By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s international mountain trail race specialist, Edson Kumwamba has finally been granted his travel Visa and air ticket to France to participate in that country’s 90km Du Mont Blanc race on June 30 and he has a new strategy in order to be on the winners’ podium by having a multi-national experts as his race crew.
Kumwamba first took part in the event two years ago in which he came 20th in his debut appearance in the very mountainous race that reaches 7,000m of climbing and having had a good experience, he now has a new race strategy this time around.
“The supporting crew that I have will be on the route and they come from different countries with lots of trail running experience,” Kumwamba said. “They have been following me up in all of my events. Some are from Dubai, France, Switzerland, South Africa, England, Australia and Italy.
“The group which is coming from SA is a trail running club called Muizenberg Trail Dawgs, which is also sponsoring my air ticket and other needs. The team which is coming from Dubai is called InnerFight Endurance and is supporting me on nutrition and running gear.
“My coach is from the Dubai team. And there are others that will support me financially and for my accommodation.
“I am good to go now. My goal for this year’s Du Mont Blanc marathon is to run a beautiful race and according to my training schedule this year I am more stronger than last year. I have lots of good experience on both technical and tough course of this race route.
He said he was identified to be part of Du Mont Blanc when he won the Puffer 80km race in South Africa in 2017. During his inaugural participation in France, he was the only runner from Africa amongst 1,400 runners and the supporters there mistook him for a Kenyan because the Malawian flag he draped around his neck at the finish.
In March, Kumwamba came an impressive overall second place in the five-legged Sri Lanka Ultra X 250km marathon and after taking a good rest, he went back on the trail in Mulanje.
Last month, he travelled to Blantyre to train through the tarmac roads from HHI to Mpemba, covering 45km targeting endurating course with hilly tarmac road because the Mont Blanc race has some kilometres in between of tarmac.
He started off from HHI through Magalasi to Kameza then turned to Chilimba all the way to Kandodo Cornershop up to Victoria heading for Catholic Institute (CI) straight to Mpemba before turning back to HHI on same route.
“While Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge is attempting to be the first man to break the world marathon record in under the two-hour mark, I want to be the first black man to win Marathon Du Mont Blanc’s 90km race and the adrenaline for it is flowing,” he said.
In the Sri Lanka race, Kumwamba was in top form as he came first in the first leg of 37km in a time of 2:18:34hrs; was in second place for Day 2 of 55km in 5:00:10hrs; on Day 3 of 51km, he was first in 4:12:04hrs while on 4th day of 67km he was joint first with his closest opponent in a time 5:12:29hrs before clocking on the last leg of 40km in 3:06:21hrs to come first and clinch the second place overall.
And for finishing second overall, he qualified for the 2021 World Championships.
“My achievements means that I am a strong Ultra runner in Africa. I was up against those considered the best in Ultra races — some 470 athlete who took part and about 50 athlete who couldn’t finish.”
Ultra X races take place in Sri Lanka, Jordan, Mexico and Chile and Kumwamba said after he had informed them of Malawi’s mild ultra race — the Mulanje Porters Race at 23kms — the organisers were impressed to consider Malawi as a host of the Ultra X races.
In December last year, Kumwamba participated in the Dubai Al Marmoom Ultra-marathon, which 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 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.