By Dela Ahiawor
Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” ———- Oprah Winfrey
Many running devotees in Ghana currently have their anxiety quotient down to a minimum. Clearly, on the grounds that, the upcoming ‘Millennium Marathon’ in Accra, aspires to break new grounds in road running. For a fact, this is likely to stand athletics in very good stead; particularly when athletics in Ghana seems to be bringing up the rear in Ghana’s race to achieve excellence in sports lately.
A Great Run
Beyond that, regardless of the recent swell in marathon race events in Ghana, the untried ‘Millennium Marathon’ seems to be onto a winner; in that, it was launched amid great acclamation. Secondly, the event can boast of presidential endorsement, by courtesy of the Vice-President of Ghana, H.E. Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur. That, the moving spirit behind the race is no other person than, Ethiopian all-time long distance running luminary, Haile Gebrsellasie speaks for itself.
Besides, the fact that, preliminary runs would be staged in all the ten regions of Ghana, to help set the main event in train, also adds to the enormity of the race. A huge platform that can be used to better amplify environmental and social renewal messages targeted at large sections of the populace, thus presents itself.To that end, road running enthusiasts thus have a great run on the horizon. This provides the organizers of this year’s race and subsequent ones, a great opportunity to use the event as a tool to imbue far-sighted values and attitudes into the body politic. Essentially, for the reason that, the race is a mass sports event, that embraces people of all ages and creed, from all ethnic groups and walks of life, who come together in unity to engage in one of the universal forms of physical expression (running) which is devoid of the divisiveness associated with other sports
A Unique Sport
The marathon race is unique because it’s a discipline that makes it possible for the average Joe, to participate in athletics. Admission is largely gratis, and doesn’t require any special accoutrements. Of course, it’s a long distance race (endurance run) that seeks to get a measure of how the human body can persevere and endure on a course of 42.195 Kilometres (26miles) over an established stretch of tarmac.
Participants who are in the main, recreational athletes (fun runners) are empowered to succeed and become role models for change. In addition runners develop the grit to deal with the vicissitudes of life.
Even more, it promotes physical fitness, good health, mental toughness and also improves the emotional wellbeing of participants. Many avid runners around the globe are also noted for their longevity. Lastly, the long run is often used to drive worthy causes in society.
Running for Change
This makes the marathon race a great force for change; a better amplifier of efforts that inspire positive change in host communities around the world. As part of the global community, Ghana needs to harness this force to the advantage of its people, whenever the opportunity arises
The truth is that, in contemporary times, the marathon race is organized with realistic aims and objectives in mind. It’s not just for kicks, and also not just about awarding medals and prize monies to only winners. There are several good causes to run for, but paramount in today’s world, is the urgent need to shoo -away the frightening pall that climate change casts over the earth. This requires tremendous effort in every sphere of human endeavour, including sports.
Aiming at MDG7
As a universal sport, athletics or road running for that matter is standing up for the challenge ahead. Accordingly, marathon race event organizers around the world are now planning their races in conformity to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number (7).
This seeks to ensure ‘Environmental Sustainability’; in keeping with the sports world’s agenda for action at the 9th World Conference on Sports and the Environment in Doha, Qatar, 2011.
During this event, the world governing body of athletics, IAAF joined the global sports community to further strengthen its commitment by setting a clear agenda for action. The “Doha declaration” thereafter stated three distinct areas in which to control activities concerning the economic, social, andenvironmental aspects of sustainable development in Sports. Specifically this illustrates the power of sports as a universal tool for development, social change and peace.
Consequently, Sports organizations and sports event organizers, thus have the mandate to make their events sustainable. In fact, this is a call to action for the athletics fraternity in Ghana, especially to the folks behind the Millennium Marathon. It’s time to raise the standard and value of road running in Ghana to help improve the health and wellbeing of local communities, participants, spectators and all stakeholders.
But it’s certain, that transforming the ‘Millennium Marathon’ into a premium and a sustainable race demands a lot of dedication from all stakeholders, including the race directors, participants and partners.
For starters, the upcoming race must be staged on a course (roadway) free from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, without vehicular traffic according to world standards. This will ensure the safety of participants and also provide a clean breath of air to the numbers that will be huffing and puffing on the tarmac, on race day. By all means, this is a performance enhancing move that will change road running experience in Ghana.
The race directors also need to create and deliver an eco-friendly event that will help minimize ecological damages in the various regions where the race will be staged. This implies developing and implementing an achievable goal in conformity to MDG7, from the build-up to the race, the event itself and beyond.
For a real and abiding change to road running in Ghana, the organizers mustalso endeavour to use the Millennium Marathon as an avenue to raise funds for a genuine cause in all race communities. Finally, efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle race paraphernalia and trash will contribute immensely towards keeping the main race destination, Accra and others in the various regions clean and green.
This requires a concerted effort, so if you are a devotee of the long run or a fun runner, looking forward to run the gauntlet of the Millennium Marathon; then make every endeavour to “run the change in you,” come race day.
—- The writer is a journalist who has pounded the tarmac on three different occasions