The Big Five Marathon
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The Big Five Marathon in South Africa is held among the wildlife of the African savannah. Runners from all over the world will meet in one of the most spectacular 'Big Five‰Ûù game reserves in Africa. In these magnificent surroundings, we combine exciting game drives with a challenging marathon route going right through the habitat of the most famous African game: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. No fences, no rivers, nothing at all separates the runners from the African wildlife.
Sat 19th Jun 2021
Central, South Africa
The event experience
20 to 50m elevation gain per km
Where and when
Unnamed Road, South Africa
The Big Five Marathon is known for its challenging course, which takes runners through incredible scenery and showcases the natural beauty and wildlife of South Africa.
The start and finish line are situated at Lakeside Lodge on the upper escarpment. After the start, the marathon and half marathon routes take the runners past Ravineside Lodge, the Entabeni Monolith and further on to the lower plateau. This first section is run on dirt roads made up of red sand. Runners will pass a few hills (nothing too bad…the most challenging is yet to come!). And when you reach Hanglip View Point, you backtrack and run back before you reach Yellow Wood Valley. Pay attention to this section as the surface is very uneven with loose rocks, pebbles and holes.
The Yellow Wood Valley is the most dreaded part of the course. You are about to run down the steepest slope of your life! This sharp descent is on a paved surface. The next three kilometres or so will be excruciatingly hard on your quads as you negotiate the steep slope. You reach lion country after the descent. And, although the next nine kilometres are flat, you’re running through deep sand. Full marathoners do a 9km loop, whereas half marathon runners run a 2km loop.
This brings us back to Yellow Wood. And yes, you guessed correctly - we’re going up the dreaded hill this time! Be prepared to take things slowly as it’s virtually impossible to run up this hill.
The route carries on to Long Drive, a narrow valley, where marathon runners do a 6km loop. Half marathoners run across the valley and reach the final section of the route. This section is run on dirt trails, a welcome respite from the deep sand and loose stone terrain earlier on.
The end of the run is fairly hard (final four kilometres). We run halfway down the ridge, which provides us with a wonderful view out over the plateau's lake. The surface is fairly bad, consisting of hard uneven stony ground with plenty of large rocks and stones of all sizes. This final part has quite a few hills and as the surface is loose, it pays to keep a careful watch on the ground as we run towards the finish. With the finish line in sight you can now take it nice and easy.
The weather is very dry, sunny and cool at this time of the year. Participants can expect an average temperature of around 15-20 Celsius, but with variations due to sun, shade, wind and altitude.
Organiser route images
The marathon and holiday package purchased when registering for the race offers marathon experience with a classic African safari vacation.
It is advised that you visit the event organisers website for full infromation on these package deals.
How to get there
Unnamed Road, South AfricaGet full directions
International flights are not included in the package. Transport while on location is arranged by the event orginsers.
Event day logistics
Kilometre signs can be found along the entire route. Owing to the conditions, however, they may be placed +/- metres from the exact point. The signs are therefore only for orientation and runners shouldn't calculate speed based on the signs.
Drinks stations are located along the route at approximately every 4km (2.5 miles). Water and Coca Cola are served at all stations. The drinks stations will be open until the last runner has passed. Electrolyte drinks and bananas are served at selected drink stations and at the finish line.
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The price for spectators is the same as that for runners. Apart from participating in the actual race, spectators are part of the group and are provided transportation to and from the race venue on route inspection day, as well as on race day.
The weather is very dry, sunny and cool at this time of the year. Participants can expect a temperature of around 15-25 degrees Celsius during the day, but with variations due to sun, shade, wind and altitude. Short-sleeved technical shirts are a good choice. Sun block is a must (use SPF 30 or above), a running hat with visor is also advisable as it can help keep the sun out of your eyes. Please note that mornings and evenings are very cold. At night, the temperature can easily fall below 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), so it's essential to bring a warm winter jacket, a warm hat, scarf and gloves for game drives and transfers.
Nordic walking and trekking poles are not allowed.
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