A marathon is the runner’s paramount achievement, and the Big Five Marathon is the marathoner’s highest accomplishment. 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.
Clothing and weather
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.
For information on the route, start and finish lines, drink stations and other course-related information, look at the course map.
To ensure runners’ safety, three cut-off points have been established on the route:
Cut-off 1 - 26.5km - 4 hours and 15 minutes after the start
Cut-off 2 - 32.5km - 5 hours and 15 minutes after the start
Cut-off 3 - finish line - 7 hours after the start
Cut-off 1 - 10.5km – 4 hours after the start
Cut-off 2 - 16.5 km – 5 hours after the start
Cut-off 3 – finish line – 6 hours and 45 minutes after the 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!
The Big Five Marathon takes place in June every year. The 2020 edition of The Big Five Marathon will take place on 20 June.
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.
Please note the following age limits:
Marathon and half marathon - Minimum 18 years old on race day
Entabeni Safari Conservancy
The tour includes game drives in 4x4 vehicles in the private Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the Limpopo province between Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park. From our safari lodge, with its spectacular view to the mighty Entabeni Monolith we will be able to view all the "Big Five" as well as numerous other species such as giraffes, 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, characterizing 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.
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 vaccinations 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 backpack. 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.
Finisher photos and other race images can be purchased after the race from www.marathon-photos.com.
The race officials reserve the right to change the course and other aspects of the race without advance notice. Please note that all decisions made by the race officials and/or medical team are final.
There are few ways to register for The Big Five Marathon, depending on your place of residency.
To sign up you must besides the race entry purchase one of two holiday packages: the 6-day itinerary or the 8-day itinerary. The same packages are available for spectators.
It’s not possible to sign up for race only unless you are a permanent resident of South Africa.
If you are a permanent resident of South Africa, contact us for information about registration by writing to email@example.com.
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.
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.
Rules and regulations
Nordic walking and trekking poles are not allowed.
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.
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.
A tool for race directors to tell hundreds of runners apart, made of a plastic-like paper, which you pin on your body. They also serve as mementos and for others to monitor your progress.
All runners must wear the official bib number that will be handed out the day before the race. Marathon bibs are black/white and 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 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.
Supplies on the route
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.
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 and results
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.
Results will be available here after the race.