Kudos to Malawi Sports Council for successfully resurrecting the Blantyre Marathon 

After watching relay races that were organized to entertain people as they awaited for the Blantyre Marathon athletes to arrive at the Kamuzu Stadium finish line, guest of honour Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Grace Chiumia, was impressed with the enthusiasm that the participants, especially the school-going youths, had that she has pledged to revitalize serious sports programmes in schools, starting from primary up to secondary level.

Nchelenje crosses the line in 2:27:10

She said she was proud to be back to the Sports Ministry and promises to work hard from where her predecessor left from but after seeing the talent and the enthusiasm displayed by the youths at this event she was moved and that her ministry shall engage with that of education to see how best this can be worked out.

That’s great news and it is thanks to Malawi National Council of Sports which decided that the Blantyre Marathon should be revived in order to inspire many athletes to look forward to. And to inspire more to take athletics seriously there is really need to revitalize physical education as a school curriculum.

In our younger days, PE was a serious subject taught by Malawi Young Pioneers graduates, who were seconded to schools solely for PE. We were taught many sports disciplines like long jump, high jump, javelin, discus throwing, relay races, sprint races, cross country races on top of football and netball.

In my high school days at Kamuzu Academy, we were exposed to more sports disciplines; tennis, basketball, squash, rugby, badminton, golf, swimming, chess and exposed more to track and field events.

This new generation needs such exposure from the grassroots. Most of our youths have too much idle time and less recreational facilities and they resort to unbecoming behaviours. If they can be given access to more sports disciplines, I am quite sure we can be producing plenty of good talent.

Schools should always be provided with plenty sports facilities and equipment for the youths to be inspired to take up sport. There are plenty sports disciplines that youths can take seriously and continue to play even after graduating and they have secured various professional career jobs.

Sports Council Executive Director George Jana also announced good new that they are planning to introduce other marathons in the other key cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba and make the Blantyre event the main national race with an international flair.

And to show that they are very serious with these events, Jana announced that instead of the K800,000 that was earmarked as the prize for the women’s category, she was going to receive what was pledged for the men’s at K1 million.

And thousands of people were able to watch the race along the streets of Blantyre since the route passed through densely populated areas of Zingwangwa, Mbayani, Chirimba and Machinjiri to sensitive people to take the sport seriously.

I pray that the plans to eventually turn the Blantyre marathon into an international event will become a reality because in many countries their marathons are graced by top notch athletes.

This will be one way of promoting tourism and Sports Council should work hand in hand with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism headed by Francis Kasaila.

Many tourists follow where enticing marathons are taking place and if, for instance the Blantyre Marathon shall attract top-notch athletes from around Africa and the world, many tourists shall be attracted to come to Malawi to sample other places of interest such as the Lake Malawi, Mulanje Mountain, Nyika Plateau and all the other game parks and reserves.

The Mulanje Porters Race is one such example that attracts so many tourists that when they go back home they inform their compatriots how they enjoyed Malawi’s hospitality.

Through the Porters Race, Malawi has produced a specialist in international mountain trail long distance (Ultra marathon), Edson Kumwamba and just last month, as he trained for the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town race in South Africa on December 1 using the Porters Race course, he met a group of tourists from Safari Tours.

When he told them he had been up the mountain training, they asked him to organize a social race for them to sample what they had heard about the Porters Race and after the race, the tourists were impressed with his performance.

Kumwamba said some of the tourists were from Dubai and upon learning that he is ranked 4th in Africa on ultra marathons, they invited him to participate at the Al Marmoom Ultramarathon, which is dubbed the longest desert marathon in the world.

I am quite sure that if Blantyre Marathon shall be turned into an international event many other Malawian athletes shall get exposed and earn recognition to be invited to other international events.

Kamuzu Academy used to organize an charity marathon that the elite Malawian athletes used to patronize. The prizes were divided into two — for the elite athletes and the other special for the student champions winners.

The same can be used for the Blantyre Marathon if it shall attract participation by elite runners from around Africa and the world by reserving prizes special for Malawian athletes in order to reward them for being part of the event.

Congratulations are in order to Sports Council for this initiative and I know the next the next one shall be bigger and better.

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