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International Peace Marathon in Kigali / Rwanda

Spectacular premier in the “Land of 1000 Hills”


International Peace Marathon in Kigali / Rwanda International Peace Marathon in Kigali / Rwanda International Peace Marathon in Kigali / Rwanda International Peace Marathon in Kigali / Rwanda

On Whit Monday, Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, experienced the most impressive international sporting event since the horrible genocide there eleven years ago.  In a freshly renovated national stadium, once the site of a brutal massacre of thousands of fleeing Rwandans, over 1,600 runners from Rwanda and 20 other countries in Africa, Europe, North America, and Australia gathered together on a sunny, 30° C spring day to participate together in a running celebration of peace and solidarity.

The idea came from Soroptimist Europa

The Luxembourg artist Bettina Scholl-Sabbatini, the vice-president of Soroptimist Europa who had the idea for this peace marathon, was especially pleased, also receiving several honours for her enormous personal commitment in making her grand goals come true. Soroptimist International, a worldwide women’s organisation, which provides material and idealistic assistance to suffering peoples, as the main sponsor had complete support from the government of Rwanda.  The patrons of the event were none other than the president of Rwanda and sport enthusiast, Paul Kagame, together with the Rwandan Track and Field Association, which ensured a professional organisation of the competitions.

Following the AIMS regulations

The 10.5 km hilly loop with the start and finish in the 1,600m elevated national stadium was measured according to AIMS regulations, and was completely blocked off and free of traffic for the race, with 6 refreshment stations along the course. The timekeeping was managed with Luxembourg and Belgian assistance.  Times were kept by chip for all three disciplines (3.5 km Run for Fun, half marathon, marathon) and all functioned without problem.

25°C at the start – full of life and desire to run

The opening celebration of the competitions began at 8:30 a.m., with the temperatures already climbing to 25°C. The approximately 800 participants of the Run for Fun were led –very orderly—into the stadium from both sides, accompanied by African drums.  A military band marched in and played the national anthem, and after a short speech, the Rwandan minister of health gave the starting signal with a flag!
What followed was a pure show of love of life and of running. The almost without exception slender children and youth, mostly barefoot, ran with such enthusiasm and lightness, that as a running enthusiast and sport teacher from Germany, one could almost have been envious. Fortunately, running is still something quite natural for the young Rwandans. One can only imagine what would happen if some of the many –undiscovered- running talents could or would some day train seriously... 

Half Marathon

10 minutes later, the 650 half marathon runners, of whom 526 reached the finish, started off on their 2-round course. Due to the prize money offered for the first to sixth places (as for the marathon, the champions each received $3,000), several top runners from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda participated. Although they started out at a fast pace, they had to submit to the weather and the difficult course (350m elevation difference per round) and continued in average 4-5 minutes over their best times. The champion was Sammy Kosgei (Uganda) in 1:07:42 h ahead of four Rwandan runners and the Kenyan Chepkoi, who all ran under 1:09 h.
For the women, the barefoot and only 17-year-old Pelagie Musengimana won in 1:20:50 h, ahead of Angelique Nyiransabimana  (1:22:32 h) (both from Rwanda) and Susan Teimet from Kenya (1:24:46 h).
The best ranking for a European was the Austrian champion Eva-Maria Diertl in 24th place in 1:49:08 h.

It was the toughest for the marathon runners ...

It was the toughest, however, for the almost 150 marathon runners, who did not leave the stadium until 8:45 a.m. The rising heat, the hills, but most of all, the insufficient marathon-specific training of most of the Rwandan runners, led to only 75 participants making it to the finish (the time limit was 6 hours). 
With a courageous pace at the front, Joseph Nsubuga from Uganda won a well-earned victory, despite his difficulties in the fourth round to keep on top of the strong Kenyan, Joseph Rutto, (with times of 2:28:23 h and 2:28:40 h, respectively). The best Rwandan runner was Zubei  Nsengiyumva in 7th place in 2:42:59 h.
It was also a Ugandan who won the women’s race. Margret Nakindu ran in
3:18:06 h, putting Rannveig Ottsdottir from Island (3:20:41 h) and
Epiphanie Nyirabarame from Rwanda (3:21:40 h) in second and third place.

A great atmosphere

Music and dance groups on the large stadium stage provided for a great atmosphere both during the races and afterwards at the awards ceremony. Thousands of spectators along the course and in the stadium had fun and enthusiastically fired on the runners. This 1st Peace Marathon was a national event in Rwanda, even with a live broadcast on Rwandan television!
May 14, 2006

It is too bad that the — rightly so — highly praised partnership between Rhineland-Palatinate and Rwanda did not provide any support for this race from the German side.  That could hopefully change already next year, as the 2nd International Peace Marathon will take place again in Kigali on May 14, 2006.
Roland Winkler

The race results are available at:
May 15, 2005 International Peace Marathon

Participating countries:
Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, USA, Canada, Australia,
Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Finland, Great Britain,
Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Island, Germany.

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