Athletes lose track …As controversy hits Botswana race again

By Bakang Mhaladi

Gaborone - There was no reprieve for organisers of the second edition of the Gaborone Mayor's Marathon, which, last year, saw several runners disqualified for using a wrong route.

There was a sense of de javu during the weekend race, as once again, athletes got lost along the route.

Last year, two Zimbabwean runners, Samukeliso Moyo and Tabitha Tsatsa cried foul after finishing ahead of the pack, but were disqualified for using the wrong route.

The athletes argued, the route was not properly marked and they were forced to ask for directions from spectators.

The two were deprived a combined US$7,000 (P70,000) in prize money as a result of the mix-up.

The winners were also not paid, resulting in organisers admitting in the run-up to Saturday's race, that sponsors had shunned this year's competition due to negative publicity for the inaugural event.

The Zimbabwean duo, after their ordeal last year, were absent for this year's edition, but there was still international presence with runners from Kenya.

Two Kenyan runners failed to complete this year's 42.2km race, as they got lost along the way.

Other athletes, including local runner, Mema Thiango had to ask for directions from spectators.

"I had registered for the 21km race but ended up doing 22km as I got lost during the way. There were no race marshals and we had to depend on police officers along the route," Thiango said.

Gaborone Mayor, Kagiso Thuthwe, who is one of the organisers of the race, was seen driving up and down, distributing water to athletes.

There were no water points for the 10km and 21km races, which riled athletes. Some runners went home empty handed as there were no medals.

Matheus Jesaya from Namibia, who finished second in the men's 42.2km race, hit out at the poor organisation.

"It was tough. The route was not marked and there were no marshals. The organisers should have put up signs or boards indicating the distance covered. The police officer who was escorting us, got lost at some point," Jesaya said.

Athletics mother body, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA), which had refused to sanction the race, until the sponsors deposited money into the association's account, said it was not pleased with the way the marathon had been organised.

"It is embarrassing when foreign athletes get lost along the route. The same thing happened last year. This does not sit well with us," BAA spokesperson, Ipolokeng Ramatshaba said.

Kenya's Judas Kiplimo won the chaotic race in the men's 42.2km with a time of 2:21:38, with Jesaya second, while local runner, Rapula Dipho finished third.

The dominant Kenyans took the women's crown, after Monica Mengich crossed the line after 2:57:41 to win the 42.2km race ahead of Mantshape Badumetse in second and another Kenyan, Lillian Kiprop was third.

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