Arusha is in the process of organizing an international marathon, while Tanzanians are still licking their wounds from the recently held London 2012 Olympics in which the country players fared badly.
The Third Installment of the ‘Safari International Marathon,’ which takes place in Arusha every September, this time will be held on Sunday September 9, attracting nearly 2,000 runners from around the globe. Speaking here, the event organizers revealed that they have made some adjustment to the routes covered by its main 21 kilometres (Half Marathon) events.
“Instead of taking the usual Dodoma Road, we have decided to take the main Namanga road for safety purposes,” said Chris Honest, the Chairman of the Safari Marathon event explaining that heavy traffic on the previous route was jeopardizing the safety of the Marathon participants. The newly constructed (Nairobi) Namanga Road on the other hand is much wider, has less motor vehicles, but also have been provided with aprons for pedestrians that will make it easy for runners to use the route without disrupting (or be disrupted by) the traffic.
More than 1,500 participants have so far registered for the event online, many others have taken forms and inquiries continue to trickle in. The departure and finishing point remains the Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium here, though some events like family fun race will be flagged off either at the stadium or at the Mwenge Junction.
Last year the race was won by mostly Kenyans who finished in the first, second and third positions in the male category of the 21 kilometres race whose overall winner was Kenyan David Kipchumba. The Female Category however was won by a Tanzanian, Mary Naali, in the first position but the second and third runners were all Kenyans as well. Now the race has been attracting participants from all over the world who treat the event as some form of ‘Sports Tourism!’
The event secretary, Victor Mollel, stated that already local tour operators have shown interest to include the annual event in their ‘Safari’, itineraries and have all asked for a full calendar of events in the coming three years. “We are going to stick for the ‘First Week of September’, dates in that the Marathon will be held on every First Sunday of the month, which means the dates may differ but the season is to remain intact,” explained Mollel.
The first winners in both the male and female categories in the main (21 kilometres race) stand to get prizes of 1 million/- each, the first runners-up will be getting 600,000/-, the third winners to earn 300,000/- each and both the 4th and 5th winners in each category are to be awarded 100,000/-. There is also the ‘Disabled Race’ category to feature tricycles and wheelchairs and the first winner in the 10 kilometres event is set to earn 200,000/-, the second 150,000/- and the third 100,000/- while the fourth rider will earn 50,000/-.
In the past two events of 2010 and 2011, the disabled race was mostly participated by males, women seems to either avoid or fear to compete on bicycles. There will also be the ‘Kids Race’, whose winners are to be provided with mattresses for school and the Corporate Challenge Race featuring local companies whose winners will be getting 200,000/- in the first, 150,000/- in the second and 100,000/- in the third categories.
Bonite Bottlers of Moshi (Coca-Cola) and Exim Bank are among the sponsors of this year’s event which also runs under the ‘Ujumbe Inc’, a promotional outfit based in Arusha. Safari Marathon takes over from the former wildly popular, but now defunct ‘Mount Meru Marathon,’ which used to be held here in the months of July (sometimes August).
Safari’s theme; of Sports Tourism seems to target to steal the limelight from the other, Moshi-based, Kilimanjaro Marathon which takes place every February and that seems to be well established at the moment. With its cool weather, Arusha is in better position to host running events and region together with its neighbour Manyara has been producing best athletics in the country.
In Japan for instance, Tanzania is best known for Mount Kilimanjaro and Filbert Bayi. Entering its third year, ‘Safari Marathon’ is still growing and according to Chris Honest, from year 2014 the event will expand to include the full Marathon of 42 kilometres as it was the case with ‘Mount Meru Marathon’. As for the event’s achievements, starting with just 500 runners in 2010 and increasing the number four times this year, the race should be something to reckon, maybe in future Safari will restore the ‘Mount Meru’ Marathon glory.