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Race Info

Enjoy a race like no other on the African savannah!

A marathon is the runner’s paramount achievement, and the Big Five Marathon is the marathoner’s paramount achievement. A race so tough, that a participant called it “harder than Comrades”, the arduous 88km race in South Africa. In return for the Big Five Marathon’s challenging course, you get truly magnificent scenery and the chance to run with zebras, giraffes and antelopes and even through lion country. 

Course map

Have a look at the course map and prepare yourself for the marathon!

Race information

Age limits

Please note the following age limits:
Marathon and half marathon: Minimum 18 years old on race day

Awards

All finishers receive a medal. A small, symbolic prize is given to the top three of both distances for men and women. Please note that there is no prize money. 

Belongings on race day

It is possible to leave jackets, sweaters, hat and other personal belongings at the start and pick it up after finishing the race. If possible, please leave personal belongings in a bag or back pack. Please mark your personal belongings clearly with your name and bib number! Do not place any valuables among the items you hand in on race day. Although the personal belongings are under staff surveillance, Entabeni Safari Conservancy and the Big Five Marathon organisers cannot be held responsible for any lost items.

Bib number

All runners must wear the official bib number that will be handed out the day before the race. Marathon bibs are black while half marathon bibs are red. The timing chip is attached to your bib number. Do not fold or wrinkle the bib number as this may damage the chip. You will get two copies of the your bib number for the Big Five Marathon. Both must be worn visibly during the race - one on the front of your body and one on your back.

Clothing

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.

Course map

For information on the route, start and finish lines, drinks stations and other course-related information, look at the course map

Cut-off times

To ensure runners’ safety, three cut-off points have been established on the route:

Marathon

Cut-off 1 - 26.5km - 4 hours and 15 minutes after start
Cut-off 2 - 32.5km - 5 horus and 15 minutes after start
Cut-off 3 - finish line - 7 hours after start


Half Marathon
Cut-off 1 - 10.5 km – 4 hours after start
Cut-off 2 - 16.5 km – 5 hours after start
Cut-off 3 – finish line – 6 hours and 45 minutes after start 

Runners who haven’t reached the cut-off points in time will not be allowed to continue and will be picked up by a ranger vehicle and taken back to the finish line. The cut-off times are strictly enforced to keep everybody safe! 

Dates

The Big Five Marathon takes place every year in June. The next Big Five Marathon will take place on 20 June 2015. The 2016 edition of the Big Five Marathon will take place on 25 June 2016.

Distances

The Big Five Marathon features a classic 42.195km marathon and a half marathon. The distances are colour-coded - marathon is black and half marathon is red.

Drinks stations

Drinks sttions are located along the route at approximately every four kilometres (two and a half 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.

Entabeni Game reserve

The tour includes game drives in 4x4 vehicles in the private Entabeni Game reserve, in the Limpopo province between Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park. From our safari lodge, with its spectacular view to the mighty Entabeni monlith we will be able to view all the "Big Five" as well as numerous other species such as Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Crocodiles and the many splendid species of Antelope, not to mention the abundance of birdlife. We use exclusive lodges that are placed in the middle of Entabeni and we need only to step outside to spot the wildlife. 

The magnificent countryside in South Africa's northern Limpopo province close to Botswana and west of Kruger has long been known as Waterberg. The early settlers christened the territory Waterberg due to the countless lakes, swamps, waterfalls and rivers, characteristerising this region in contrast to the surrounding dry savanna. In the high season (December to February) dark thunder clouds gather over the plateau resulting in short, powerful downpours in the afternoon, which fill the many streams and cause the redstone dunes to glimmer in the sun as the water makes its way to the Limpopo. 

Waterberg consists of several private reserves with Entabeni being the largest and most diverse. Beautiful sandstone monoliths, ravines and waterfalls lie within Entabeni's borders. Entabeni is also known for an exceptional number of antelope species, where nearly all of South Africa's species are represented. In addition, there is an exceptional flora consisting of ancient cycads, protea and rare deciduous trees. The territory lies outside the malaria zone.

Finish

All finishers will receive a medal at the finish line. After the race, a buffet lunch will be served at Lakeside Lodge. Jeeps going back to your own lodge will depart when full (10 passengers). It is possible to use a shower next to the medical facility at Lakeside. Please bring a towel along if you wish to shower before heading back from the finish area.

Medical Team

A team of Danish doctors and South African paramedics will be present during inspection and race days. There is no malaria in Entabeni, but if you plan to travel to other parts of South Africa, risk of malaria may be present elsewhere. We strongly recommend that you consult with your physician about inoculations before travelling. If you take daily medicine prescribed by your physician or need any other medication, please inform the race doctors in advance by writing to marathon@albatros-adventure.com.

Personal supplies

Personal supplies (energy gels, food, drinks, clothes, etc.) can be places at selected drink stations along the route (five places for marathon runners and 4 for half marathoners). Personal supplies must be clearly marked with your bib number and which drink station they are to be placed at. Further details about drink stations and personal supplies can be found on the course map.

Race officials

English-speaking race officials from Albatros Adventure are in charge of the event. All decisions made by the rangers, race officials and medical team are final. This also includes removing a participant from the race.

Registration

Registration is open. Please complete the online registration form on the Albatros Adventure website to sign up for the Big Five Marathon. Alternatively, contact on of our international travel partners for packages with flights. For more information regarding package prices and race entry fee, visit Albatros Adventure.

If you are a permanent resident of South Africa, contact us for information about registration by writing to marathon@albatros-adventure.com.

Route description

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 as well as the 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 worst 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.

Route 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.

Start

The Big Five Marathon starts and finishes at Lakeside Lodge on the upper escarpment. Runners staying at the other lodges will be transferred to Lakeside in jeeps. An early breakfast will be served at each lodge before departure. 

The marathon and half marathon have separate start times. The marathon is scheduled for 9am. The half marathon will start at 9:15am. Please note that the presence of wildlife near the route may cause delays.

Surface

The surface varies from deep sand, dirt tracks and trails to paved roads and pebbly surfaces with holes. Take care when running along surfaces with loose stones and holes. The steep ascent and descent is run on a paved surface. For more information, see the elevation map.

Time taking

The Big Five Marathon is timed by Champion Chip using a bib chip system where the timing chip is attached to your bib number. All results will be net time, meaning your time starts from the moment you cross the start line. However, the top three male and female finishers of both distances are found on gun time - the first three to physically cross the finish line.