Another Malawian ultra marathoner comes in the open: Dominating news in Cape Town

Imran Paya from Mbulumbudzi in Chiradzulu District is another ultra marathon specialist who is also making news in Cape Town, South Africa following the footprints of Edson Kumwamba.

Paya: Showing off his medals
In solidarity with Edson Kumwamba

Paya came to surface this week when he contacted this reporter for contacts of Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM) officials seeking for a letter of clearance to enable him register for one of South Africa’s famous ultra marathons — the 90km Comrades Race.

The athlete said he has been taking part in the Comrades Ultra Marathon since 2011 but registration regulations for this year’s event have changed where all foreign athletes should only take part if they are cleared by their home countries’ athletics board.

“This is one of the country’s most prestigious ultra race. Famously known as the ‘Ultimate Human Race’ with a rich history dating back to 1912 if I’m not mistaken. The course runs from Pietermaritzburg to Durban and it is internationally recognized and accredited by the IAAF.”

He confessed that he never took part in any event back home and he left for South Africa  in 2000 and to keep fit he took up regular jogging exercises until he was introduced to a running club.

“Although I run competitively, I have a job. As a Muslim, I work at a Masjid where I assist the Sheikh in teaching at an Islamic school. The pay helps me meet costs for my races such as entry fees, food supplements and running kits because I don’t have any substantial sponsor.

“I have done countless road races ranging from 10km, 15km, 21km, 30km and full 42km (marathons) since 2008. I started taking part in Ultras in 2010, which was the Old Mutual Two Oceans ultra marathon (56km), which I have completed for nine consecutive years — going for my 10th this coming April.

“That was after I did my very first marathon (42km) in 2009, which gave me confidence to consider taking up ultra marathon races. So I have also been taking part in Trail (mountains) races since 2015, which Edson Kumwamba is fond of and the longest I have done in the mountains is 100km race.”

Going forward he says after living in South Africa for such a long time he has the passion to settle back at home one day and perhaps establish an athletics club where he can pass on his many years of experience to Malawian youths.

“I know for a fact that we have potential great athlete in our country but due to meager resources and proper guidance,our youth are left to stray. I don’t want to let my experience to go down the drain without passing it on to the youths.


“Right now, I’m aged 41 and still working hard to better my previous times in marathons and some ultras. And I feel it’s going to happen. If it wasn’t for an accident that happened to me towards the end of 2017, I would have made some strides and records.


“As an amputee I have two things to deal with right now — balance that I lost due to the loss of my big toe through an operation but that doesn’t stop me recording good times that earned me some medals.”


He says he has always been in touch with Edson, with whom he has  done a few trail races.


“We’ve never raced against each other in one race. We have been training together whenever he happened to be in Cape Town. We run in separate Old Mutual Two Oceans, like the 100km last December was going to be the first for us to race it shoulder to shoulder. But he opted to race in Dubai.”


According to Wikipedia, the Comrades Marathon is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. The direction of the race alternates each year between the “up” run (87 km) starting from Durban and the “down” run (now 90.184 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.


The field is capped at 25,000 for 2019 and in all but three runnings since 1988, over 10,000 runners have reached the finish within the allowed 11 or 12 hours.


Runners over the age of 20 qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognised marathon (42.2 km) in under five hours (4h;50 for 2019). During the event an athlete must also reach five cut-off points in specified times to complete the race.


The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is said to be embodied by attributes of camaraderie, selflessness, dedication, perseverance, and ubuntu.

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