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Maps and Tracks

Our route is changing in 2020

Reasons for the route change: 

The primary reason is safety. We are concerned that by leaving the road at km 2.2 and heading into the forest, participants have not ‘thinned out’ sufficiently to safely negotiate the rough, rooty surface. The new route will leave the road at km 3.8, following a long uphill, by which point there will be much less congestion. Other reasons: the old exploration roads between km 2.2 and 6.6 are growing in with alder, and are requiring increasing brushing which threatens to become overwhelming. These old roads were not designed with runners in mind, and parts of them are perpetually wet and slippery, making for further hazards. Finally, this stretch is regarded as featureless and uninteresting.

The new route:

Participants will stay on the road up to km 3.8. The first and last 3.8 kms will therefore be the same. At km 3.8 the route leaves the road and climbs STEEPLY, before emerging above the trees and following an old exploration road with excellent views. It then passes through forested meadows and open tundra, at one stage traversing above the Boulder Gardens, with further outstanding views. It then descends into a valley via a game trail, and links up with the old route at the old km 6.6, where it begins the ascent up to the ‘Three Cracks’ area. From there on, the route is unchanged from before.


The new route is slightly longer, by about 200m.

Elevation change:

The new route involves a steep climb, followed by a long slow descent interspersed with more level sections. Total elevation gain is 100 m more than before.

Projected times:

We anticipate that the combination of steep ascent, slight extra distance and greater elevation change will lead to longer times for participants. For this reason in 2020 the cut-off time for finishers has been extended to 5 hours. This also implies that it may be slightly more challenging to get under 2 hours for gold medals and under 3 hours for silver medals.

The scenery:

The new route is much more scenic, and it involves being above treeline for a significantly longer period. The views are very different from those that are to be enjoyed on the rest of the course. We ask participants not to get too distracted by the scenery and watch their footing, or else considering slowing down to enjoy the views.

The bottom line:

We pride ourselves in trying to offer as safe an event as possible. We believe that the new route will make it even safer for participants. The Emperor’s Challenge is also promoted as “the toughest and most beautiful half marathon in the world”.  We believe that the new route will make it a little bit tougher, and a lot more scenic.


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