By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s international mountain trail race specialist, Edson Kumwamba arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday ahead of the five-legged Ultra X 250km marathon which starts on Monday, April 15 through to 19 and he is confident of making a difference and put Malawi on the map.
The whole of last month, he had undergone rigorous training using the trail terrain that is used for the Mulanje Mountain Porters Race under the guidance of a Dubai-based coach.
“I was warmly welcome and accommodated in a five-star Paradise Beach Hotel in Negembo. We had a good reception where we interacted with fellow athletes from across the world.
“Some of them don’t know much about Malawi until I had to explain our famous neighbours, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania that these countries surround us.
“Most were eager to know of our athletics prowess and I try to market our Mulanje Porters Race but they found it not that challenging because it’s just 23kms long.
“But still they were happy to hear that we have this mild ultra race and gave advise that we should create a longer route, going up and down into the team fields and up and down again. It’s food for thought for us Malawians.”
After participating at the Dubai Al Marmoom Ultra-marathon that took place last December, Kumwamba resumed rigorous training last month when he received the invitation to participate in this Sri Lanka Ultra X 250km marathon.
The Ultra X races take place in four countries — Sri Lanka, Jordan, Mexico and Chile. For the Sri Lanka Ultra X, the first leg is at 37km, the second at 55km, the third at 51km, the 4th at 67km and 40km for the final stage.
“I trained with specific stages in mind following a new training program that I was provided with by my new coach who is living in Dubai and he is also here at the race,” Kumwamba said.
The Dubai Al Marmoom Ultra-marathon which Kumwamba raced in December is dubbed the world’s longest desert ultra-run in which he had bitter-sweet experience as he had to pull out of the race in the last phase due to swollen feet.
In the first stretch of 50km he came 6th, the second day’s 70km was on position 3 and the third for 100km he was second but for the last phase of 50km, his feet got swollen and after diagnosis it was discovered he had developed what is known as Illiotibia Tract — an injury to the multipurpose tendon that runs down the length of the outer thigh from the top of the pelvis (ilium) to the shin bone (tibia).
He was forced to pull out but he says if he had completed the final stage he would have made it into the top three.
Born in Nchathu Village, Traditional Authority Nkanda in Mulanje District , Kumwamba became interested to become an athlete when he was just nine years old when his mother used to take him to watch the Mulanje Porters Race.
After doing his studies at DAPP vocational school in welding and fabrication, he left Malawi in 2002 for greener pastures in South Africa and since he still had the passion for running, he joined the trail racing club there where he rose to prominence.
Some of the races he has been on the podium for include: Ultra Trail Capetown 100km, Jongershoek Mountain Challenge 38km, Puffer 80Km, Mont Blanc 90km (France), Mulanje Porters Race 24km, Marloth Mountain Challenge 55km, Batrun 30km, Table Mountain Challenge 44km, Dryland Traverse 110km and Salomon Bastille Day 35km.