Rwenzori Marathon: Redefining sports tourism

People run during a past Rwenzori marathon. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Tourism and sports are interrelated and complementary to the fact that the tourism sector world over is aggressively using the sports sector, to market destinations.
  • This is the case with the second edition of the Tusker Like Rwenzori Marathon, which does not only intend to interest tourists to hike the snow-capped peaks of Uganda’s highest mountain but also benefit the local community economically, writes Gabriel Buule

Today, September 2, 2023 tourism and fitness enthusiasts will meet in Kasese District,  Western Uganda to take part in the annual Rwenzori Marathon, a one-of-a-kind activity that intends to unlock the tourism potential of the region.

The event will see about 3,000 professional, amateurs and leisure hunters run in the activity that will involve a considerable amount of travelling.

Last year, about 1,000 travellers decended on Kasese for the first edition.

Organisers say the event, officially dubbed Tusker Lite Rwenzori Marathon, aims to create a world-class running event that celebrates the beauty and majesty of the Rwenzori Mountains.

In the same manner, the second edition, hopes to promote healthy living, boost tourism to the region, and support local communities through the power of running.

Amos Wekesa, the brain behind the marathon shares that it was conceived out of the frustration of not seeing enough tourists exploring the majestic Rwenzori Mountains. 

The Rwenzoris hold untapped potential, with more than 16 peaks, five of which rank among the top 10 highest points on the continent. 

At 5,109 metres, Margherita Peak is the highest point on Mount Stanley in the Rwenzori Mountains, and the third-highest peak in Africa.

This natural wonder could easily become a billion-dollar asset, a revenue source that could significantly benefit the local communities, particularly those in Kasese, who have long yearned for opportunities.

More than just tourism
Joel Wakanyansi, a tour operator and the proprietor of Kempten Safaris explains that there is more to the Rwenzori Marathon than just tourism.

He shares that the event will surely unlock Kasese’s potential and reclaim the image of the area that has for years been dented with stories of political crisis.

He adds that this creates lost hope among the people who will now fully engage in tourism - related businesses in the area. 

Wakanyansi shares that thousands of jobs - ranging from transport, hotels, bars among others - will be created over the weekend.

Many locals are smartly choosing to benefit from the event through home-stay services among others.

“There is much more to the event other than the marathon. People are set to rent out their homes at a fee, the craft business will thrive and young people are hoping to work as guides. Such activities are for the benefit of communities and the country at large,” he says, adding that sports tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism and many tourists are interested in sport activities during their trips whether it is the main objective of travel or not.

The statement issued on the official website of event shares that the marathon intends to bring together local and international runners.

“We hope to showcase the stunning landscapes of the Rwenzori Mountains and Queen Elizabeth National Park, including its famous glaciers, towering peaks, lush forests and expansive savannah. Our ultimate goal is to make the Rwenzori Marathon a must-attend event for runners and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world,” a statement reads.

It further indicates that organisers aim to create a lasting impact on the region, supporting local communities and promoting sustainable development which they believe that the Rwenzori Marathon has the potential to be a driving force for positive change.
Kasese tourism experience

There is more to Kasese than the snow-capped peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. Kasese is home to many tourist destinations that one can add to their travel itinerary.

Kasese town is more of a gateway to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, just 16 miles from Rwenzori Mountains National Park in the Rift Valley.

Queen Elizabeth National Park will enable you to undertake the safari of a lifetime in Uganda and watch the animals whilst sitting on top of safari cars.

For arts lovers, the Rwenzori Arts Centre, seven miles north of the town, is worth a visit as it features sculptures cast in bronze by the Rwenzori Founders or carved in Moroto soapstone and marble.

You can also toast to heritage as you visit the Rwenzururu Palace as you prepare to take a boat ride on the Kazinga Channel; a wide, 20-mile-long channel that connects lakes George and Edward.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park Uganda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site placed in Rwenzori Mountains ranges. Measuring around 1,000 km2 (386 square miles), the park boasts of the third highest mountain peak in Africa plus several lakes, waterfalls and glaciers.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park covers nearly 100,000 ha in western Uganda and comprises the main part of the Rwenzori Mountain chain, which includes Africa’s third highest peak (Mount Margherita: 5,109 m).

The region’s glaciers, waterfalls and lakes make it one of Africa’s most beautiful alpine areas.

The park has many natural habitats of endangered species and a rich and unusual flora comprising, among other species, the giant heather.

The Marathon routes
The Equator Marathon (42 km)

The newly introduced Equator route could presumably be this years’ highlight covering 42.

It is understood that participants will embark on a remarkable journey through the awe-inspiring Queen Elizabeth National Park, crossing the Equator and returning with breath-taking views of the majestic Rwenzori Mountains.

This addition showcases the stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity that make Uganda a truly remarkable destination.

The Kilembe Half Marathon (21 km)
The half marathon remains unchanged from last year’s successful edition and it will guide runners into the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountain range, this route has garnered global recognition, having been named one of the most scenic half-marathons in the world by USA Today.

The 5 km Fun Run
The 5 km Fun Run through Kasese’s streets is a perfect family-friendly event, offering scenic views of the breath-taking Rwenzori mountains.
Participants of all ages and skill levels can take part in this enjoyable and inclusive activity.