Namibia’s extreme and uninhabited landscapes are the ideal playground for extreme endurance runners. Here is a list of Namibia’s annual extreme sporting events, which forces participants to hone every last muscle in their body to endure the vast landscapes and distances.
The Rock: Spitzkoppe Run and Bike Challenge is a foot-and-cycle race around the Spitzkoppe in the Namib. The race celebrates the natural beauty of the Spitzkoppe and surroundings, benefiting the local community economically.
The race starts and finishes at the Spitzkoppe Community Campsite entrance gate and follows a route over gravel tracks in an anti-clockwise direction around the Pontok Mountains and Grosse Spitzkoppe massif, featuring half-marathon running, walking and cycling categories. It is held in September each year. Categories range from 35 to 70 km of cycling, a 21.1 km walk and a 21.1 km run.
Namib Desert Challenge
Regarded as one of the toughest footraces in the world, this contest covers 228 km of inhospitable, desert terrain. It is held in the Sossusvlei area, and comprises five stages of high-endurance ultra running, with competitors carrying their own survival kit and food. The Namib Desert Challenge is a physical as well as a mental race. Running the equivalent or more of a full marathon every day for five days, with temperatures reaching the mid-40s, it is a super test of endurance, stamina and the ability to persevere through personal pain barriers. The NDC takes place in March each year. As it’s limited to 80 runners, interested parties should book early to secure a place.
100 km of Namib Desert
An annual race that subjects the runners to extreme conditions – sandstorms, strong winds, blistering heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night – yet treats its participants to five-star accommodation, is the contradiction on which this unique event was developed. Still a relatively new and innovative programme, it is unique in the world panorama of desert-running contests. Its attractions are running for 100 kilometres over terrain regarded by many as the most beautiful and captivating in the world, experiencing its mysterious and ever-changing atmosphere in an ambience of relaxation and comfort.
The race is arranged by Zitoway Sport & Adventure of Italy, a promoter known for running events such as the 100-km Del Sahara in Tunisia and the Chott El Jerid. Extreme as the route may seem, Zitoway ensures that medical assistance is always close by.
Lucky Star Marathon
The Lucky Star Marathon takes place in September/October between the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Through this race, the organisers aim to promote community involvement and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle among Namibia’s youth. Consequently significant focus is placed on involving schools from across the country.
Old Mutual Victory Race Series
This too has become an annual event on the Namibian calendar. The race is run in four different legs in categories of either 5 km or 21 km, in Oshakati, Swakopmund, Keetmanshoop and Windhoek. The Windhoek and Swakopmund routes are officially recognised as qualifying heats for regional and other events.
The success of the series can be attributed to the fact that it provides professional and aspiring athletes with an equal opportunity to showcase their running abilities and helps to promote athletics in Namibia. The races usually take place between June and August.
Aussenkehr Desert Extreme
This 100-km desert run of three days is an event that takes runners along the banks of the Orange River, into the mountain country of Namibia, across the harsh plateaus and through ancient and enchanting canyons. It is a contest of endurance, guts and mental strength, taking runners through the Aussenkehr Nature Park, a vast tract of land on the northern banks of the Orange River. Organised by South African company, Mountain Extreme Events, it took place for the first time in 2010 and has now become an annual event. It is held at the end of June each year.
Fish River Marathon and Cycle
Taking place in October, participants can choose between a 104-km and 54-km individual cycle, 54-km team cycle, 42.2 km-marathon, half marathon, 10 km fun walk through a nature reserve, and a 25-km horse ride. Through the marathon, runners can qualify for the Two Oceans and Comrades marathons in South Africa. The event is especially popular amongst schoolchildren, with many of them also participating in the marathon relay and short cycling relay races. It is organised by the Naute Sport Forum.
Windhoek Lager Fish River Canyon Ultra
The Fish River Challenge is a 90 km non-stop self-supporting race whereby runners are expected to complete the course in 24 hours. Water is supplied at designated checkpoints that also serve to monitor progress of the various athletes and provide updates to the organisers. The race starts at the top of the Fish River Canyon where the first evening is spent on the edge, affording magnificent views.
It finishes at the wonderfully soothing hot-springs resort of Ai-Ais. The race takes place in July. From 2013 there will be an additional 60-km category for those who don’t have the energy to run for 90 km straight.
Telecom Windhoek City Run
The Telecom Windhoek City Run is held in August, with runners and walkers participating in the 5-km, 10-km or half-marathon categories. The full marathon is only an option for serious runners. Organised by OTB Sport, 2012 was the first time the run was held, with over 500 participants. It is set to become an annual event.
Rössing Namibia Marathon Championship
Held for the 21st consecutive year in 2012, this event is organised by the Swakop Striders Athletics Club and staged at the Swakopmund Athletics Stadium. Apart from the men’s and women’s open marathon categories, the event also includes a 10 km race and a 5 km charity walk for cancer. The marathon and 10km run follow the same route, from the stadium onto the road to Henties Bay and back with the finish at the same spot where the race started. Held in February, this is one of the last events where runners can qualify for the big South African long distance events later in the year.
The Red Square Winter Duathlon races take place in June, July, September and October. Participants can choose to cycle on a demarcated road, or off-road. In the Sprint category, racers can choose between a 15-km cycle on road or a 7.5-km cycle off-road, and are expected to finish two runs of 2.5 km. In the Full Distance category, the route entails a 5-km run, a 30-km cycle on road or 15-km stretch off-road, and another 5-km run to end it.
FNB Namib Desert Triathlon
The annual FNB Namib Desert Triathlon takes place in early December from Swakopmund. Organised by OTB Sport, individuals or teams complete the ultra event, which includes a 1.9-m swim, 90-km cycle and 21-km run. Participants also have the choice of competing in the sprint (400-m swim; 20-km cycle; 4-km run) or standard distances (1-km swim; 40-km cycle; 10-km run). The race starts with a sea swim at the Mole, continues with a cycle route through the Dorob National Park, and finishes with a run along the coast.
MTN Off-Road Triathlon
An annual event, held on 1 April at the Friedenau Dam outside Windhoek in 2012, the MTN Off-Road Triathlon saw a record number of more than 200 participants. The Endurance and main event consists of a 1.2-km swim, 24-km bike ride and 8.7-km run. The Sprint category covers a 600-m swim, 10-km cycle and 2.7-km run, while the Mini category consists of a 300-m swim, 5-km cycle and 1.8-km run