A marathon might be 26.2 miles wherever you are in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t vary the scenery en route. Last month’s epic London Marathon got us thinking about running endeavours on our favourite continent and to our surprise, there were more than a few routes varying from city trots to expeditions through the bush. A good number of marathons in Africa also encourage runners to give something back to the local communities or to wildlife conservation in the race area, adding an extra dose of feel good endorphins to your challenge.
We’ve rounded up the top marathons in Africa along with their upcoming dates should you fancy incorporating some running into your wildlife-watching. Most 2019 dates are still to be confirmed, however most of the races happen at the same time every year. Happy planning!
Sanlam Cape Town Marathon
Cape Town, South Africa
22nd – 23rd September 2018/ TBC 2019
What better way to see one of the most picturesque cities in the world than on a marathon? The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon takes place every year on Heritage Day in September and the atmosphere is jovial and fun with a touch of the serious – it is the only Gold Star marathon in Africa after all. You’ll start a stone’s throw from the ocean at the famous V&A waterfront, wind your way through the city streets (keep your eyes peeled for various historical monuments) and then head through the magical Table Mountain Reserve. After you’ve finished, we highly recommend spending a few days in the Cape Winelands, where there’s a glorious restaurant or vineyard around every corner…
Full marathon, trail run (22km and 12km) and ‘Peace Run’ (10km and 5km) options available.
26th May – 2nd June 2019
Prepare to be tested, rewarded and tested again on this brutal but beautiful course through the Ugandan countryside. There might be hills and slopes worryingly named things like The Beast, but then there’s views of Lake Victoria and juicy, emerald-green landscapes in return. The run also leaves a powerful impact on the community and smiling supporters will be out in force! And if you’re travelling all the way to Africa, why stop at just the race? The Uganda International Marathon also offers a 7-day adventure package that combines volunteering at local projects and school with awesome activities (and the marathon, of course) or we can help you organise a trip to see Uganda’s famous mountain gorilla in Bwindi.
Full and half marathon and 10km options available.
Victoria Falls Marathon
Zambia & Zimbabwe
1st July 2018/ TBC 2019
Even compared to the rest of the epic marathons in Africa on our list, running alongside the mighty Victoria Falls is quite an experience. Starting in Zimbabwe, the best views of the waterfall come as you cross the bridge into Zambia where you’ll be close enough to the water to feel the cooling spray on your face. Then, it’s into the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe for glimpses of the continent’s most iconic four-legged creatures before the final sprint (!) down Kazangula Road. The marathon supports several charities in the Vic Falls area, from Wild Dog conservation to helping orphaned children, and runners are encouraged to bring books, magazines, pens and paper for local schools.
Full and half marathon options and a 7.5km ‘Fun Run’ available.
Lewa Downs Conservancy, Kenya
30th June 2018/ TBC 2019
Next on the list is a toughie. The Safaricom Marathon through the magnificent Lewa Downs Conservancy in Kenya takes participants over dirt tracks in toasty temperatures and at an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level. But the reward of running alongside the wildlife in one of the most breath-taking areas of Kenya more than makes up for it and the race attracts runners from all over the world, year upon year. Organised by Tusk, funds raised go straight back into projects in Lewa, including water projects, health clinics and education centres and overseas visitors can opt to spend a couple of extra days in the conservancy visiting the initiatives (and enjoying a game drive or two!).
Full and half marathon options available, as well as a 5 km children’s run.
3rd March 2019
Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Marathon is quite the party and you’ll have plenty of support along the picturesque route that winds through the town of Moshi and into the surrounding mountains. To spur you on, it’s also one of the only marathons in Africa that doesn’t allow professional runners so an amateur will always be crowned winner. Bear in mind that if you’re entering the full marathon, you’ll have to run the course 4 times (it’s only 6.5 miles long), but the reward at the end is an ice-cold Kilimanjaro beer. And if you’ve still got some energy, combine your run with a safari in the Serengeti, a Kilimanjaro climb, or a well-deserved beach break in Zanzibar.
Full and half marathon options available, as well as a 5km run.
Two Oceans Marathon
Cape Town, South Africa
Easter Weekend 2019
There seems to be a theme of incredible scenery going on in our list of marathons in Africa, so we wouldn’t want to disappoint with the last! The name might have spilled the beans already but on this scenic route, you’ll trot around the Cape Peninsula, past the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean and along the stunning Chapman’s Peak Drive. The bad news? It’s actually an Ultra Marathon at 34.8 miles (56 kilometres) but there are plenty of other runs on offer, including trail runs, so you won’t miss out on the scenery.
Ultra (34.8 miles), half (13 miles), trail runs, 10km and fun runs all available.