By Dela Ahiawor
Despite the long wait, distance running in Ghana has eventually fallen into step with the world. The reason being that, the upcoming epic Accra international marathon, dubbed “Millennium Marathon” would be staged on a course (roadway) without vehicular traffic. As reported by the race organizers, “all roads along the21K course will be sealed off until all runners finish the race; and there will be enough police presence along the route to ensure no vehicles come onto the route.”
In effect, the course will be free from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life in Accra for the duration of the race, in conformity with international standards.
Positively, shedding vehicles off the course is a subtle attempt by the organizers to keep the air (atmosphere) along the route clean, from the reek of stale vehicular emissions. In fact, it’s a far-sighted effort to achieve O2 (oxygen) Plus effects through low-carbon operations in consonance with, latter-day ‘green sports’ practices. That is to say, the largely littoral (Oceanside) Millennium Marathon course will provide a clean breath of air for all who will be huffing and puffing on the course, come race day. And the usual sun-up draught of ozone (fresh and pure air) from the Atlantic Ocean will be invigorating, as ever.
This much, the maiden edition of the Millennium Marathon race event slated for this weekend, September, 5 has gone one better than previous long runs in Ghana. First, in reference to organizing a low-carbon event, and as well setting the stage for a new road racing experience in Ghana, by prioritizing the health and safety of the 15,000 plus runners expected. As stated in the mission of the impending race “The Millennium Marathon will be a carefully managed event with police and security support, insurance and licensing permit requirements in addition to medical safety and health precautions.”
According to Hilda Appiah, a member of the Millennium Marathon management team, the issue about the safety of runners came up several times in their pre-event discussions. She said “Public opinion is against people competing with cars, so in line with global trends we decided to remove the traffic; now people can feel safe to register and take part in the race.” To buttress this view, the Ghana Police Service, in a Press Release intended to give prior notice to road users echoed that “no vehicle would be allowed to park or drive through……..roads.” This is a well-advised move and indeed, barring any unforeseen incident the runners will hog one of the flattest marathon courses on the continent devoid of traffic to the end -without any scratch.
Without any doubt, the aforementioned initiatives are performance enhancing, with the aim to raise road racing standards in Ghana. Again, the objective to create a world event and also develop long distance runners for international tournaments motivated the race organizers to seek international recognition for the event. So, as an associate member of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) – Millennium Marathon participants will have the opportunity to run on a measured and tested course: since accurate course measurement is a basic requirement of AIMS.
To tell the truth “AIMS road race” status also means the race will further benefit from advice on doping control measures, race management, technical standards and road running development policies. The international marathon certification organization(AIMS) also have the potential to promote the Millennium Marathon globally. With respect to promotion, the coming event seems to hold all the aces, particularly regarding media coverage. Yes, 100,000 spectators are expected to line the course to cheer on participants. But, the organizers also have plans to indulge all couch potatoes with a semblance of feeling for road running.
Speaking at a press soiree recently, the managing partner of the Millennium Marathon, Ambassador Ashim Morton stated that the race will be carried live on TV. Apparently, this will make it possible for people to follow the strenuous physical exertions and grit of the runners on the course from the comfort of their homes. Amb. Morton said “a chopper will be used to cover the race,” which is obviously a novelty in Ghana. Indeed, giving the endurance run a bird’s-eye perspective will greatly enhance TV coverage.
As well, that Haile Gebrsellasie together with over 750 international marathoners will be in Ghana, speak volumes of the importance of the race. And this certainly, will go a long way to bestow more international cachet on the event. All said, one cannot deny the fact that, the managers at Millennium Marathon has giving road running in Ghana – a new lease of life.
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