News / Africa

New West Africa Marathons Spur Interest in Distance-Running

Sierra Leone's Idrissa Kargbo who finished second in the Liberia Marathon
Sierra Leone's Idrissa Kargbo who finished second in the Liberia Marathon
The streets of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, were taken over by distance runners on Sunday for the country’s second-ever marathon and 10-kilometer race.  The race is one of several that have been organized in West Africa in recent years, creating a new crop of runners yearning to compete on the international stage. 

Hundreds of runners outside Monrovia’s John F. Kennedy Medical Center took off when the whistle blew to mark the start of a 10k run. 

The course took the runners past the home of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf -- who ran a short stretch of the race herself -- before veering toward the sea and then ending up at the city’s stadium.

Two hours earlier, contestants in the marathon embarked on a course that also took them through Monrovia’s downtown.  Although the winner of the race was Nathan Naipei of Kenya, who finished in just over 2 hours, 33 minutes, West African runners were encouraged by the strong second-place showing of Idrissa Kargbo, a runner from Sierra Leone who began competing in marathons just last year.

Naipei helped Kargbo through much of the race, setting a pace Kargbo was able to maintain until the end.  But Kargbo said his rival's superior training made it impossible for him to keep up down the stretch.

"I relaxed.  I said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to compete with this guy.  This guy is higher than me," he confided.

Since 2011, new marathons have been organized in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gabon, which will hold its first race in Libreville, the capital, in November.  

Prior to that, West Africa’s marathon circuit was limited to a race in Accra, Ghana that is in its seventh year, and a half-marathon in Dakar, Senegal.

Races help promote tourism, local runners

The races are often seen as an opportunity to bring in foreign investors to countries that are still developing their tourism sectors.  But there is also increasing interest in promoting distance-running in West Africa.

Robert Brinckman is the race director for the Liberia Marathon.  He said that since the first Liberia Marathon in 2011, there had been a noticeable uptick in interest in the sport, which has long been the specialty of East African countries Kenya and Ethiopia.

"I think one of the special things about the Liberia Marathon is the immense amount of local participation.  This year well above 90 percent of our participants are local here from Liberia, many of them kind of learning about long distance running for the first time.  And it’s a special opportunity to kind of challenge oneself and achieve something truly great," he said.

Liberian runner Prince Weah was competing in his first marathon on Sunday.  He said he believed that with additional training and opportunities to compete in other countries, the region could soon be well-represented at the world’s top races.

"West Africans can be strong on this.  Because based on our performance, you know if we train more it means we can do better.  And really we love the training.  So West Africa can be a place for the marathon" he said.

Some of those opportunities are already starting to emerge.  Sierra Leone’s Kargbo, who until now has only run the marathons in Liberia and Sierra Leone, recently qualified for the New York Marathon in November, one of the world’s most prestigious races.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More