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Inaugural Kilimanjaro Marathon

The first official Kilimanjaro Marathon got off to a fine start on Sunday 02 March 03, outside the Keys Hotel in Moshi, Tanzania. The day was perfect, with Kilimanjaro in all her glory in full view as the nervous runners lined up, the sun turning the glaciers from pink to gold as the clock ticked down to the 0645 start. The main sponsor - Tanzania Breweries Limited, under their Kilimanjaro Premium Lager brand (some say the best beer in Africa!) had taken the bull by the horns and committed to putting a marathon on - to boost the sport and tourism to Tanzania. The small town of Moshi was bedecked with their banners, and the now famous slogan "Its Kili Time" was on everyone's lips at the countdown.

The blowing of a traditional horn in the early hours by the Ngoma dancers preceded the start, and then the group of over 200 marathon runners set of through Moshi and up onto the dirt roads leading up to "Kili". A well marked route, with plenty of water points, traced its way gently upwards across bridges from the colonial days, past small coffee farms and houses, always with the sight of Kilimanjaro ahead - a stirring sight for many of the social runners, who had decided on the combination of running the race and THEN climbing Africa's highest peak!

The turnaround point was at 27 km, near Mweka College - about a 320m gain in altitude to about 1100m amsl - then back through another route through banana and coffee farms, to finish at the stadium. Being a Sunday, a lot of the farmers and their families were on their way to church as the marathon passed through - in their colourful Sunday best. The kids joined in the fun, running with the athletes, cheering them on, through some classic rural Africa - red clay roads, green bananas and lush patches of forest. The crowd support was amazing.

Once the top athletes were in, in an amazing 02:16 (full results on website), we went up to check on the backmarkers - this is where the race picked up its social element, with runners stopping for a chat or a coke at a roadside bar, dicing with the kids etc. The atmosphere was amazing, with even the slowest getting a great cheer - the women runners were especially well supported by the ladies en route to church in all their finery - often the first note you had of a backmarker coming in was the noise of women cheering them on!

The last runners in clocked in at 05:39:21, a senior runner who won the Most Senior Athlete award, Mr Amos Mahonda from Tanzania, sponsored by Wild Frontiers to represent the older running community - well done Mzee !!!

The team runners, and their times are listed herewith.

Michael Sarwath, from Tanzania, time 02:17:48, from Timmax finishing 2nd.

Faustin Shauri, Tanzania, time 02:20:25 from Team 100, finishing 6th.

Johannes Kekana, from South Africa, completed in 02:21:48 sponsored by Nashua and finished 7th.

Benito Nitwewe, also Tanzanian, time 02:23:38 finishing 9th, from team Kilimtali.

Africa One, Holiday Inn/ Colobus Bus, Zimbabwe Sun and Wild Frontiers also sponsored a number of other athletes, some of which finished the marathon in under 2:30. Well done to all those athletes.

In the meantime, the two shorter races, the Celtel 5km and Mutichoice 10km had started and finished - as these were fun runs, no numbers were taken but an estimate of over 700 people took part in these - both these races were professionally run with waterpoints etc.

In terms of logistics, the marathon was a long time coming - operated by the Kilimanjaro Marathon Club and Wild Frontiers, Keys Hotels and Geckos Safaris ----- all the paperwork, IAAF measuring of route, registration with AIMS, approval by the Tanzanian Amateur Athletics Association and Sports Ministry, waterpoint supplies, route marking, police assistance, as well as the two ambulances and 15 medical staff on duty, communications between points (helped immensely by sponsor Celtel), the race clock, official race timings ...

The sponsors - Tanzania Breweries Limited, Celtel, Multichoice, Keys Hotels, Air Tanzania Company Limited, Wild Frontiers and Shoprite - had done an amazing marketing effort in the preceding months, especially the main sponsor - the word was out all over Tanzania. It culminated in TBL bringing up top Tanzanian bands and artists to play in Arusha and Moshi over the weekend, and at the finish, joined by the traditional Ngoma dancers in their monkey skin costumes, playing traditional instruments - a sound not heard often in modern Africa - at the end and during the presentations .

The finish at the stadium was amazing - communications with the lead car allowed the master of ceremonies to update spectators of the race leaders in real time - the cheer when the Tanzanians overtook the Ugandan who lead for half the way, Joseph Nsubuga, was incredible. We now had a VERY FULL stadium - the runners, spectators, dignitaries etc - people had NEVER seen so many people there even for soccer games. The sponsors all had tents and beer and food was available .......again, Kili honoured us with her presence, being open and cloud free well into the afternoon. After the prizes were given out - over USD5 600 in total on the main race, and good amounts on the others, as well as T shirts and medals, the local bands started up, the dancing started and the party went on well into evening .

The whole event was televised and shown around Africa on Supersport M-Net , and is set to be shown on world channels too .

What was achieved ?

• A great event, and runners from Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, USA, UK, Germany and of course Tanzania.

• A great boost to Tanzania tourism - in the future - now Tanzania is on the map as a top marathon destination.

• A great boost to Tanzanian Athletics in general.

• A feather in the cap to the sponsors for committing to this event.

• The town of Moshi - the town was full on the Saturday, and the income to the region cannot be calculated - bars, hotels, taxis etc were all smiling!

• The local Amateur Athletics Association recieved a percentage of the race entry fee, for local athletics in the future.

• The Childrens ward of the local hospital will get the majority of the race entry fee - for the good of the whole community.

Will it rival "Comrades " and some of the bigger races worldwide? We are not sure, but it will grow rapidly - the "spirit" among the friendly Chagga people of the area is already there, and what better way to spend a week than travel to Tanzania, run a great race under Africa's highest mountain, and then travel to the Serengeti to see the migration, or to relax on Zanzibar's famous white sand beaches...or like some did, run the marathon and then climb Kili?


We are already setting up the 2004 race &endash; March 7 - and putting into place some other community projects during the year - collection of old running shoes etc - for the local runners. Watch the website for details and book your place now!

John Addison

Wild Frontiers

Tel: ++ 27-11 702 2035

Fax: ++ 27-11 468 1655

Email: angelique@wildfrontiers.com

Website: www.wildfrontiers.com

Members of SATOA & SATSA