Quick Info

Date – 1 May 2021 

Venue – Mnweni Cultural Centre

Distances – 40km Mountain Marathon, 20km Mountain Challenge, 10km and 5km

The Story of Mweni Marathon.....

There are two stories to tell here. The first is how the Mnweni Marathon initially came about. It has a long history starting way back in 2001. As we did not start the race we don’t really want to tell this part of its history. So instead we engaged in a few discussions and did some research:

Race history (Extract from Runners World)
The Mnweni marathon was born in the midwinter of 2000 when trail-running legend Bruce Arnett and friend Mark Tannian pioneered the original route of this race, starting their hike in clear sunny weather from Isandhlwana Police Station and ending, about 50 kilometres and a raging blizzard later, at Club Maluti.
The allure of the challenge grew, and the first running of the point-to-point route as a race took place in January 2001. 11 runners took part in what was to all intents and purposes a gathering of friends who had set themselves to conquer the route.  In 2002 the route was changed to today’s circular and less extreme format due to the logistical difficulties associated with a linear race that spanned such extreme terrain.
Over the years, entries have grown, largely by word of mouth, but recently through listings on internet and other trail running schedules, from about 30 in 2006 to around 70 in 2010 to the event being fully subscribed with the 100 runner limit being reached in 2012 , many of them now on an “annual pilgrimage”, and confirmed members of the Mnweni family.

Andrew Booth from KZNTR had his first personal taste of the race when he ran it with his Dad in 2011. “Both my Dad and I were coming from more of a road running background, I remember it being an eye opener in terms of steepness and technicality, but it also inspired a lot of what was to come out of KZNTR in future years”

So in late 2019 Martin Crous had been asked to “manage the newly formed Mountain Marathon Series with Rory Scheffer to assist him. We felt the series was short a race and a fifth event in the Drakensberg Range would really top things off and bridge the gap between DNT and K2C. Mnweni was traditionally May and rather than tring to invent something new it seemed like an obvious thing to approach Bruce Arnett and see where he was with the race. Martin spoke to Bruce explaining the vision for the Series and well it would fit. Bruce seemed ready to pass to the race onward, but expressed concern about the rawness and simplicity of the race becoming lost. Bruce eventually agreed to sell on condition that the Spring Mnweni be kept in its original format.

Then Covid did its thing and our first opportunity to be back on the trails was Spring Mnweni. We made a call to run it as a combination of the two. Most things were kept really basic, but we marked the course mainly for safety and concern that runners would drift from course in the early stages.

But in 2021 we return to the two formats with the first race in May (1 May 2021) making up the 3rd leg of Mountain Marathon Series, and Spring Mweni (4 September 2021) being run as the raw and unmarked version. We are opening up both entries together.

The Venue

The Mnweni Cultural Centre - set in the foothills of the mighty Drakensberg

Rondavel, dorm and camping accommodation is available at the venue.

Only dorm and camping are still available as the Rondavel accommodation bookings have been carried over from the 2020 event.

Catering will be available at the venue from Friday evening through Saturday morning, provided by La Barista.

For further accommodation in the area Click HERE


Programme in brief

Friday 30 April

7.00pm Race Welcome and Briefing

Saturday 1 May

6.00am – 40k Mountain Marathon Start

7.00am – 20km Mountain Challenge Start

7.30am – 10km and 5km Start

8.15am – First runner expected

6.00pm – Last runner expected

7.00pm – Prize Giving and presentation

Sunday 2 May

7.00am – Breakfast

The Routes

Mnweni, ‘the place of fingers’, is located between the Royal Natal National Park and the Cathedral range in the heart of the Drakensberg escarpment. In years past, this stretch of the Drakensberg was affectionately seen by hardy mountaineers as “remote and treacherous” as the paths are “long and steep”. The terrain is mountainous and the weather unpredictable. 

The event will start at the Mnweni Cultural and Hiking Centre, which is located approximately 30km from Bergville, KZN.

The main event is the 40km Marathon – a proper mountain adventure suitable ONLY for the experienced trail runner and/or hiker. The route shows off the architectural marvels of Mnweni: the great buttresses, basalt colonnades, and masonry gargoyles and spires!  There are 3 shorter distances of 20km, 10km and 6km making a great weekend of running for all levels of runners and walkers. 

The 20km is significantly easier. It starts off the same way as the 40km, but peels off back down the Mnweni River after about 9km. Its still no walk in the park, but is significantly more runnable.

The 10km and 5km are relatively easy with lots of flat river side running.

More detail on the shorter courses to be published soon!


Other activities from the venue include mountain biking, horse riding, and fly fishing.