Malawian athletes slowly gaining ground in SA’s long distance races

There is quite a good number of Malawians who are slowly stamping their authority in South Africa’s athletics market and most of them won medals in last Sunday’s Comrades Marathon, including last year’s Blantyre City Marathon runner-up, Doris Fisha.

Imran Paya
Doris Fisha from Mulanje
Peter Chiwaya
Rodrick Phiri
Stanley Mwakhiwa
Gloria Chitedze

Fisha, from Mulanje District, ran her first Comrades Marathon in a time of 7:20hrs and earned herself what is known as Roche Kelly silver medal. She is also the five-time winner of the Mulanje Mountain Porters Race and in the Blantyre Marathon she clocked 3:20:37.

She has now relocated to South Africa where she joined Orcus Academy in Durban’s Kwazulu Natal and just three weeks ago she won the Empondoland Marathon in Eastern Cape Province.

Peter Chiwaya is another Malawian from Thyolo District, T/A Changata and is based in East London’s Eastern Cape and running for Oxford Striders Running Club East.

Stanley Jeremiah Mwakhiwa, who won a silver medal in the Comrades, is from Nkuthuwa Village, T/A Nazombe in Phalombe District running for Chiltern Athletics Club based in Durban together with four other compatriots.

He has been in SA since 2008, working as a landscaper and he says he was an athlete back home in Zomba whilst at St. Pauls Primary School.

“I once participated in the Coca Cola school races when I was at Mangochi Secondary School but I got discouraged because of systematic cheating in which some officials would place some athletes in front of us, say 5km before the finish.

“So I decided to quit and when I came here in RSA, I joined a club as a fun runner and then gradually I took up serious running. I have done several races — six full marathons, four half marathons and three 15km.

“I did the Durban City Marathon in 2:59:07 in 2018, Maritzburg City Marathon in 3:00:07 this year 2019, Deloitte Marathon in 3:02 :05 also this year, Mandela half marathon in 1:21:43 (2019) and the Sap Strites 2019 in 1:20hrs.

Rodrick Dida Phiri, from Nkhata Bay District’s T/A Fuka Mapiri, has done four Comrades and is also running for Chiltern AC. He arrive in Durban 2009 but started running in 2015.

“I never did any running before back in Malawi. I was a football player in my home village but since 2015 I have done several marathon races here and half marathons. My best time for a full marathon (42km) is 2:40hrs and my best for the half (21km) is 1:1hrs,” said Rodrick.

Another female athlete, Gloria Chitedze, originally from T/A Mkanda Mchinji is with Atlantic Athletic Club (AAC) in Cape Town and has so far competed in the Old Mutual Two Oceans.

“I did not participate in Sunday’s Comrades becaus of other logistical hiccups but I’m looking forward to run next year’s race, God willing. I have also done 10 full marathons and many halves.”

Imran Paya who is from Mbulumbudzi in Chiradzulu District, runs with Gugulethu Athletic Club and he is a specialist of 56km Old Mutual Two Oceans since 2010 from which he has won nine medals in total — six of which are silver.

Paya is also a veteran of the 90km Comrades, in which he has raced for seven years since 2011 to earn six medals, five of which are silver.

For April’s Two Oceans, he finished in a time of 5:46hrs to earn the Blue Number, which is a permanent registration identity.

Also doing well for long distance running is Edson Kumwamba , who is set for France to participate in that country’s 90km Du Mont Blanc race on June 30.

Kumwamba, who is from Mulanje, first took part in the event two years ago in which he came 20th in his debut appearance in the very mountainous race that reaches 7,000m of climbing.

He was identified to be part of Du Mont Blanc when he won the Puffer 80km race in South Africa in 2017. 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 draped around his neck at the finish.

In March, Kumwamba came an impressive overall second place in the five-legged Sri Lanka Ultra X 250km marathon that qualified him for the 2021 World Championships.

Last 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.

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