High-Altitude marathon in limbo

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Leemisa Thuseho

WITH only two months before the expected date for the 2021 High-Altitude Summer Marathon (HASM), it is still unclear whether or not the event will be held this year.

The marathon is usually held during the first week of December annually in Mokhotlong. It attracts hundreds of participants from all over the continent.

If it is not held this year, then this would be the second year in which it has failed to run after last year’s edition was cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event is organised by the Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission (LSRC) and is funded by the Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation Ministry.

LSRC acting chief executive office, Teboho Malataliana, this week said they were yet to decide whether or not to go ahead with this year’s edition. He however, confirmed that the commission was facing financial difficulties.

“For now, we do not know whether or not the event will be held this year,” Malataliana said.

“We are facing serious financial challenges just like the ministry. The LSRC is not even getting its subvention. Although Covid-19 has disrupted our activities, most of our activities were halted due to the lack of funds.”

Apart from the lack of funds, the event will be clashing with the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games. The AUSC Games will run from 3 to 12 December in Maseru.

Malataliana said ongoing discussions have so far indicated that if the event is to be held, then it’s dates will be moved.

“It has so far been suggested that if the event goes ahead, it will be held after the Region 5 Games.”

The race was last held in 2019 and the males’ 42km was won by Lesotho’s long-distance runner, Lebenya Nkoka, while the females’ category was won by Monicar Mengich of Kenya.

Letseka Sekonyela and ‘Neheng Khatala won the males’ and females’ 21km category respectively.

“We will be more than happy to see the event happening. It is nearly two years now without races and you can imagine how athletes who rely on such events for survival. While I have no hope that the event will be held, I am praying for the best,” Nkoka said.

The ongoing uncertainty has affected athletes’ morale and they were no longer interested in training for the event.

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