Makumba’s Zomba Athletics Development Centre dominates Mulanje’s Legend Trail Challenge

Two of Zomba Athletics Development Centre clinched first places in men’s and female categories of the Mulanje Legend Trail Challenge on Sunday as the visitors dominated the 10km race which was organised to prepare Mulanje Athletics Club members for the third edition of the Blantyre Marathon scheduled for June 20.

The women’s winner’s podium — Fagessi Mission (1); Doris Fisher (2) and Martha Bakili
The men’s podium — Mphatso Nadolo (1); Mwai Kawaza (2) and Chimbekezo Jamali
Kumwamba satisfied with the race’s success
Some tourists also took part in the race

The men’s category was won by 2019 Blantyre Marathon champion, Mphatso Nadolo, with team mate Mwai Kawaza coming second and Adam Kalima on 4th position.

Mulanje Athletics Club — managed by Malawi’s international ultra race athlete, Edson Kumwamba — took third and 5th positions through Chimbekezo Jamali and Dyson Chithwanga respectively.

The women’s category was won by Zomba’s 13-year-old Fagessi Mission as two other girls dominated the top 5 — Martha Bakili on 3rd place and Janet Chidothi on 5th.

Mulanje’s Doris Fisher — who is the 2019 Blantyre Marathon runner-up — took second place while her club mate Gloria Adam was 4th.

Zomba Athletics Development Centre is managed by Cobbe Barracks-based soldier Benedicto Makumba and he took with him 10 athletes.

He came into the spotlight last week when he came out of his cocoon to ask for sponsorship support from well-wishers for his development academy which he founded in 2019 — grooming and nurturing up-and-coming young athletes using his own resources.

But now the academy is getting bigger in numbers — with some of his products bringing positive results such as Sunganani Namakonje, who is the 400m and 800m national champion and currently on a training program with Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) to prepare for the forthcoming Olympic Games.

Another is Martha Bakili, who comes on second position on 1500m and 3000m national championship while Watson Musa is a youth national champion in 100m and 200m.

These positive results has energized Makumba to enhance the talent potential that he has unearthed as others are joining having been inspired with what the academy’s members are achieving on the track as well as road races.

Makumba has been a national athlete for 22 years and was trained as coach in 2007 by renowned Malawian coaches Issac Phiri, who manages Lilongwe’s Kamuzu Institute for Sports and another veteran Mzee Makawa.

They train at Chirunga ground at Chancellor College and from the enthusiasm and favourable performances in national competitions, he has trust that they shall continue bringing medals to Zomba.

He uses part of his income as a soldier and from the houses that he lents out but asks for sponsorship in order to provide his athletes with training and competitions gear.

Kumwamba befriended Makumba having learnt of his achievement  and decided to invite his club for Sunday’s race as well the second edition on May 2 which two distances — 31km and 10km.

Several well-wishers assisted Makumba with funds for travel and upkeep expenses while Zomba City Council provided a vehicle and a driver.

“I am really very grateful to all those who made it possible for us to make it to Zomba. The athletes really enjoyed the race as they always do because they put to action what they are trained for.

“I still appeal for financial or material support as you can see that these youngsters have the potential to bring medals for Malawi,” he said.

In his 22-year span as a national athlete, Makumba has represented Malawi in many of competitions that include the Commonwealth Games, All African Games and one Olympic Games after doing well in national championships, Southern Africa championships and Africa championships.

“I want some of my athletes to achieve the same in their lifetime and that’s why I am asking for support from well-wishers to propel these ambitious youngsters to greater heights,” said Makumba, whose academy is affiliated with Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM).

Meanwhile, Kumwamba says he is very proud to have managed to successfully organise and looks forward to the second edition on May 2.

He also asking for sponsorship of his Legend Trail Challenge series because he has the passion to nurture athletes talents as the country only have just two major races annually — Mulanje Mountain Porters Race and the Blantyre Marathon.

“We don’t have enough competitions that can expose our athletes who can be able to put Malawi on map at international competitions such as the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and All Africa Games.

“I use the little money I save for such Legend Trail Challenge series and I really would appreciate in the corporate world or NGOs or even the Ministry of Tourism because the races also attract foreign tourists that are present when I am organising them.”

The Porters Race also attracts foreign participation with some flying into the country specifically to run up and down the trails of Mulanje Mountain, which Ministry of Tourism also gets involved in its organisation.

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