It’s been said that avid runners experience a sort of “high” — a euphoric feeling caused by the release of endorphins during exercise — while dashing along their routes. Well, running enthusiasts can now experience a whole new kind of runner’s high, at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.
The town of Moshi, Tanzania, will be hosting the seventh annual Kilimanjaro marathon for serious and non-serious runners alike on March 1. The event drew more than 3,200 participants in 2008, with an expected 20 percent increase for this year.
The affair will feature a full marathon of 26.2 miles in length, a half marathon of 13.1 miles and multiple tracks for disabled runners. However, the majority of guests does not consist of competition-level runners and they usually participate in the fun run of 3.1 miles in length.
Despite the beautiful backdrop of Kilimanjaro, the world’s largest free-standing mountain in the world, the best thing about this race is the local community, said John Addison, director of Wild Frontiers Ltd.
“The main thing is the people,” Addison said. “You run through rural villages, coffee farms, and the town. It’s a very beautiful area. The people are fantastic — great support, kids running, local music blaring — and you feel so welcome. It’s unlike any other race in the world.”
The logistics of the operation are handled by the Kilimanjaro Marathon Club, which provides twelve water points, medical assistance and communications to ensure the safety of the runners.
“We started this in 2003, on a whim,” Addison said. “We saw a need for something to be done to support the region and sports in Tanzania. There are so many good runners here, but they do not have any support or a chance to expose themselves to international competition. Over the years we have managed to get many young Tanzanians noticed and they are now competing all over the world.”
Travel arrangements and packages to access the race are being provided by official tour operator Wild Frontiers, which is based in South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The Wild Frontiers employees are experienced in Tanzania travel and logistics and are members of the South African Tour Operators Association.
Three different packages are available to international visitors, with incentives and commissions available to bona fide travel agents.
The basic marathon-only package lasts four days and three nights. It begins and ends in Nairobi, Kenya and includes accommodations at either the Keys Hotel for $385 per person or Ameg Lodge for $420 per person (both double occupancy) in Moshi.
Travelers who want a more traditional but exciting experience of Africa can add on a camping safari to their marathon package. Lasting 10 days and nine nights in all, the marathon and camping safari takes participants to Manyara National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (home to the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Serengeti National Park.
The package costs $1,625 and $1,660, based on double occupancy, for accommodations at the Keys Hotel and Ameg Lodge, respectively. An additional $479 covers park entry and camping fees, as well as all meals, transportation, guides and game drives.
Those looking for a more strenuous and adventurous experience can add on a mountain climbing excursion to the basic marathon package. The 10-day, nine night marathon and Kilimanjaro climb starts at $2,175 and $2,245 for Keys Hotel and Ameg Lodge accommodations, respectively. This package includes a five night Machame Route climb following the marathon, all meals, camping fees, information pack, guides and porters.
All package prices include shuttle service between Nairobi and Moshi, a marathon entry package, three nights’ accommodations with continental breakfast in Moshi, a carbohydrate-loading meal the night before the marathon and the services of a Wild Frontiers coordinator during the trip.
More than just an amazing experience for visitors, the marathon is very beneficial to Moshi and the local communities as well. According to Addison, all entry fees are donated to local athletics associations, schools and hospitals in the area.
“Our sponsors also donate in the area, so it is great for regional development,” Addison said. “Each year we pick a different need and try to use the money wisely.”
This year, the local hospital in Moshi, specifically its maternity ward, has been selected for support with the assistance of Mr. Phil Ndesamburo and local community leaders.