Marathon revival

From left: Jet Runners Club president Abhinesh Kumar, Avikash Lal, Ravnil Rinesh Kumar and coach Parshotam Lal. Picture: JET RUNNERS CLUB

From left: Jet Runners Club president Abhinesh Kumar, Avikash Lal, Ravnil Rinesh Kumar and coach Parshotam Lal. Picture: JET RUNNERS CLUB

ONE of the oldest sports in the world is on a comeback here in Fiji.

With the history of marathon or long distance running dating back to 490 BC, the excitement of this challenging sport had dwindled over the years here.

To be exact, it is almost a decade since the last professional international marathon race, except for the annual Suva Marathon to be held on our shores.

This is because of the lack of interest on the sport that had won Fiji some limelight and past glories through local greats such as Shri Chand “Mushroom”, Vimlesh Prasad, Parshotam Lal, Isireli Naikelekelevesi, Moses Zarak, Esala Talebula, Bimlesh Kumar and Avikash Lal.

Well, long distance running is getting a revival in Fiji, thanks to Talanoa Treks, an organisation which is working with some local communities and Get Lost Events in the UK, Tourism Fiji, Fiji Police Force and provincial authorities.

Talanoa Treks is organising the Vodafone Lost Island Ultra Marathon, a race through some tough terrains in the West, especially from Ra to Sigatoka.

This is the first race, and plans are to make it annually with discussions ongoing with Government to use the race as another tourism attraction for Fiji.

“Fiji has a lot to offer to the world than just the beach,” Matthew Capper of Talanoa Treks said on Thursday during the sponsorship announcement for Team Fiji with BLK sportswear manufacturer and distributor.

The company will outfit and equip the two-member Fiji team — Petero Manoa and Ana Cowley during the week-long ultra-marathon.

“Since this is the first time for the event, we want to take our athletes beyond limits known,” BLK’s Liga Gukisuva said.

History of marathon

Wikipedia records that according to Greek history, the first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. According to legend, Pheidippides ran the approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians to some anxious Athenians.

What is ultramarathon

An ultramarathon, also called ultra-distance or ultra-running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).

There are two types of ultramarathon.Those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 kilometres and 100km.

The 100km is recognised as an official world record event by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field.

Considered to be a tougher event are self-supported ultramarathon stage races where each competitor has to carry all their supplies including food to survive the length of the race, typically a week.

And that is how Manoa and Cowley will compete alongside the expected 40 specialist participants from around the world.

The four-stage race will start on a 45 kilometre run on Tuesday, April 3, from Yaqara to Nabalasere.

The following day (Stage 2) will be 35km from Nabalasere to Nadrau.

Stage three on Thursday (25km) will end at Nubutautau, Stage 4 on Friday will have 80km going through Nubutautau, Namoli, Yalavou to Tavuni Hill Fort near Sigatoka. Saturday is rest and Sunday, the last leg, is expected to end after a torrid round at the Sigatoka sand dunes. Capper said; “The last stage would be the craziest stage.”

Members of the public can join in the race at the sand dunes.

Revival

Former Fiji long-distance running champion Abinesh Kumar commended the organisers for bringing back the marathon.

“Marathon was at its peak in the 1980s and 1990s because we had the interest and the competitions. It started to die from 2003. Today we can see the handful of same runners competing everywhere. Fiji has talents and it is about time we revive marathon and the ultramarathon is a good start,” he said.

Capper said the upcoming race had been designed as one of the toughest and exciting ultramarathons in the world which was expected to attract some of the best in the globe.

Marathon was alive and kicking in the 1990s with the involvement of couple Paul and Veronika McCoy who used to organise international tournaments at Denarau in Nadi.

The McCoys of Pacific Swims has built a devoted following in marathon, iron man competitions and open water swimming in the South Pacific.