Top 10 Marathon and Triathlon Vacations in Africa and the Middle East
Africa is the land of the endurance athlete. And you’ll be competing against the best in the world when you venture out to some of these events in South Africa, Tanzania and Morocco. The terrain in Africa is a real tester for even the most hardened of competitors with courses wielding through game reserves, the Sahara and over mountains.
- The Big Five Marathon, South Africa
The world’s wildest marathon takes place in June each year on a route through the savannah of one of the most spectacular "Big Five" game reserves in Africa. The marathon runs through the habitat of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard with no fences, rivers or anything else to separate runners from wildlife. Eek! The route here covers various surfaces, ranging from deep sand to slippery rocks and some steep track climbs.
- Comrades Marathon, South Africa
If you’ve been in marathon circles long enough you’ll have heard of this most prestigious of ultra-marathon events held every June - Comrades is renowned as a cruel, body sapping 56-mile duel. The race is run between the capital of the Kwazulu-Natal Province of South Africa, Pietermaritzburg, and the coastal city of Durban and the direction alternates each year. There are a series of strenuous hills known as “The Big Give” but the camaraderie fostered among its thousands of participants helps many through these challenges.
- Marathon des Sables, Morocco
This 151 mile event through prime desert over six days is considered the closest thing to joining the French Foreign Legion. Plus you have to carry your own clothes, food and sleeping bag on your back, temperatures are extreme, there are no cheering crowds and it costs a lot. But Marathon runners keep lining up each year and the race is packed every March/April.
- Kilimanjaro Marathon, Tanzania
As a local saying goes “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle - when the sun comes up, you’d better be running." The same can be said for the March Marathon up the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain (19,340 feet). The event starts in Moshi with well-wishers lining the road. In fact entire villagers turn out to cheer competitors on and they do help to pass the miles more quickly.
- Ironman South Africa, Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa
Come for the race and stay for the destination at this April event in spectacular Nelson Mandela Bay. It boasts not only a fabulous endurance race with plenty of dancing and cheering entertainment, but a wide range of wildlife attractions and beautiful beaches. Distances are 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run.
- Ironman 70.3 South Africa, Buffalo City, South Africa
The worldwide Ironman 70.3 triathlon has also come to Buffalo City with its 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run format.
- Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town, South Africa
This 56 km ultramarathon held annually on Easter Saturday claims to be "the world’s most beautiful marathon". It’s certainly spectacular with a backdrop of the Cape Peninsula.
- Dubai Marathon
The richest running event in the Middle East achieved the ultimate when the January 2008 event awarded USD 1 million in prize money for the men and $250,000 for women. This makes it the richest long distance running event in history.
- Grand Raid Sahara, Mauritania
This five stage, 200km supported race in the sands of the Sahara is more than tough. The desert terrain is one of the most taxing on earth and proves a formidable challenge for even the most elite athletes, although many are there just to cross the finish line. It will be tough so come prepared. Held annually in March / April.
- Mombasa Triathlon, Kenya
The annual triathlon in November is a 1.5km swim, 40.3km bike and 10km run through the streets of Mombasa.