The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, surpassed only by the famous Grand Canyon in Colorado, USA. The Canyon is stark, rugged, magnificently desolate and harshly unforgiving.

On the 13th of July 1990, two South Africans, Bruce Mathews and Ronnie Muhl attempted to run the Fish River Canyon hiking trail in under a day. They managed to achieve their goal, eventually finishing in a total time of 11hrs 42min.

On the 16th of August 2003, four Namibians decided to better this record. They were Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit, Coenraad Pool and Tommy van Wyk. They succeeded in their quest, finally finishing in a total time of 10hrs 54min (Fish River Record Summary).

On the 1st August 2012, the world renowned Ultra Trail athlete, Ryan Sandes, made his second attempt at this record. In 2011 he had to abandon his attempt as heavy rains resulted in dangerously high river levels and the threat of flash flooding. Ryan showed his class by smashing the previous record in a time of 6hrs 57min, shedding an amazing 4 hours off the previous time.

The Fish River Challenge is a non-stop self-supporting race whereby runners will be expected to complete the course in 24 hours. Water will be supplied at designated checkpoints that will also serve to monitor progress of the various athletes and provide updates to the organizers. The race will commence at the top of the world famous Fish River Canyon where the race village for the first evening will be positioned on the edge with magnificent views. From there, competitors will follow animal tracks and paths heading cross-country until they reach the point where they will descend into the Canyon. Once down in the Canyon, they will follow the river, with an occasional detour across wide meandering bends in the river, and will eventually finish at the wonderfully soothing hot springs resort of Ai-Ais.

Race Format:

The race format will change in 2013, with an additional “Lite” version being added, thereby providing for a 65km option and the Full 100km option. Both versions will be a unsupported (except for water) foot race whereby competitors will be expected to cover the distance in the designated cut-off time. Competitors will be expected to carry along certain basic essential equipment (see race rules).

It must be noted that distances can vary due to environmental factors as well as the fact that the hiking trail consists of various trails along its course of following the Fish river. At places there is the availability of short cuts, these are shown on race routes, however it is the up to the individual participant to navigate their own way through the course. It is for this reason that this event is seen as a adventure challenge rather than a official distance Ultra.

The full 96km distance must only be undertaken by seasoned ultra distance runners, with experience in crossing, in parts, extremely difficult terrain as well as the likelihood of completing the course after dark. Event date is considered to coincide with full moons, nonetheless the canyon can be an imposing place after dark and requires athletes with sound judgement. Sweepers experienced in the lie of the canyon do back up behind the last athletes.

Entry Fees:

A competitor will only be “officially” registered once they have followed the online entry procedure AND paid their registration fee. Once the organizers have received the necessary registration information as well as confirmation of payment, the competitor will be notified via e-mail of their entry and will receive regular updates pertaining to the event.

NB: Team entries are limited to a max of 4 members.

A teams official event position will be determined by the time of the last team member to cross the line. All team members need to finish for the team to again receive a official event position.

Members of a team cannot qualify for overall individual standings.


Supporters Packages – a limited amount of Supporters Packages will be available (x20) whereby a team supporter plus vehicle will be allowed to follow the event and includes all accommodation, meals and race village facilities as what a event participant would receive, except the actual run. Booking for this needs to be made early as there is limited space!

Shuttle Transfers – Transfer back to Whk can be booked – cost determined by number of pax.

Registration and Race Briefing:

Registration of the competitors will commence at the race village on the canyon edge. All competitors will be expected to check in at the various control points at this stage where their basic essential equipment will undergo inspection, their medical forms will be checked and signed and their personal information and entry details will be confirmed. They will then receive their official race packages that will include amongst others, their race numbers, latest race updates and any additional important race information.

The official race briefing will take place at the Race Village after arrival on the Friday, the time to be confirmed on arrival, and is compulsory for all competitors.

Race Start:

The race will officially start on Saturday from the race villages, 1 hour before sunrise (for the Full 96km option) followed the by “Lite” version 1 hour later.


Accommodation will be available prior to the race at The Klein Windhoek Guesthouse in Windhoek. It remains the competitors’ own responsibility to organize and book their own accommodation. The organizers will do their best to assist where possible.

The accommodation at the Race Village the night before the event is included in the race entry fee and will be in the form of tents. The race ends at the hot springs resort Ai-Ais and accommodation will be provided yet again in the form of tents. Should competitors want more formal accommodation, there are limited rooms available that can be booked on a first come basis. The cost of this will be for the competitor’s personal account.

Event difficulty / Preparation:

Take time to study the route distances and profiles available under EVENTS – RACE ROUTE.

Often the question is asked – How difficult is the route and at what level of fitness must one be to be able to complete this Ultra? This is normally a difficult question to answer as all people have different levels of ability , endurance etc, also each athlete will have a different perspective of what a difficult day on the trail would entail. We will try to provide some perspective of what to expect, based on our own experience and feed back received from previous participants.

It must be stated from the outset that this Ultra, be it the full 100km or the Lite 65km is a challenging trail ultra requiring well above average levels of fitness and endurance. Previous experience in unsupported ultra distance events is highly recommended. As most of the field will be finishing after dark, this must be also be factored into preparation in terms of equipment and mind set. The canyon can become a intimidating place after dark! It is with this in mind that the event is planned taking advantage of the full moon.

Availability of GPS (Required as compulsory equipment item…) and the ability to navigate will also be of great use. One follows the course of the Fish river throughout the route to the end at Ais Ais, however it is useful to know distances covered, specific location on route at any time and the comfort in knowing that you are on track. At some points the canyon has side canyons branching off and due to the width of the canyon in places it may be a little confusing following the main channel. To optimize your route i.e. run the shortest distance down the canyon, will entail one to “cut the corners” or run the shortest distance from one bend in the canyon to the next. The canyon follows a very distinctive “S” shaped pattern therefore important to run the shortest distances between the bends.

Should one accidentally take a side canyon, this is not a major factor as rather quickly you will see you cannot progress any further and will have to turn back. The biggest set back to this is the frustration and “hassle” factor at having to retrace your footsteps. Mostly the best path to follow is the game paths at the edge of the canyon, mostly some distance from the main river channel. As one is following the shortest distance between bends this means that one will have to cross the main stream at least once (depending on height of river level) between each bend, resulting in a varied terrain being experienced, from soft beach sand, to boulder hopping to water wet years! Water will be available throughout the route from either the flowing Fish river, or dryer times from rock pools. In a nutshell one will experience every different type of terrain to run on that you can imagine. For both lengths of the event, there will be a time in the begging of the event whereby you will have to descend into the canyon. At both points for the 100km or the 65km this would mean a extremely technical, steep descent which should be undertaken with the greatest caution. Failure to take this seriously can lead to severe injury even death! Having said that, this will also be one of the most breathtaking times you will experience on any trail run anywhere.


All finishers will receive an official “Finishers” medal. All athletes who enter will also receive automatic entry into the following years event (subject to them accepting and paying for such entry), and preferential entry onto the waiting list for any future events should they not be able to take part in the following years event.

All competitors requiring transportation will be transported back to Windhoek on Sunday 19th June from around 10:00 onwards. Competitors should note that they will only be back in Windhoek at around 18:00 and should therefore take this into account when making return travel arrangements

All questions regarding the event and any details pertaining thereto can be directed to the organizers via the website and we will be happy to get back to you and assist where possible.

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