Millennium Marathon And Unearthing Long Distance Talents

| Updated Feb 10, 2017 at 2:00pm




September 5, 2015 saw another history making event in Ghana with the organisation of the maiden edition of the Millennium Marathon in Accra. Thousands of Ghanaians and a number of foreign athletes participated in the Accra Millennium Marathon. The race was a climax of regional events which served as a road show for the grand finale with President John Mahama, symbolically firing the starter’s gun for the event. There could not have been a better special guest other than the celebrated Ethiopian legend, long distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, who was a big selling point for the organisers. His presence gave the Millennium Marathon the needed international touch, even though the world-acclaimed long distance icon did not participate in the 21km race.

Ethiopians are renowned for their prowess in long distance races and Gebrselassie epitomised the dominance of Ethiopians and East Africans in long distance race. It was not surprising that Gebrselassie’s compatriots, Tereta Debela took the first position in the male category with Ayele Gedamu Gebeyawesh for female division. The two, took away the winner’s prize of a Peugeot salon car each. It was significant also that the medal podium also had runners from Ghana, Kenya and Colombia which reflected the international nature of the Millennium Marathon. Corporate Ghana and the government, particularly the Ministry of Tourism and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly should be commended for throwing their weight behind the organisers for a successful event. The mouth-watering prizes did serve as an attraction for the runners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia and Ghana, for many, the biggest attraction was how the organisers encouraged families to participate in a high-profile activity that was for fun and promoting healthy living. We say kudos to the majority of runners, including hundreds of children who participated for the fun of it, and a desire to be part of history with a certificate of participation and perhaps lasting memories. The presence of President Mahama also gave the event a presidential seal of approval.

Marathon race is not new in Ghana. For more than 25 years, the month of September has taken centre stage for hosting the annual Accra MILO Marathon and more recently the Accra International Marathon. The introduction of the Millennium Marathon is a welcome addition as the nation’s capital gradually becomes a destination for long distance runners. Elsewhere in the world, the marathon race, is a big time event which also serves as a big tourist attraction. The notable marathon events take place in London, Amsterdam, Boston and New York. Such highly-anticipated marathon events really have global appeal. What Ghana needs to do is to identify the flaws of the maiden millennium marathon and take steps to avoid them in the future. There were issues regarding the start of last Saturday's event and conflicting routes for the 5km children’s race and the 21km adult event, which resulted in a lot of confusion at the finishing line. It will not be out of place for the organisers to team up with some of the brains behind the highly successful Accra MILO marathon or other successful models around the world to help make future events incident-free and more successful. In future the organisers and partner state bodies and officials should ensure that such events do not coincide with equally important state activities such as the National Sanitation Day as was the case during the September 5 millennium Marathon.

It is hoped that in a few years to come, the Millennium Marathon and other such events will occupy important place on the nation’s sporting calendar and kick start a crusade towards regular running and other fun-filled fitness activities. The long-term effect of such a regular lifestyle programme is a healthier family and subsequently a more productive nation. Perhaps, through competitions such as the Millennium Marathon, hidden talents could be unearthed and a future Haile Gebrselassie may emerge from Ghana.