I got introduced to marathon races at Kamuzu Academy, which was an annual charity event and was open to the public including elite athletes for the Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM).
The elite AAM athletes as well as our own elite student athletes lined up first at the start and the rest of us behind. Being a charity event, we were expected to start and finish but there was always a cut off time.
We run, jogged and walked the tedious 42km route through the tobacco estates till we crossed the finish line, many hours after the elite had finished and rested.
What we aspired for was the certificate of participation. Prizes for top three were given to the elite AAM and to KA students in both male and female categories but every participant was given a certificate of participation.
Some years back, Southern Region Athletics body landed sponsorship from insurance company Nico to organise a marathon through the streets and roads of Blantyre and it was warmly received.
However, no plans were put in place to sustain it and once Nico’s sponsorship contract expired, the event went into hibernation — probably waiting for another sponsor to dream that once there was a Blantyre Marathon, let us take it over.
There ought to have been a sustainable programme for this event that once advertised that the next event was in the offing, stakeholders could have been coming over to be part of it, who would in turn budget for it for the following years.
After close to 15 years of hibernation, Malawi National Council of Sports have decided to take over the organisation of the event, to be called Blantyre City Marathon to be held on November 18, 2018.
And Sports Council intends to maintain the race annual event and to make it very glamorous that it can open up for international participation from next year.
No sponsor has been identified yet but Sports Council says various stakeholders have been approached for partnership but with or without a sponsor race will still go ahead for posterity’s sake.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a small step, goes the saying, and I applaud Sports Council for making this bold step in its effort to make the marathon go international.
This is chance for the department of tourism to join hands with Sports Council to market the event internationally. If the Blantyre City Marathon shall be marketed well, it shall attract tourists into this country, before and after the event.
Sports enthusiasts around the global follow where marathons are taking place — some to run for fun others just to watch the event unfold as they also appreciate what the host city and country can offer.
We have a long way to go before it shall attract those elite world marathoners but with methodical planning, in liaison with world marathon organising body, we can do it because every long journey starts with a small step.
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