Dream deferred

SHARE   |   Sunday, 29 March 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Kaelo Mosalagae (centre) and Sesebo Matlapeng (left) during Botswana Athletics Association cross-country series in Kopong Kaelo Mosalagae (centre) and Sesebo Matlapeng (left) during Botswana Athletics Association cross-country series in Kopong PIC: BOPA

… as local runners fail in Diacore Marathon

A dream of having a local win the Diacore Gaborone Marathon was once more deferred this year with no sign such will happen anytime soon.
Though the marathon has grown in leaps and bounds since it started five years ago, it has become an exclusive preserve of foreign athletes, especially the 42.2km race. While it might just be that locals are not gifted in long distances, some have been quick to place the blame on the lack of support from Botswana Athletics Association (BAA). Marathon runners have complained about negligence from the association as compared to their counterparts in short distance races.
They have been arguing that more attention and resources are channelled towards the improvement and nurturing of these runners while they are neglected. Kaelo Mosalagae – a long distance runner - said the bleak performance of long distance runners is attributed it to the poor support from BAA. According to Mosalagae, there is good potential in Botswana but the problem is that BAA is not doing enough to unearth and develop long distance runners.
 “Honestly we can be doing just like these foreign runners but the problem with us is that we are not given support. They are probably racing as professionals at their countries and are fully supported that is why they are making it big in the international arena. But with us concentration is mainly given to 400m and 800m runners,” said Mosalagae who urged BAA to start giving long distance runners the support they need to perform better.
BAA spokesperson Roland Masalila however insisted that there are no new emerging young runners who can compete. He said people who register for the marathon have advanced in age and this automatically reduces their performance.  
Masalila admitted that BAA and the affiliates are partly to be blamed for this. He said they tend to neglect marathon runners in favour of short distance runners. He said since marathons need a lot of time and work some have tended to concentrate only on short distance races. “This is the challenge that we need to take head on as BAA to start seeing improvement in marathon runners locally,” he said.    
The other factor that has been identified to be a contributing factor to the continued dismal performance of the locals is the mushrooming marathons in the country. Mosalagae, who did not take part in this year’s Diacore Marathon, said the growing number of marathons is affecting the overall performance of athletes since they get worn out from a lot of races.
This has been BAA’s main concern last year. 
According to BAA regulations runners should get at least three-month-period rest between races, however with the mushrooming marathons this resting period has been eliminated.
“This is really bad for the health of runners since they do not have enough time to rest hence the poor performance,” admitted Mosalagae. According to him, most local runners end up not registering for the marathon. He said the main reason he could not register to take part was that he was preparing for a country meet in Malawi. The barefooted runner suggested that BAA should make sure that in future the marathons are scheduled accordingly.   
Apart from the negligence and mushrooming marathons in the country some BAA affiliates feel that the runners are not equipped to participate in the 42km race. BAA insiders argue that the association does not have a 42.2km race but only 12km and the runners have little opportunity to prepare for the long distance.  They called on BAA to think of introducing the race in their calendar at least once a year.
Local runners only try their best in the 21km race in the Diacore Gaborone Marathon. This year Botswana got second position in both the male and female categories through Godiraone Nthompe and Mema Tiango. The 42.2km male race was won by Zimbabwean runner Gilbert Mutandirwa followed by two Namibian runners. Namibian Annah Amukoko won the ladies 42.2km bracket.

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