Malawi’s international mountain trail long distance (ultra marathon) specialist, Edson Kumwamba claims the 42.2km that is declared as the official distance for the Blantyre Marathon that took place last Sunday is not correct but 8km short at 34.42km.
He says he has a special watch that he uses, a Garmin Phoenix 5s, which is used by professional road and trail runners, swimming, track, mountain biking and all kinds of sports and he set it off as soon as the start gun was fired at Ginnery Corner.
Kumwamba said his special watch told him he had reached the halfway mark and since he hadn’t known the route very well, he had taken it easy at the beginning and when the watch indicated he had done 21km, he started pushing hard.
“But I realized this was too late. In front of me there were several runners and I overtook them and suddenly I reached the last check point but my watch was indicating there was still more kilometers to be done that required at least one more check point.
“At that last check point I was told that I was 15th and I went on to overtake four more before entering into the Kamuzu Stadium and when I stopped the watch it told me I have covered 34.42km.”
Kumwamba came 11th and clocked 2:50:53hrs, which is 23:43 minutes behind the champion, Ndacha Happy Nchelenje in a time of 2:27:10.
He is now challenging the organizers, Malawi National Council of Sports that he is willing to race again on the same route to verify that it’s not 42.2km as is on official records.
Kumwamba wants to do that as part of his training for the 270km ultra marathon race he is going to participate from December 11-15 in Dubai, dubbed the longest desert ultra marathon in the world.
When this was brought to the attention of the chairperson of the Blantyre Marathon main organising committee, Martin Matululu, he said the route was initially measured by experts from Kenya a long time ago and this time around reverified by the organising committee to start from Ginnery Corner and not from Kamuzu Stadium as previously was done.
Matululu said two technical members of his committee Evance Chiphwanya and Mzee Makawa used a car from the starting point at Ginnery Corner then calculated the difference clocked on the speedometer after driving through the whole route.
He said he has now been told by chairperson of the technical committee Isaac Philip, who is Sports Council regional sports development officer, that the route was measured before by the international experts from Kenya, who used an internationally accepted gadget called a calibrator and reverified by Makawa and Chiphwanya using a car’s kilometer calibration.
Sports Council Executive Director George Jana on Wednesday said they stand by their measurements and said Kumwamba is free to do what he wants to do.
“We will not take it as official though,” he said. And when asked if he is discrediting Kumwamba’s GPS Garmin watch calculation which is also used by internation professional athletes, Jana said: “Yes. Mind you the athletes cut the route in corners or round abouts to try and reduce the mileage.”
But when put to him that Kumwamba says one cannot cut corners to reduce up to 8kms, Jana still stood by his ground, saying it depends on the number of corners.
Jana questions what is Kumwamba’s intention, wondering whether he is trying to discredit the marathon but the athlete said he has come forward to reveal this because some athlete friends of his from South Africa are interested to participate in next year’s event and definitely they shall be equipped with these gadgets.
“I wouldn’t want us to be embarrassed internationally that our route is not correct. But if they are not up to it then, let’s leave it there,” he said.
A source who has a similar gadget when she does walking exercises, confided to this reporter that she also has a similar application on her mobile phone called Nike Running which she downloaded from Playstore.
“It uses GPS google maps. So the distance is very accurate. We can get route maps we have done as well. There are many apps being used but I am sure if they have distance as a feature it should be accurate. Samsung also has an app called Samsung Health it also calculates accurately because it uses GPS,” she said.
Charles Uaya of Ulaya Classics, an ardent sportsman and bodybuilder, also confirmed that these GPS apps are accurate to the book.
According to Greek history, the first marathon commemorated the run of Greek soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, in Greece to the city of Athens in 490 BC. Pheidippides is said to have ran the approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians to some anxious Athenians. He delivered his message “Niki!” (victory!) then collapsed and died.
The founders of the Olympic Games organized the first official race in honour of Pheidippides from the Marathon Bridge to Olympic Stadium in Athens, a distance of about 24.85 miles (42kms) in which Spiridon Louis, a Greek postal worker, won that first race in 2 hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds, finishing seven minutes ahead of the pack. Of the 25 entrants, only 9 runners hit the finish line.
According to online source, after 1896, the next few Olympic marathons varied in distance with the idea that as long as all runners ran the same course, there was no need to keep the distance exactly the same.
“For the 1908 London Olympics, the course was laid out from Windsor Castle to White City stadium, about 26 miles. However, to locate the finish line in front of the royal family’s viewing box, an extra 385 yards was added inside the stadium.”
“Despite the success of that first race, it took 13 more years of arguing before the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) adopted the 1908 distance of 42kms as the official marathon. In fact, of the first seven modern Olympics, there were six different distances.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :