Kumwamba set for Blantyre Marathon title shot

Malawi’s international mountain trail long distance (Ultra marathon) competitor Edson Kumwamba is set participate in Sunday’s Blantyre Marathon which has been organised by Malawi National Council of Sports but was quick to say he is not really eyeing for the title but rather to experience the conventional road marathon.

Kumwamba: I want to set up my own personal record

Kumwamba, who was based in South Africa until last September where he shot to fame in international long haul mountain trail races, returned to his home village in Mulanje to train for the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town in December 2018 using the Mulanje Porters Race course, which was a spring board that shot him to fame in South Africa.

And whilst in the country, he learnt about the Blantyre Marathon and that spurred his interest to take part in this conventional long road distance race.

“As you are aware, my mission here was to train for the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town but I changed training tactics and I am ready to try a shot at this Blantyre Marathon,” he said in an interview.

“I am aware that I will face tough opposition from the experienced marathoners but I will take the pace I’ve set on endurance and speed in order to gain experience. But they should be warned that should I get the chance, I am up for it.

“This will be a great experience for me. I want to set up my own personal record so that I can use it to better myself in the next conventional road marathon I might chance to participate in, probably starting with South Africa.

“I now harbour the dream of one day participating in one of the world marathons where Kenyans and Ethiopians reign supreme. I have watched many marathons including the last in Berlin, Germany [on September 8 in which Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record in a time of 2:01:40].

“I was impressed with Kipchoge’s performance and I just wish to be given the chance to participate at similar event elsewhere where I can earn an elite marathon status to compete in these events.”

He says he aims to make qualification time for the Olympic Games through his performance in the Blantyre Marathon and he intends to go to Kenya next year for three months to train for the 90kms Mont Blanc in France; the mountain trail race he participated in last year.

On 1st September, Kumwamba came second in 44kms Table Mountain Challenge in a time of 4hrs 41min 23secs. Through various accomplishments in South Africa, France and Switzerland, Kumwamba is making news around the world and in the Table Mountain Challenge, there were 440 runners and the winner was a Zimbabwean, Bernard Rukadza, his most adversary.

Some of the races he has been on the podium for include: Ultra Trail Capetown 100km, Jongershoek Mountain Challenge 38km, Puffer 80Km, Mont Blanc 90km (France), Mulanje Porters Race 24km, Marloth Mountain Challenge 55km, Batrun 30km, Table Mountain Challenge 44km, Dryland Traverse 110km and Salomon Bastille Day 35km.

Some of  his personal records are three, Bastille Day 35 km in 2hrs 56min, the 80km Ultra PURfe 6hrs 54 mins (which was a record done in August) and Batrun 30 km in 2hrs 40min.

And he is set to challenge the country’s top notch marathoners such as John Kayange, Grevazio Mpani, Mike Tebulo, Francis Khanje, Emmanuel Chimzeka, Godfrey Mpunga and also several others from the Malawi Defence Force, who have also registered for the event that will see the winner receiving MK1 million.

A further MK500,000 shall be given to that athlete if he is going to break the record of 2hrs;18min;40secs set by Henry Moyo in 2003 while the women’s champion shall go home with MK800,000 and a further MK400,000 if she shall break the record of 2hrs;48min;21secs set by Theresa Master.

Master set that record at the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil, which was her personal best at the world event.

The cut off time for men is set at 2hrs;45min and 3hrs for women. In both categories, prizes shall be given to first 10 positions as long as they are within the cut off time.

On Thursday, the marathon’s main organising committee chaired by Martin Matululu said at a press conference held at Sports Council offices that all systems have been put in place ready for a successful event.

The race will start at 6am for the main marathon followed by a relay race 30 minutes later while a fun run is scheduled from 7am.

Along the route there will water and medical points and any athlete needing help away from medical points shall be picked up by ambulances which have also been organized.

Matululu also said tight security has also been put in place all along the route and those involved have been equipped with walkie talkies.

“We have also organized cameras which will also be positioned at various strategic points to monitor every athlete who crosses those points to make sure that no one cheats,” Matululu said.

The theme of the event is ‘Changing Lives’ and was designed to be an all encompassing in order to attract not just the serious athletes but also members of the community and thus they included the relay race and the fun run as part of the event.

“That is why we chose the route that passes through the densely populated townships of the city to create hype and awareness of the marathon, whose goal is to make it an annual international event,” Matululu said.

The marathon starts at Ginnery Corner Roundabout in Blantyre near NBS Bank to Chichiri Roundabout where it branches off towards Kwacha Roundabout all the way to TVM, past St. Columbus CCAP Church and all the way to Kudya trading centre.

At Kudya, the route heads towards Zingwangwa and all the way to Stella Maris Secondary School where it turns towards Moneymen Club then past Catholic Institute (CI) and reaching Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre Central Business District.

Then it turns to what is popularly known as Kandodo Corner Shop where it branches off to Mbayani heading all the way to Kameza Roundabout before turning towards Machinjiri turn off where there is the Ernegem Filling Station.

The route then heads into Machinjiri, past Luanda Trading Centre; Area 5; Mkolokoti, Makhetha before joining the road from Zomba and going down past Lever Brothers; past Maselema Roundabout and reaching Chichiri Roundabout where it branches off Makata road and enter into Kamuzu Stadium for the finish line in front of the VIP Stand.

The last Blantyre Marathon champion was Mike Tebulo while veteran Henry Moyo won it twice and set that record which the organisers are challenging this year’s participants to break.

Kumwamba was born and grew up in Nchathu Village, Traditional Authority Nkanda in Mulanje District and became interested to become an athlete when he was just nine years old through the Mulanje Porters Race when his mother used to take him to watch the races.

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