Overall Rating
Overall Rating (2 Reviews)
4.5
(2 Ratings)  (2 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
5
SCENERY
4.5
PRODUCTION
4.5
SWAG
4
The Big Five Marathon is an exclusive event that combines a challenging marathon experience with a classic African safari vacation. 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 … MORE
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Recent reviews

    DrewNYC FIRST-TIMER '22

    Lots of caveats for this review! Starting with the most important - I did not finish. I got pulled at mile 17. This was my first DNF (in 350+ races). … MORE

    Lots of caveats for this review! Starting with the most important – I did not finish. I got pulled at mile 17. This was my first DNF (in 350+ races). It was a tough course.

    I originally signed up for the Amazing Maasai Marathon (in Kenya) for 2020. The race was cancelled for 2020, 2021, and 2022. Marathon Tours (who I booked through) recommended switching to another race and I picked the Big Five. Marathon Tours handled the booking, but Albatros Adventure Marathons was the onsite partner.

    I stayed at Legend Golf & Safari Resort. This location was off the Entabeni Reserve, so we could walk (unescorted) around the property. The resort was clearly just coming back from the challenges faced by many in the travel industry during the pandemic. What this meant for this trip (and what will hopefully be improved in the future): staff was brought on to help with this week only, so many were new and learning the ropes. We could not enter our rooms by the front door, but had to go in through the backdoor (though locks were changed for some while we were there). Heat in the rooms didn’t work well. The “system” of tracking expenses (drinks, extra excursions, etc) wasn’t great, so our bills were all messed up. All this said – they staff were REALLY nice. And our ranger for the week (Noddy) was amazing. He had such love for his job, his country, and nature. He was a joy to be around and we all learned so much.

    There was a game drive and bush walk almost every day. You could (and I did) add an additional game drive most days. All meals were included. With the exception of a few juices at breakfast, only tea and coffee were free. Everything else (alcohol, soda, water) was extra. That said, it was all really cheap.

    You could use cash or charge at the resort but the expo you needed to pay cash for any merchandise you wanted to buy.

    The shirt was white technical and nice. The medal was really cool (Africa & a rhino on it).

    The course was brutal. The race website suggests assuming a finishing time 25% slower than your flat marathon time. What makes it tough – altitude (5,600 feet at highest), the course surface (dirt roads, sand, rocks), and the hills! Here is the description from the site:

    “The first section is run on dirt road 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 kilometers 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 kilometers 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.”

    I got pulled at mile 17 – going up the “dreaded hill.” It was disappointing, but the right call. Despite the DNF, I enjoyed the trip. I will go back to Africa (but not this race!) so that I can complete a marathon on this continent. It was an amazing experience. For the adventure traveler – this is great. I was marathon trained and ready, I just wasn’t ready for this course.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

    2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

    M_Sohaskey Jun 24, 2022 at 6:20pm

    So sorry you didn't reach the finish line this time, Drew... but wow, a running career (and especially one as impressive as yours spanning 350 races) without a DNF is… MORE

    So sorry you didn't reach the finish line this time, Drew... but wow, a running career (and especially one as impressive as yours spanning 350 races) without a DNF is pretty much unthinkable. Every marathon is a challenge and an opportunity, and your attitude is a great inspiration to the rest of us. Glad you were still able to enjoy South Africa, it really is a wonderful country. And on the bright side, now you have a reason to return. Thanks for another helpful review! LESS

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    DrewNYC Jun 26, 2022 at 11:05am

    Thanks, Mike!

    Thanks, Mike!

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    seagroves87 Jun 24, 2022 at 3:04pm

    Great review. Sorry about your DNF. I am hoping to do a half marathon in every continent and was thinking of doing this one for Africa but I'm not very… MORE

    Great review. Sorry about your DNF. I am hoping to do a half marathon in every continent and was thinking of doing this one for Africa but I'm not very fast (usual half time between 2:30 and 3 hours though I've been slower this year due to injury). How hard do you think this would be for a half? I really want to visit South Africa and go on a safari there but I might choose a different race if this seems like I might DNF. Also did you see any animals on the course? LESS

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    DrewNYC Jun 26, 2022 at 11:20am

    The course time limit is 7 hours, so in theory there is ample time. The winning half marathon time this year (2022) was 1:51. Only the top 25 runners came… MORE

    The course time limit is 7 hours, so in theory there is ample time. The winning half marathon time this year (2022) was 1:51. Only the top 25 runners came in under 3 hours. The remaining 70+ runners were 3+ hours. So it's definitely a "slower" course. While I'm aware of several marathoners who DNF, I'm unaware of any half marathoners who didn't finish. The challenging parts (hills, sand, etc) of the marathon are also part of the half marathon course. I didn't see any animals, but I'll be honest--I was looking down at the course surface so much to make sure I didn't trip! Friends did have to pause their run for 3 minutes due to rhinos crossing the course near the end! It's a great trip and unique race experience. Best of luck! LESS

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    seagroves87 Jun 26, 2022 at 7:41pm

    Thanks. If I decide to do this race I will definitely only do the half and just set expectations that it will not be fast

    Thanks. If I decide to do this race I will definitely only do the half and just set expectations that it will not be fast

    brporter FIRST-TIMER '17

    The terrain and road grade make this an extremely challenging course physically. But running among wildebeests and other animals makes this a most unique experience. Best of all, the race … MORE

    The terrain and road grade make this an extremely challenging course physically. But running among wildebeests and other animals makes this a most unique experience. Best of all, the race occurs within a week long safari experience through Albatross Adventures. We espcially enjoyed Hanglip Mountain Lodge and strongly recommend this accomodation to anyone considering the trip.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

    2 members marked this review helpful. Agree?

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