The growing number of marathons in Botswana may be seen as a great sign of growth in the field of athletics locally. However, reports say this has since become a cause for concern for the local athletics governing body, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA).
According to the reports, BAA is concerned that many marathons may be a health challenge to the athletes. It is also understood that the association is of a view that some of the marathons are not beneficial to the growth of athletics in the country but only push the agendas of the organisers.
BAA president Moses Bantsi said as the association they appreciate the support given by the organisers but have to be careful that such growth is beneficial to all parties involved. He said the increasing number of marathons locally may be a good thing if the growth of athletics is the main thing.
According to Bantsi, if this is not the case then they are concerned. “Some of these marathons are not mainly benefiting the growth of athletics because their main purpose is to raise funds,” regretted Bantsi, pointing to the congestion of the athletics calendar.
The BAA president gave an example with the coming Francistown Marathon next month. The marathon is schedule for 15th February 2015. Thereafter follows the Diacore Gaborone marathon slated for March 22. “We have been in talks with the organisers of Francistown marathon to try and make them understand this,” he said.
According to Bantsi, athletes should be given ample time to recover from marathons. “There should be at least a space of three months between the marathons,” he insisted.
Bantsi urged marathon organisers to always consult with BAA before setting up the dates of their events. He said the problem is not about the number of races but how they are scheduled. “The organisers only come to us with finalised dates. I think these marathons should be controlled centrally through BAA as the technical advisor to the organisers. We will never refuse to help the organisers if they ask for our help and input for the benefit of the athletes and athletics in general,” he said.
These marathons add to BAA’s seasonal cross country championships calendar that requires that athletes feature in at least three of them to qualify for the national championships. This, according to some, is too much pressure on the athletes.
BAA’s concern may seem to be a little justified as almost all these marathons are aimed at making money for charity. In their website PGM Foundation, the organiser Diacore marathon clearly stated that they are a charitable organisation. Even Diacore public relations and Media officer Thabo Makgato confirmed that the main objective was to create an event that will attract the interest of Batswana and other nationals with the aim of supporting marginalised and less privileged communities.
The marathon has always been used to raise money for charity organisations locally and hundred thousands of Pulas are raise annually. The same applies to the Francistown marathon which starts this year as the organisers have indicated in a press release that all the procedings of the race will be going to charity.
On the other hand, Makgato argues that the marathon benefits the athletes as well, giving them exposure and a chance to gauge their abilities with international athletes. He said the marathon is also used as qualifiers for big sporting events such as the Comrades Marathon which is one of the most celebrated races in South Africa. “This year we are coming up with a programme that will be aiming at the development of local athletes. We will call the media very soon to talk about this development,” he said.