Runners ask govt to invest in athletics

Some of the runners who took part in the Friday marathon in Kasese District. Photo | Jerome Kule Bitswande

What you need to know:

  • Vitalis Kwemoi from Bukwo District and Viola Chemos, the first female in the 42km run, emerged victorious, each claiming a Shs8 million cash prize

In the wake of the 2023 Mt Rwenzori Tusker Lite Marathon, a resounding call has emerged from local runners in Kasese for the government to invest in the development of an athletics training facility.

This appeal comes as more than 2,000 runners took part in this year's marathon, held on a scenic course stretching from Kasese town to the Equator signage in Kikorongo, Lake Katwe Sub County (21-kilometre run), while a five-kilometre run to Kilembe added a fun element to the event.

Vitalis Kwemoi from Bukwo District and Viola Chemos, the first female in the 42km run, emerged victorious, each claiming a Shs8 million cash prize.

Mr Kwemoi said: "When I embarked on training for this marathon, I shifted to Kapchorwa to find a more suitable training environment. I’m delighted that this decision has paid off, and now that I intend to pursue athletics professionally, I am contemplating a permanent move to Kapchorwa to ensure I receive the best training."

However, local runners have voiced their concerns about the lack of an adequate athletics training centre, hampering their ability to compete effectively with athletes from other regions, particularly North-eastern Uganda.

Mr Alex Masereka Mbwarara, representing Kasese as the highest-ranking local runner, emphasized the need for a dedicated training facility to level the playing field.

"The winners were more prepared and well-trained than us. You could clearly see that during the race. I am therefore asking that our leaders support us in acquiring a proper training ground so that in the next marathon, we can compete rather than just participate," he asserted.

Ms Sarah Ithungu Baleke, a businesswoman specializing in event management in Kasese town, underscored the significance of talent development in the district and the broader Rwenzori sub-region. She called upon local leaders to utilize the Mt Rwenzori Marathon as a platform to nurture professional athletes from the area.

"We need to continue mobilizing our people to participate in this marathon. I know that we have many local runners, some of whom cannot afford the costs associated with competing. Identifying and supporting these individuals is crucial because talents can be a significant source of income," Ms. Baleke emphasized.

Ms Harold Tonny Muhindo, the Member of Parliament for Bukonzo County East, echoed the sentiments of the local athletes and affirmed the necessity of a dedicated training facility. He disclosed plans to collaborate with marathon organizers to explore potential training grounds in the mountains of Kyalhumba and Mahango, with a belief that the Rwenzori region could offer an ideal training environment.

"We have agreed with the marathon organizers to map out a route in the mountains of Kyalhumba and Mahango to assess the feasibility of developing a training facility. The winners have been training in the mountains of Kapchorwa, and I trust that the Rwenzori can provide an equally conducive training environment. Action is necessary," Mr Muhindo concluded.