Kumwamba to contest at the November 18 Blantyre City Marathon

Malawi’s international long distance (Ultra marathon) competitor Edson Kumwamba, who has become a specialist in international mountain trail races, arrived at his home village in Mulanje on September 8 to train for a race in South Africa, and whilst in the country he wants to try a shot at the Blantyre City Marathon which the Malawi National Council of Sports is organizing for November 18, 2018.

Kumwamba (left) training in Mulanje with colleagues in preparation for Blantyre City Marathon

He is training for the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town in December 2018 using the Mulanje Porters Race course, which was the spring board that shot him to fame in the specialised mountain trail races.

After learning of the forthcoming Blantyre Marathon, he has now changed his training strategy and will also concentrate on the conventional road marathon and one of them will be practising through the course for the Blantyre event.

The course for the Blantyre City Marathon, previously known as Nico Marathon until the insurance company pulled out its sponsorship in 2006, 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.

Kumwamba says this could be his answer to his dream of participating at the world events like the Olympic Games, London, New York City, Berlin and other marathons.

“I want to try a shot at the conventional marathon through the Blantyre City event in the hope of one day participating in one of the world marathons where Kenyans and Ethiopians reign supreme. That’s my dream,” says Kumwamba.
“I watched the Berlin Marathon on Sunday [September 8 in which Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon world record in a time of 2:01:40]; I was impressed with his 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.

“I aim to make qualification time for the Olympic Games through my performance in the Blantyre City Marathon and after the Blantyre race and also the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town in December 2018. I intend to go to Kenya next year for three months to train for the 90kms Mont Blanc in France; the mountain trail race I participated in last year,” Kumwamba said.

He said in France’s Mont Blanc race, he was the only runner from Africa amongst 1,400 runners and people there thought he was Kenyan because of the Malawian flag he carried after coming second.

“Wherever I go I proudly carry my Malawian flag,” he says.

He was born 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.

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.

On September 1, he came second in 44kms Table Mountain Challenge in a time of 4hrs 41min 23secs in which 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.

He has on  his personal records athree, 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.

Kumwamba has been invited to participate in Iranian Silk Road Ultramarathon from September 29 to October 8 but he might not make it because needs to meet the cost of his own air ticket.

According to organisers, World Running Academy Extreme  Races, the race is scheduled in two formats: the Integral 250 km (6 stages – 35/45 km per day with a long section of 70 km) and the Lite 150 km (6 stages – 20/30 km per day with a long section of 40 km).

The last Blantyre Marathon champion was Mike Tebulo while veteran Henry Moyo won it twice. This year’s strong favourite contender is Kefasi Kasteni and probably Kumwamba as well, who is now training under supervision of veteran athlete and coach Francis Khanje together with two other prominent Mulanje-based athletes.

In an earlier interview with Nyasa Times, Sports Council’s Sports Development Officer Ruth Mzengo said they intend to maintain the race, that has been dormant for many years, as an annual event and to make it very glamorous that it can open up for international participation from next year.

She said Sports Council has not yet identified a sponsor for it but various stakeholders have been approached for partnership.

“The plan is to stage it with or without a sponsor because we believe we need these kind of programs. They are good for sports development.

“The organising committee [chaired by Martin Matululu] and the Council are trying to get sponsors to support the event,” Mzengo said.

Mzengo said participants must strictly be 20 years old and above and that the prize money and date of registration will be communicated later.

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