Kumwamba set for winners’ podium at France’s 90km Mont Blanc race

Malawi’s international mountain trail race specialist, Edson Kumwamba is training harder for his second attempt at France’s 90km Mont Blanc race on June 30 and he says this time around he is gunning to be on the winners’ podium.

Kummwamba: Being congratulated by fans during last year’s event
Kummwamba: Climbing up a tarmac road

Kumwamba, who came an impressive overall second place in the five-legged Sri Lanka Ultra X 250km marathon that took place last month, came 20th in his debut appearance in the very mountainous race that reaches 7,000m of climbing.

After taking a good rest following the Sri Lanka Ultra X 250km marathon, Kumwamba went back on the trail in Mulanje but last Saturday he was in Blantyre to train through the tarmac roads from HHI to Mpemba, covering 45km.

“I was looking for endurating course with hilly tarmac road because the Mont Blanc race has some kilometres in between of tarmac. I started at HHI through Magalasi to Kameza then turned to Chilimba all the way to Kandodo Cornershop up to Victoria heading for Catholic Institute (CI) straight to Mpemba before turning back to HHI on same route.

“Mont Blanc is a mountanious race with 7,000m of climbing, so the road was for hill endurance and speed. I am now back in Mulanje for the mountain trail.

“While Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge is attempting to be the first man to break the marathon record in under the two-hour mark, I want to be the first black man to win Marathon Du Mont Blanc’s 90km race in June. The adrenaline for it is flowing,” he said.

During his inaugural participation in France, he was the only runner from Africa amongst 1,400 runners and the supporters there mistook him for a Kenyan because the Malawian flag he has draped around his neck at the finish.

In the Sri Lanka race, Kumwamba was in top form as he came first in the first leg of 37km in a time of 2:18:34hrs; was in second place for Day 2 of 55km in 5:00:10hrs; on Day 3 of 51km, he was first in 4:12:04hrs while on 4th day of 67km he was joint first with his closest opponent in a time 5:12:29hrs before clocking on the last leg of 40km in 3:06:21hrs to come first and clinch the second place overall.

And for finishing second overall, he qualified for the 2021 World Championships.

“My achievements means that I am a strong Ultra runner in Africa. I was up against those considered the best in Ultra races — some 470 athlete who took part and about 50 athlete who couldn’t finish.”

Ultra X races take place in Sri Lanka, Jordan, Mexico and Chile and Kumwamba said after he had informed them of Malawi’s mild ultra race — the Mulanje Porters Race at 23kms — the organisers were impressed to consider Malawi as a host of the Ultra X races.

In December, Kumwamba participated in the Dubai Al Marmoom Ultra-marathon, which is dubbed the world’s longest desert ultra-run in which he had bitter-sweet experience as he had to pull out of the race in the last phase due to swollen feet.

In the first stretch of 50km he came 6th, the second day’s 70km was on position 3 and the third for 100km he was second but for the last phase of 50km, his feet got swollen and after diagnosis it was discovered he had developed what is known as Illiotibia Tract — an injury to the multipurpose tendon that runs down the length of the outer thigh from the top of the pelvis (ilium) to the shin bone (tibia).

He was forced to pull out but if he had completed the final stage he would have made it into the top three.

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

After doing his studies at DAPP vocational school in welding and fabrication, he left Malawi in 2002 for greener pastures in South Africa and since he still had the passion for running, he joined the trail racing club there where he rose to prominence.

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.

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