999 nearly 5 000 athletes challenged the train to one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the race. The team that beat the train only won by a mere 2 seconds.

The last Great Train Race was in 2004 and the belief is that this annual race will soon recommence for South Africans and the International Community to enjoy.

BACK TO Attractions in Port Elizabeth

TEXT:  Wes Kruger

Did You Know?

The first mail order business started in Port Elizabeth in 1910.

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Last updated:
3 October 2012 7:51