Sarah Samuel takes a look at the running races across East Africa to kick-start your New Year.

If your resolution is anything like mine and the majority of New Year’s Eve optimists, it is something like “lose weight” or “get in shape.” More often than not, resolutions don’t make it past the first calendar flip to February, leaving you reassuring yourself that next year will be your year. But it’s not like you will be any younger or less busy in 2019. A tangible goal with a deadline is what your resolution needs to outlive the initial clinking of champagne flutes. Might I suggest signing up for a race?

My first year living in Washington, DC, I ran a half marathon downtown. Racing through the national monuments of the United States’ capital city was a great way to usher in a new phase of life. Not to mention the friends I made through joining training groups. Running a local race is a great way to get a feel for a country and meeting new people. Trudge up the steep red clay hills of Uganda or jog alongside Nairobi’s skyscrapers. Race towards Mt. Kilimanjaro or dance alongside thousands of mighty women in Ethiopia. Make 2018 not only the year you get in shape, but also the year you make a lifelong memory.

If your bucket list includes “run a marathon,” make 2018 the year you proudly check that box. If a marathon is not your thing, most races also include half marathons and a 10 or 5-kilometre race. In fact, there are over 400 races from which to choose. Mark the date on your calendar now and work towards the literal and virtual finish line with friends and family members.

Note: The prices listed below are for the marathons, shorter races will be cheaper. Please also take note of the different fees based on residency status where applicable


Throughout 2018


Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya is launching its first ever virtual ultramarathon. Train anywhere as you tick off kilometres to the tune of 1,245 km. In order to complete this goal by the end of the year, you will need to walk, run, jog or bike 3.4 km per day. In addition, you need to raise $1,000 to support Sudan (the last male white rhino) and his friends at the conservancy. Ending your year of training with a trip to see Sudan and the other animals being cared for at the conservancy would be the icing on the cake of a successful year.

Entry Fee: $1,000 conservation/innovation/virtual-ultra


March 4, 2018

Many diehard runners have used this race as an excuse to travel to Africa for the first time and gaze up at the tallest mountain in Africa. The race course begins in a large stadium where live bands kickstart the party. Runners pass through local farms, small villages, and fruit and coffee plantations before making their way back to the stadium. If you are not local, the organisers have a travel agency that can arrange everything from hotel to transportation to post-race sightseeing.

Fees: EA Citizen: $5 EA resident: $35, Non-residents: $65.


March 11, 2018

Celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8) by combining forces with 100,000 women and girls who have already cruised through the 5 km (3.1 mile) race course. Music plays loudly along the course to propel you to your next mile marker. Ethiopia has been hosting this fun run, one of the largest women-only races on the continent, since 2004 and is expecting a great turnout – estimated at 12,000 women – again this year. This year’s message is “Violent Free Life: It’s My Right!”

Fees not yet posted.



May 27-June 3, 2018

This is much more than a race. Spend your first six days volunteering your time and talents, sharing your love of running with local children, and embracing all that Uganda’s beautiful countryside has to offer. As the sun rises on your seventh day, you will take off through the red hills and lush countryside of Uganda alongside 3,000 other runners. To keep your morale high as you traverse hills and boulders, the community comes out to cheer you on. End by dancing and eating the night away with the entire town.

Fees for entire week (depending on accommodation selected): $950-$1,295


May 20, 2018

Rwanda, a land of rolling lush hills and pristine cities, is also host to the only race in the world whose main goal is to promote peace at home and around the world. This will be the 14th annual race for peace held in beautiful Kigali. While the main event – the marathon – is held on the 20th, there are numerous other activities in the lead-up to the race. There is a night-time torch run and a family-friendly 5 km the night before the big race. The course runs mainly through the capital’s wide and well-paved roads, so this is a good one for road runners.

Fees: Free.

More information:


June, 2018. Dates TBD

As you twist and turn through the bush, you can’t help but think how lucky you are to be sprinting like a cheetah next to a giraffe. This race is not for the faint of heart – it is hot and hilly in the savannah. You are going to want a lot of sunscreen for this one! The funds raised from the race benefit dozens of communities and nonprofits throughout Kenya from elephant sanctuaries to endangered turtles.

Fees: $250 entry, plus $1,500 fundraising for the Lewa conservancy.


  • CECC Hawassa Half Marathon | Awassa, Ethiopia | February 11
  • Rwanda Challenge Marathon | Rwamagana, Rwanda | February 18
  • Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon | Beau Vallon, Seychelles | February 25
  • Marathon de Sables, Sahara Desert, Morocco, April 6-16
  • Malawi Impact Marathon | Nkope, Malawi | May 26
  • Victoria Falls Marathon | Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe | July 1
  • Racing Madagascar Ultra Trail 2018 | Anivorano, Madagascar | July 9
  • Mauritius Marathon | Le Morne, Mauritius | July 15
  • Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon | Nairobi, Kenya | October 28
  • Running the Rift Marathon | Fort Portal, Uganda | December 1
  • Tsavorun | Mwakitau, Kenya | December 8

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