Overall Rating
Overall Rating (2 Reviews)
4.5
(2 Ratings)(2 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
3.5
SCENERY
4
PRODUCTION
4
SWAG
3
Often referred to as the Eighth Continent and earth’s fourth largest island, Madagascar is one of our newer adventure destinations! The marathon and half-marathon will be held in Isalo in the south central highlands with most of the course routed through Isalo National Park. This is Madagascar’s most visited area … MORE
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    Profile photo of Karen Pinckard
    Fitbrit FIRST-TIMER '17

    Let me start by saying that I had no idea what to expect about the course. This was the first Madagascar marathon so I knew it would be unique. The … MORE

    Let me start by saying that I had no idea what to expect about the course. This was the first Madagascar marathon so I knew it would be unique.
    The Marathon Tours staff spent more than 2 days marking the course and the locals cut most of the long grass down for us.
    We were advised that this was your typical trail run with a couple of water crossings that were ankle deep and a few feet wide.
    We were also told that water bottles would be handed out at mile 6,10,14,18 and 22. We were also told the course was flat with just a few small non essential slopes.
    So as you can imagine staying in a third world Country , quite a few of us got sickness and diarrhea for several days leading up to race day. I don’t usually reveal such details but I think this time is an exception given that we had to run while completely dehydrated and not feeling up to our usual fitness levels. We all tried medication but let’s just say it didn’t work so well. On race day I could tell after 1 mile I was in for a tough day but as an experienced runner I decided there was no giving up or stopping. I ran slowly and sensibly with walk, lots of walks after mile 10 with some running in between.
    So having said that here’s the real story of the course, swag, aid stations and scenery.

    We walked from our hotel le Jardin to the sister hotel literally 200 yds away where the start area was.
    There were about 45 runners in the full marathon and about 30 or less in the half.
    Some locals got sponsored in the race and we all made sure they were welcome by taking pictures and me shaking hands with all of them.
    Our local guides became our aid station help and the very few spectators were spouses of a few runners.
    We had a drone up above us filming the start and mostly front runners.
    I have yet to see the video.
    So the start was on a sandy trail up hill to the main road. From here we ran about a mile or just less then soon onto a trail with rough grass and soft sand.
    This went on for many miles of full sun, rough trail and lots of sand.
    I only took half a camelback of water as I didn’t want the extra weight.
    There were 2 Dr’s on course on ATV’s handing out electrolytes and water after mile 14, this did happen and I needed help by mile 15. Thirst and dehydration being my only problem really. Do bring your own bottle, food, electrolytes , camera and sun block .
    The trail was in open fields of knee to thigh high grass with hundreds of locusts , crickets, grass hoppers and some say snakes but I didn’t see any except one small dead one.
    You will run up hills it definitely was not flat about 1800 ft incline or more.
    There were water crossings for the full marathoners only. I loved them and there were about 8 of them. At least 4 of them were longer than 10 or even 15 meters long and one was thick mud up to my thighs.
    My shoes and ankle brace never made it back home by the way.
    Since it was hot by now , I enjoyed the water to cool me down but it wasn’t clean enough to splash on your face.
    We ran through 5 villages some of the locals were cheering us on and others just stared at us. I wasn’t sure if they were bothered by us but I waved to most.
    During one village 3 girls came running up to me and tried to steal my watch , camera and water bottle. I had to be a little stern and run past them. They tried the same tactics with 2 other women behind me also.
    Now I’m approaching mile 18 and like mile 14 the aid stations had run out of water but a tiny cup about an inch full of coke a cola was handed to us and we were told one cup for each person. So that was one sip. That is really my only complaint , as quite a few of us were struggling with serious GI problems it was critical we hydrate during the midday sun and heat.
    I was running with a man from New Zealand for 8 miles who felt about as energetic as I did. We kept each other company and I suggested we start run/ walking so we finish in under the 7 hr limit. We did kick it into another gear the last 5 miles and managed under 7 hrs.
    Turns out MT let everyone finish and the last person finished in 8hr :01 min.
    The course was 24 miles of mostly soft sand and less than 2 miles of asphalt. The course was well marked so no one got lost .
    The finish was on grass and a slight uphill .
    The medal and shirt were good .
    Lunch was served but I felt too sick to even contemplate food .
    Looking back and if I had been completely healthy this course would have been a really fun experience. It still was in a way, I just failed at running that day.
    A unique experience but it’s a long journey to get there if you live on the West coast of the USA . Perhaps folks from Europe should consider this one if you are thinking of doing the 7 Continents or just want a different experience.
    Overall I loved it just not my performance .

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    2
    My Media

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    Profile photo of Devin Brown
    TexasDevin FIRST-TIMER '17

    This race is put on by Marathon Tours as part of their Madagascar tour package. I ran this race in 2017, the inaugural year. The trip itself is amazing, but … MORE

    This race is put on by Marathon Tours as part of their Madagascar tour package. I ran this race in 2017, the inaugural year. The trip itself is amazing, but I will try to focus on the race for the purposes of this review.

    There were about 80 runners in this event–roughly half for the half marathon and half for the full marathon, plus a handful of sponsored local runners. Participants were split up between two nearby resorts a short walk apart from each other. The pre-race dinner was pleasant and welcome.

    On race morning, we met at the start line, which was at the other resort. Marathon race started at 7am. Personally, i would have preferred a 6am start. Sunrise was right around 6:30 and 6am would have been fine–that’s how we did it in Myanmar. I knew it was going to get hot during the day,. Nonetheless, 7am wasn’t a problem.

    Just before the race started, all the half marathoners were packed into a few buses and taken to the half marathon start, which was about 2.5 miles into the marathon course. The half marathoners left and we had a few minutes to settle down before the 7am race start. 7am came and off we went.

    -Terrain-

    Isalo is a high desert. The elevation was about half a mile and the course is generally flat. Morning temperatures were comfortably cool. I ran in a running singlet with arm sleeves. I would have been ok without them, but I wanted the sun protection later on. Definitely put on the sunscreen! The majority of the course is on sand. Sometimes the sand is packed, but much of it is loose sand. You’re going to feel it when you run. This is not an easy course. There are some small sections–maybe two miles combined–of paved roads, but for the most part, it’s a trail race and much of it is on loose sand.

    The scenery is beautiful, especially on a clear day. Isalo is a wide-open arid grassland punctuated with massive rock outcroppings. While the sun was low, we ran a lot through the shadows of the big rocks and the shade was appreciated. Once the sun rose above them, the course was extremely exposed. Trees are sparse and runners will be running out in the open.

    There were a handful of water crossings in this race. All of them happened in the second half and they ended up being a blessing in disguise. As long as you didn’t skirt the muddy perimeter, the crossings were sandy and not boggy at all. The water was cool and ranged from ankle to knee-deep. I feared they would cause problems later in the race, but there ended up being nothing but upside to them as the cool water refreshed my tired legs.

    The course also runs through three villages. I’m pretty sure the locals didn’t know what to think of us, but the kids thought the spectacle was great. Reactions went from bemusement to enthusiastic support as we traveled through the villages on our way.

    -Water / Nutrition-

    The race director makes it very clear from the beginning that due to the nature of water and the environment, runners will be responsible for their own primary hydration. There will be a handful of staffed water stops along the way (ours also had Coke, but that’s not for me), but you should not expect to be able to complete this race comfortably relying solely on aid station water. I ran the race with a 2L hydration pack and a 20oz bottle of water. Even so, I ran dangerously low by the end of the race despite hitting each of the water stops hard. Bring salt tablets. Bring electrolyte drink. Bring water. That being said, you won’t be left to die in the desert. Race staff on ATVs constantly passed me in both directions asking runners were ok. I never felt like I was in any danger of anything other than a long day.

    -My Race-

    I’m normally a 4-hour to 4:15 marathon runner. Admittedly, I did not train properly for this one, so I knew it would be slower. Exacerbating this, I came down with a stomach bug about 24 hours before the race started. Fortunately, the doctors with our group had just what I needed and my stomach gave me no issues during the race. However, I did not have much appetite the day before and I went into the race in a serious calorie deficit. All of that, combined with a hot sunny day, meant I ended up running out of gas and walking the last seven miles to the finish line. This was the slowest marathon I have ever run in my life.

    And I still loved it! If you want to challenge yourself in a beautiful and exotic land with a race that is tricky challenging, but well-run, this may be the race for you. And the rest of the trip is just the icing on the cake.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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