In recent years, Eritrea’s name has been constantly mentioned in the international athletics arena. Eritrean athletes, both men and women, have been taking the podiums in major athletics events around the world including a bronze medal at the Olympics, a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships and various other accolades. Therefore the Eritrean National Athletics Federation is showing great diligence to maintain the achievements of the upcoming generation of athletes and one of these efforts is organizing a standardized marathon race, the Asmara Marathon 2023.
We have conducted a brief interview with Mr. Efrem Tekeste, President of the Eritrean National Athletics Federation and Chairman of the Asmara Marathon Local Organizing Committee.
- Mr. Efrem thank you for your time! Would you please tell us about Asmara Marathon?
Thank you. Asmara Marathon began in 2017, which was called the Maekel Marathon at the time. It was organized by the administration of the Central (Maekel) Region. After a while, there were plans to reform and standardize it. Therefore, for the first time in 2019, the Eritrean National Athletics Federation with the then President of the Federation Isaias Ande, organized an international event called Asmara Marathon. Athletes from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia were invited. These athletes have big names in athletics. One of them, Patrick Makua, was a world marathon record holder in 2010. Another athlete broke the course record at the Poland Marathon in April. These big names in athletics added heat to the competition. After 2019, due to covid-19 restrictions, the event has been put on hold. After yet another round of preparations, however, we are glad to announce that the Asmara Marathon 2023 will be back on track tomorrow morning.
- What kind of preparation have you made for the event?
We started preparations four months ago. The first step focused on forming committees that are essential for overseeing the event; the role of the Commission of Culture and Sports is undeniable in this process. Most of the budget was obtained from the Commission. Once we acquired the needed amount of budget, all the committees we formed, such as fundraising, protocol, technical, logistics, health, security, and mass sports started undertaking their tasks in full effect. In general, the committees include 54 members selected from different line ministries. For the past two months, the committees have been conducting meetings on a daily basis in order to effectively execute this highly anticipated event. Besides, local athletes have been training all year round to participate and shine at this annually held prestigious marathon.
- Who are the participants of this event?
I could say everyone can be a participant since the Asmara Marathon includes mass sport, men’s marathon race, 10-kilometer women’s road race, and para-athletics. Regarding professional athletes, Eritrea is part of an organization called East Africa Athletics region which encompasses 10 countries. Hence, the Federation, taking into consideration the amount of budget required to accommodate the athletes, decided to invite five countries. The five countries are South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Every country mentioned is expected to send one athlete, with the exception of Ethiopia which will be participating with two athletes. In the future, we have plans to invite more countries.
- What are the main objectives of this event?
I believe we all can agree that sport is one of the elements in life that has the power to bring people together and unite them regardless of location, geography, religion, or ethnicity. Besides, the competitive aspect and its influence on the mood of people is an addition to its importance. So we would like to practice that element in our community. Also in 2017, Asmara was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its- well-preserved modernist architecture, so through this event we will be able to showcase our pride and joy city. In the upcoming years, we have this strong belief that the race will attract more international athletes who are willing to accommodate themselves and claim that they have participated in one of the strongest marathon events and get a glimpse of this beautiful city on the side. The local athletes can also benefit tremendously because the Federation announces the results immediately to the international community, which could give the athletes a platform to get international recognition and could lead to international agencies signing them.
Moreover, the inclusion of mass sport is to raise awareness of the mass of the benefits of running and physical exercise in general. Through this gesture, we would be able to build a healthy society. We are expecting more than 10, 000 participants. The wheelchair race unfortunately is not as standardized as we hoped it would be. The wheelchairs of the contenders, except for one, are not professional because the cost of the wheelchairs is very expensive.
- Tell us more about the race.
The race will be held tomorrow 11 June, starting from 7:30 in the morning. The race will begin at Bahti Meskerem Square and the athletes will pass by the city landmarks such as Keren Hotel, the City Park, Fiat Tagliero, Semaetat Avenue, and Harnet Avenue. The mass sport will start from the City Park and the finish line will be at Bahti Meskerem Square, making it a 1km journey, while all the other races will begin at Bahti Meskerem Square.
Every year the National Olympic Committee, celebrates its athletes on the 23rd of June, this year they have decided to commemorate that day on the same day with the Asmara Marathon. So 100- 150 athletes who are members of that association will take part in the mass sport. On top of the invited athletes, many senior officials are going to be at the marathon.
- The Awards?
The top six athletes will be awarded a total prize money of 15, 300 USD. The winner will be given 6,000 USD and the rest of it will be distributed according to their standing.
- Any final remarks?
The Federation’s message is that every citizen and expat is cordially invited to the race. I want the people to know they would be part of a historical event.
- Thank you for your time again and we wish the race to be conducted with a complete success!