The route is rocky and hazardous and the paths are small. Runners cover a tiring distance of about 10 hours in less than three hours.
Others do it barefoot! The Mount Mulanje Porters’ Race is here and as per tradition, it falls in the second week of July.
The 19th race is taking place on 11th July, 2015 at the usual Likhubula Valley in Mulanje District.
Over the years, the Mount Mulanje Porters Race has attracted the attention of runners both male and female from all over the world that compete up and across the lovely plateaus of Mount Mulanje.
From the valleys of Likhubula, runners head up the tops of Chambe crossing to Lichenya side and trek down back at Likhubula valley. No wonder it is the Malawi’s only extreme sport.
The race, which now clocks 19 years, started with an idea of one, Mike Brady, from England during his stay in Mulanje as a small event among interested porters and individuals willing to do a running competition up the mountain.
Over the years, it became an open event attracting hundreds of other participants and is facilitated by the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) in collaboration with the Mount Mulanje Porters and Guides Association.
The Trust has used the race to disseminate messages on environmental management and natural resource conservation on this crowd-puller event.
In 1996 Population Services international (PSI) took over sponsorship for six consecutive years.
Later NBS Bank took over sponsorship and has supported the race for six years.
Besides NBS being the principal sponsor, in some years other organisations gave out consolation prizes, in support of the bank’s gesture.
These were Arkay Plastics, Gift of the Givers Foundation, Rab Processors, Hapuwani Lodge, Mountain Club of Malawi and Likhubula C.C.A.P House.
There were also prizes from the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education.
Since its inception, the race had its own unique records that are yet to be broken.
In the male category a foreigner has never won the top three of the race and only Maggie O’Toore won once in 2000 in the female category.
A porter from Thuchila station, Byson Willy, is the only runner that managed to defend the title for three consecutive years from 2003 to 2005.
Teleza Master is the only runner who has won the race a record of nine times.
Through this event, Malawi has produced reputable athletes that have competed in international events.
These include; Francis Khanje, Catherine Chikwawa, Tereza Master, Mike Tebulo, Leo Chikhwaza and others.
Mulanje’s Tourism Information Centre, (InfoMulanje) manager, Emmie Suliwa said the race is a great asset in promoting tourism in Mulanje.
“Despite July not being part of the season for tourism, the race still adds value in marketing Mulanje tourism. Apart from international tourists, local tourism is also targeted,” said Suliwa.
This year, Save the Children will campaign for the survival of children at the event by holding a mini-race for children.
The Lake of Stars will hold a finish-line concert labelled ‘The Island in the Sky’.
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