We chat to Ambassador Edson Kumwamba about his recent completion of two of the most prestigious trail runs. From Mont Blanc Marathon in Chamonix, France to the Mount Mulange Marathon in his home town in Malawi, Edson shares with us his experiences from both marathons.
TAKING ON MONT BLANC
After a long flight from Cape Town to France, Edson was warmly greeted at the airport by a friend and taken on a tour of Switzerland. The next morning Edson visited the small town of Zermatt, Switzerland. It was here that Edson did his final training run, a 17km route in 30-degree weather - he was now ready to run!
The start gun sounded for the 2018 Mont Blanc Marathon at 4am on the 29th of June. Starting in the middle of a 1420 pack of runners from all around the world, Edson’s dream became a reality.
Edson describes how many runners sprinted past him, trying to scramble to the front of the pack. Edson’s tactic was to keep back, not knowing what to expect from the 90km trail race.
Within 2km of the race start, the climb began with an ascent of over 10km on smooth trail surface, with a total of 6220m of vertical climbing to be expected and temperature variations of 30 to -3 degrees.
Confronting icy glaciers was a first for Edson, so he decided to take it slow and keep focused through the snow, as many runners lost their grip, slipping and dropping placement. Edson kept his composure, despite a gruelling first 20km. After 20km Edson was sitting in approximately 100th position, quickly gaining ground. After the 40km mark he had managed to climb into a top 50 position.
All race entrants were required to carry a passport on them at all times. The race saw them crossing the borders of France, Italy, Switzerland and back to France again, making for what Edson recalls as “some of the most beautiful trails” which he has ever seen.
Setting himself a goal of completing the race in under 14 hours, Edson managed to finish in a time of 14:05:30 in 34th position overall, 20th in his category and 1st in Africa, an incredible achievement and a race never to be forgotten.
When asked about the highlights of the trip, Edson said “definitely the hospitality”. From the second he arrived he felt like he was in racing in his homeland. The encouragement and motivation along the route from spectators, ultimately gave him the strength he needed to keep going. Been Edson’s first race off the African continent was definitely a highlight, he described it as “an absolute dream, been able to race in a different country, with different terrain and conditions”.
MOUNT MULANGE PORTERS RACE
Going back to the race which kickstarted his trail running career in 2016, Edson describes how arriving back in his hometown of Malawi with family and friends by his side and been able to compete again in the Mount Mulanje Porter Race was truly another dream come true.
Being the first person from his village and family to travel to Europe, he needed to reassure them that his heart and feet would continue to lie on the African continent – surprising them with the visit.
The Mount Mulange Porters Race was simply described in two words by Edson as being ‘very technical and very hot’. The rocky and hazardous 22km route with small paths and 2500m of elevation, provides an extremely technical run in comparison to that of Mont Blanc. Edson states that most of the individuals partaking in the run, spend each and every day traversing up to the Chambe Plateau then to Lichenya Plateau and back down to the village – a hike which normally takes 4 hours to complete, now taking the top runners under 40 minutes.
Finishing in 6th place with his family and friends cheering him on at the finish line, Edson reminisces over his very first Mount Mulange race, one which his mom encouraged him to partake in and ultimately pathed the way to his now, very successful running career, with his lifelong goal being to come back and win this very race.
WE ASKED EDSON WHAT HIS UP AND COMING RACE CALENDAR LOOKS LIKE?
Packed with incredible races, Edson shares with us what he has got planned:
- Puffer – 18 August (1st Place Finish)
- Table Mountain Challenge – 02 September
- Iranian Silk Marathon – 29 September to 08 October (To be confirmed)
- Ultra-Marathon – 02 December