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Asmara Marathon Gears Up for a Second Edition

The Asmara Marathon, a relatively young event, is gearing up for its second edition, which will be held tomorrow, June 10th, 2024. Established in 2017 as the Maekel Marathon, the event aims to carve a niche as a premier international running event in East Africa. The 2023 event marked a triumphant return after a hiatus, showcasing significant progress and attracting Eritrean runners and athletes from neighboring countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. This international participation injected a healthy dose of competition and camaraderie into the race.

The 2023 edition saw outstanding preparations by the Athletics Federation, which successfully completed the event’s four disciplines: mass sport, a 10 km women’s event, the Paralympics, and the 42 km men’s event.

For the second edition in 2024, the Asmara Marathon will once again invite athletes from around East Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan. The prize money remains the same as last year, with the winner receiving $6,000 and the top six athletes sharing $16,000. This makes the Asmara Marathon one of the best-rewarding marathons in Africa.

 Athletics in Eritrea

Eritrea boasts a storied history in the World Athletics, replete with noteworthy feats that have captivated its populace and gained global acclaim. The nation’s initial foray in 2009 witnessed Zeresenay Tadesse, a remarkable Eritrean athlete, securing a silver medal in the fiercely contested 10,000-meter competition in the World championship.

In 2015, Eritrea enjoyed an unprecedented moment of glory when Ghirmay Ghebreslassie clinched a gold medal in the marathon event held in Beijing and stood fourth in the 2016 Rio Olympics. These victories underscored Eritrea’s burgeoning prominence in long-distance running, a testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to nurturing and cultivating athletic talents.

With the Paris Olympics looming, the Eritrean national athletics team readies to build upon this legacy of distinction. After participating in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 for the first time, it only took Eritrea one Olympic year to get a medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Zeresenay Tadese won a bronze medal at the event.

The 2023 Asmara Marathon, held on June 11th, marked a triumphant return for the Eritrean running event. After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race brought together local and international runners for a challenging and scenic course through Asmara.

 A Renewed Tradition

Before 2023, the Asmara Marathon had only been held a few times. When it was commenced under the name “Maekel Marathon,” it aimed to become a premier international running event. The 2023 race marked a significant step forward, attracting athletes from Eritrea and neighboring countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Ethiopia.

The 2023 Asmara Marathon was broadcast live through satellite TV and radio and live-streamed by local media outlets. This gave the event an international viewership, and the participation of athletes from half a dozen countries in Eastern Africa, the powerhouse of the world marathon, made it a great event.

The level of competition at the event last year was beyond compare, to the extent that the 10-kilometer women’s race, which ended with a reduced bunch of athletes, Nazareth Woldu and Rahel Daniel, was judged in a photo-finish. Meanwhile, the Men’s marathon overwhelmed the tens of thousands of spectators with the unexpected victory of junior athlete Nahom Ermias over elite athletes.

The 2023 Asmara Marathon witnessed a display of exceptional athleticism. In the men’s category, Eritrean runner Nahom Ermias from Senafe emerged victorious, his victory a testament to the nation’s rich running tradition.

Standout Performers to Watch

Nahom Ermias, a young Eritrean runner who stunned athletics fans by winning the men’s category at the 2023 Asmara Marathon, will be a pivotal figure to watch. After his victory, Nahom was given full accommodation and received a scholarship for training. He dropped a marathon competition in South Africa to defend his Asmara Marathon title. This year, he stood fourth at the national 10,000 time trial competition.

Samsom Amare, one of Eritrea’s best marathon athletes, has showcased outstanding performances in various world athletics events over the past 12 months. He won the gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Marathon in December 2023, becoming the first Eritrean athlete to win a marathon event on his first appearance.

Another event that cemented his excellent performance was the African Games held in Ghana, Accra, in March last year. He became the second athlete after Zeresenay to win Gold in the African Games half-marathon event.

Samsom also finished in the top ten at the 10,000-meter half-marathon world championships in Latvia.

Dawit Seare, another young Eritrean athlete, has performed outstandingly in the 3,000 and 10,000-meter events. He is a national record holder in the 5,000 and 1,500-meter disciplines and holds the Asmara Stadium Meeting record in the 1,500-meter event. Dawit won fourth place in the 5,000km world championship last year in Riga, Latvia, a discipline in which Eritrea participated for the first time. Rahel Daniel, an Eritrean medium and long-distance runner, finished fifth in the 10,000-meter event at the 2022 World Athletics Championships. She holds the national records in the 10,000 and 5,000-meter events and was ranked number one during the 2022/2023 cross-country season. Rahel will be participating in the Paris Olympics for the second time.

 Paralympics Integration

As part of efforts to promote para-athletics, Eritrea became a member of the International Paralympic Committee in 2022. Besides, a team of two Para athletes—Sibhatu and Tedros—attended a competition in Morocco, in which they both came in second and third place, respectively. This year, the Asmara Marathon has yet again organized a para-athletics competition, where 14 athletes have lined up with their new hand bikes.

 A Race with Lasting Impact

The triumphant return of the Asmara Marathon goes beyond crowning champions. It signifies the Eritrean people’s passion for running and the Athletics Commission’s determination to grow the sport. The enthusiastic local crowd lining the streets, cheering on the runners, is a testament to the unifying power of sport. With its scenic course, passionate local support, and growing international recognition, the Asmara Marathon has the potential to become a significant fixture on the global running calendar. Imagine future editions attracting even more international talent, creating a world-class event that puts Asmara on the map for running enthusiasts everywhere.

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