By Duncan Mlanjira
South Africa-based long distance athlete, Peter Chiwaya has bemoaned Athletics Association of Malawi’s lack of interest in the Malawian athletes who are slowly stamping their authority in their host country’s races.
“My goal is to try and inspire youngsters to pick up this sport,” said Chiwaya, who won the silver medal in last Sunday’s 90km Comrades Marathon, one of South Africa’s worldwide renowned races.
“I would like to help those who are needy in athletics. Through my club, Oxford Striders, I am trying to raise some running gear to assist needy athletes in Malawi. This has inspired my club and we will endeavor to carry out this mission.
“But it disheartens us runners here that AAM does not seem interested in us. We’re in the same Whatsapp group but whenever we post about our races here nobody seems interested, as if they don’t wish us well.
“So that puts us off but we will not give up because we’re doing it for our country. For me personally, I want youngsters back there to pick up the long distance running at a tender age unlike us who started running when we were older.
“I’m 35 years old but started serious running at 30 and I have been active ever since I joined Oxford Striders. My interest to run started after being inspired by my boss here, whom I worked for as a domestic chef.
“I came to SA in April 2013. Prior to that my only attachment to athletics was at Chichiri Secondary School in 2007 where there was a Sports Day organised by Southern Region Adventist Youth. I did 400m and came third.
“Then I came here to work. I was intrigued with my boss, whose great passion was running, cycling, rugby, cricket and boxing. One Friday of September 2014, he picked up some young boys from his home village and brought them over for training to prepare for one of the big events here, the Legends Marathon, which is in 68km ultra, 21km, 10km and 5km.
“Out of the blue, he also invited me, saying I looked fit enough to finish a long distance race. So he drove us out of East London to King Williams Town’s Bisho Stadium where Legends Marathon starts and told us to run back home.
“There were five of us and we started running but the hot weather affected me because I did not have the right gear for running in such weather. But I endured it and by the time we caught up with my boss, he told us we have covered 18km.
“Both my boss and myself were amazed with that feat and the following month he had me registered to participate in Legends 21km. That was my first race and the beginning of my running career.”
After the Legends, Chiwaya participated his first full marathon, the Buffs in February 2015, finishing in 3:35 before doing the full Legends ultra (68km) in September 2015 in 7:10.
In his second Buffs Marathon in 2016, his time was 3:25. He then joined Oxford Striders where he got a huge support in running and after doing several races in 10km, 15km, 21km and above, he did the Amathole Marathon 2:49 in August 2017, his personal based performance to date.
“Last year I did my first Old Mutual Two Oceans and the Comrades. My 2018 Two Oceans was 04:14 and the 2019 was 04:09. My 2018 Comrades was 9:04 and the 2019 was 07:39.
“All we need here is recognition so that it can inspired many others to be coming here to participate in many of the races here. They don’t need to come and stay here but they should be facilitated with means to be coming here to run.
“We can support each other through sending over the training schedules we do here, the right gear and other paraphernalia needed in this sport. Malawian youths should be accorded with lessons in athletics, starting when they are younger.
AAM’s lack of interest in these SA-based Malawian athletes was manifested just recently when Comrades Marathon specialist, Imran Paya was asking for a clearance letter for him to participate in this year’s race.
Paya had indicated that the Comrades’ regulations for this year’s event were changed in which all foreign athletes were to be allowed to take part as citizens of their countries of origin only if they were cleared by their home countries’ athletics board.
But Paya failed to get his clearance letter but he ran as a Malawian because the Comrades organizers asked him to win a medal to deserve that status. Several of the Malawians are yet to be issued with the clearance letter.